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In the hustling rhythm of modern life, it’s easy for your body’s stress-response system to kick into high gear. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is your body’s accelerator in stressful situations, ramping up your heart rate, increasing blood pressure, and preparing you to fight or flee. But what happens when your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive? Understanding the signs can help you regain balance and protect your health.

What is the sympathetic nervous system?

The SNS is one part of the autonomic nervous system, which operates largely outside of your conscious control. It’s designed to mobilize the body’s resources under stress—a critical function for survival. However, in our high-stress, high-stimulation world, the SNS can remain in the “on” position too often, much like as if your foot was stuck on the gas pedal, leading to a range of physical and mental health issues.

Signs of SNS Overdrive

  1. Increased heart rate: If your heart often races or you notice palpitations in non-threatening situations, it could be a sign that your SNS is overly active.
  2. High blood pressure: Persistent high blood pressure might be another signal. The SNS raises blood pressure to increase blood flow during stressful situations, but over time, this can strain your cardiovascular system.
  3. Sleep problems: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep can be linked to an overactive SNS. High stress levels can make it difficult for the body to transition into the calm state necessary for deep sleep.
  4. Anxiety or irritability: Mental health can also be affected by an SNS in overdrive. If you find yourself constantly feeling on edge, anxious, or unusually irritable, it might be time to assess your stress levels.
  5. Sweating: Excessive sweating, especially when not physically exerting yourself, is a classic sign of SNS activation.
  6. Digestive issues: The SNS diverts blood away from the stomach and intestines and toward the muscles during stress, which can lead to digestive problems like nausea, indigestion, or diarrhea.

Managing an overactive SNS

If you suspect your SNS is often in overdrive, there are several strategies you can implement to encourage a shift toward a more balanced autonomic state:

  1. Mindfulness and meditation: Practices like mindfulness, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), the counterbalance to the SNS, promoting relaxation and recovery.
  2. Regular exercise: Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can help metabolize excess stress hormones, enhancing your mood and overall sense of well-being.
  3. Adequate sleep: Prioritizing good sleep hygiene—such as a regular sleep schedule, a dark and cool bedroom, and avoiding screens before bed—can help reduce SNS activity.
  4. Healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support overall health and help regulate stress responses.
  5. Professional support: If stress feels unmanageable, consider seeking support from a mental health professional or counselor who can offer strategies and support to manage anxiety and stress.
  6. Spend time with loved ones: Engaging with friends, family, and community can provide emotional support and reduce stress. Activities that foster positive social interactions can help moderate the body’s stress responses.

Monitoring your autonomic nervous system

overdrive

For those interested in a more tech-savvy approach, you can monitor signs of SNS activity with the Biostrap Kairos. Its novel Spot Check features provides insights into your ANS balance, HRV data and heart rate, so you can use that data as a feedback loop to better understand the impact your lifestyle choices has on your well-being. By tracking these metrics, you can get real-time feedback on your body’s stress levels and the effectiveness of various interventions.

Recognizing when your SNS is in overdrive is crucial for maintaining both physical and mental health. By understanding the signs and taking proactive steps to manage stress, you can help ensure your body’s stress response works for you—not against you. In doing so, you create a more balanced, healthier life that allows for both productivity and relaxation.

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Ever feel like your body’s sending you mixed signals? One moment you’re wound up tighter than a spring, and the next, you’re too drained to move. It’s like being stuck in traffic with your emotions honking loudly, trying to signal you through the fog. Understanding whether you’re dealing with emotional or physical stress isn’t just about putting a name to your pain; it’s about finding the right tools in your self-care kit to deal with it. Distinguishing between these two types of stress is crucial in order to manage them effectively.

Emotional or physical stress

Picture this: Emotional stress is like having a bunch of browser tabs open in your brain—constantly loading, never quite settling. It stems from worries, anxieties, and the mental burdens we carry. Physical stress, on the other hand, is the body’s way of saying, “Hey, remember that high-intensity interval training session at the gym? I’m still dealing with that.”

Why does the distinction matter? Because the remedy for a mind cluttered with worries is different from the cure for muscles aching from overexertion. Recognizing the source of your stress is step one on the path to managing it.

How to tell them apart

Feeling stuck in a mental loop, ruminating over past conversations or future anxieties? That’s your cue for emotional stress. On the flip side, if your body feels like it’s been through a wringer after a physically demanding day, you’re looking at physical stress. The key to differentiation lies in self-awareness—listening to what your body and mind are telling you. Here’re are six actionable tips for managing stress – both physical and emotional.

Caught in a thought tornado? Go for a walk.

When your mind is a maze of worries, a change of scenery can work wonders. Walking isn’t just good for your body; it’s a balm for the mind, too. It’s about hitting the refresh button on your thoughts and letting nature’s calm infiltrate your mental chaos.

Feeling down? Hit the gym.

If emotional stress has you feeling low, exercise can be your elevator. It’s not just about staying fit; it’s about releasing endorphins, those feel-good hormones that act like natural painkillers and mood lifters. Whether it’s a dance class, a quick jog, or yoga, moving your body can help clear the emotional clutter.

In a Funk? Get some sun.

Never underestimate the power of a sunny day. Sunlight is nature’s mood enhancer, boosting your serotonin levels and battling the blues. So, if you’re feeling down, step outside and let the sun’s rays lift your spirits. Even a brief lunch break under the sky can make a difference.

Muscles screaming after a workout? Prioritize recovery.

If physical stress has left your muscles shouting objections, it’s time to listen. Rest is not laziness; it’s an essential part of the recovery process. Combine it with strategies like a warm bath, sauna (if you can), gentle stretching, or massage, and you’re not just treating your body; you’re thanking it.

Overwhelmed by emotions? Write It down.

Sometimes, the act of transferring your thoughts from mind to paper can help untangle them. Journaling is a therapeutic way to face emotional stress head-on. It’s about giving your feelings a place to rest outside of your head.

Breathe through it: The power of mindful breathing.

Whether it’s emotional anxiety or the aftermath of a physical strain, mindful breathing can be a bridge to calm. Deep, deliberate breaths signal your body that it’s safe to relax, turning down the volume on stress.

Why it all matters

Understanding the nature of your stress is like having the right key for the lock. It empowers you to choose the most effective strategies for relief, ensuring that you’re not just throwing solutions at the problem and hoping something sticks. It’s about targeted, effective self-care that acknowledges the complexity of human experience—recognizing that we are both mind and body, intertwined.

Deciphering whether your stress is emotional or physical is more than a mental exercise; it’s a critical step toward holistic well-being. By tuning into the signals your body and mind are sending, you can tailor your self-care practices to meet your needs effectively. Whether it’s through movement, mindfulness, or simply soaking up some sun, the path to managing stress starts with understanding its roots. Remember, in the journey toward wellness, every step, every breath, and every moment of mindfulness counts.

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Sleep tracking has become an increasingly popular tool in our quest for better rest, recovery, and overall well-being. However, as beneficial as it can be, it also presents a double-edged sword. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing a “perfect” score, leading to unnecessary stress and anxiety. But there’s a way to find the golden path – shift your focus to a different approach: be curious.

Instead of fixating on nightly numbers, let curiosity guide you. Curiosity opens up a world of possibilities, inviting you to explore and understand your body’s rhythms and responses over time. When you see that your Biostrap Sleep Scores dip, instead of feeling disheartened, ask yourself the questions: “What did I do that may have caused this?” and “What can I do to bounce back?”

Moreover, challenge yourself with wonderment. What if I tried different strategies or routines? What if I experimented with new relaxation techniques or sleep interventions? Embracing curiosity allows you to approach sleep tracking as a journey of discovery, rather than a push for perfection.

Untangle complexity

The key lies in embracing the process of untangling the complexity of your sleep patterns and biometric changes over the long run. By analyzing long-term trends, you’ll unlock invaluable insights into your nervous system resilience and overall well-being. You’ll begin to understand how your body responds to different stressors, lifestyle factors, bedtime routines, and sleep interventions.

This deeper understanding may empower you to make informed adjustments that support better sleep, recovery, and performance. Whether it’s tweaking your bedtime routine, optimizing your sleep environment, or exploring new relaxation techniques, curiosity may fuel your journey toward holistic well-being.

Progress over perfection

It’s essential to remember that the goal isn’t achieving perfection—it’s about progress and resilience. By leading with a curious mindset, you’ll embrace the inherent fluctuations of your sleep patterns and recognize them as opportunities for growth.

A night of a low Sleep Score or a drop in your heart rate variability (HRV) will inevitable happen – it’s just part of life. However, think of them as moments for reflection. On the other hand, long-term trends paint a better picture of your overall health. So, take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and pay closer attention to how your data may deviate from your personal baseline. Then use those insights to pinpoint potential negative or positive adaptations that may call for a change in your habits.

In the end, it’s curiosity that propels us forward and helps us embrace self-discovery and transformation. Data from your Biostrap Kairos will help add some objective insights into your lifestyle choices and help you make measurable changes that you can track. Be it resting heart rate, heart rate variability, deep sleep or nocturnal movement, sleep tracking may give you the clues you need to make informed decisions over shooting darts in the dark.

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Did you know that using advanced features extracted from PPG has been instrumental for our partners? It allowed them to achieve life-changing discoveries from predicting Inflammatory Bowel Disease flare-ups and Sickle cell anemic vaso-occlusive crises to monitoring emotional/mental health issues, hypercapnia, and beyond.

What were they using? Biostrap Waveshape! It offers a revolutionary approach to harnessing Photoplethysmography (PPG) features for deep learning and AI-driven predictions in healthcare. While heart rate and heart rate variability are essential metrics, Waveshape takes it a step further, providing tools to discover new AI-powered biometrics that can monitor both physiological and psychological health conditions.

Understanding PPG features

PPG involves shining an LED through the skin to measure light absorption changes with each heartbeat. This variation helps calculate heart rate and other cardiovascular metrics. The PPG waveform visually represents this data, and within it lie specific markers called PPG features or fiducial points. These markers, such as amplitude or the location of the dicrotic notch, determine the PPG’s shape, enabling the computation of various health biomarkers.

What are fiducial points?

Fiducial points in the context of PPG are specific markers or distinctive features within the PPG waveform. These points play a crucial role in pinpointing events or characteristics in the waveform, such as the peak of a heartbeat or the location of the dicrotic notch.

Extracting fiducial points is essential for accurate analysis of physiological signals, enabling the computation of various health biomarkers like heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, and more complex metrics. These reference markers serve as anchors for interpreting the intricate data collected through PPG, contributing to the development of precise and insightful health predictions.

Overcoming challenges

Extracting fiducial points from PPG, however, is a complex process that demands expert-level skills. Our experience, spanning over six years, has been pivotal in overcoming the challenges associated with this intricate process. Hence, we ensure accuracy, reducing the margin for errors in the extraction process.

Addressing commercial wearable shortcomings

Waveshape stands out against commercial wearables’ limitations. Subpar signal quality and data processing, restricted metrics, and lack of customization are common issues. Waveshape, however, offers superior high-fidelity PPG signals, direct access to validated PPG features and fiducial points, a fully customizable experience, and seamless integration for efficient data extraction.

Building AI-powered predictive health models

Waveshape empowers users with superior data and expert-level feature extraction from PPG, enhancing the accuracy and insightfulness of predictive health models. These advanced PPG features open doors to a wealth of nuanced information embedded within the waveform. Such fiducial points may be systematically utilized to create a comprehensive understanding of cardiovascular dynamics.

Thus, with high-quality and transparent data, the transition from reactive to proactive healthcare may become possible, preventing health exacerbations and managing emotional and mental health through innovative biometrics.

Precision medicine elevated

In the quest for precision medicine, Waveshape sets a new standard. Its superior data measurement and cutting-edge PPG features enable healthcare professionals to deliver personalized care that maximizes patient outcomes. This transition from one-size-fits-all solutions to tailored treatments represents a significant leap in healthcare.

Are you intrigued by the possibilities of Waveshape?

Explore how you can join our visionary partners in revolutionizing remote health monitoring and precision medicine. Click on the “Partner with us button” on our main page, fill out the form, and a member of our team will reach out to you.

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The advent of digital health and research has has opened up new frontiers in healthcare delivery, diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention. One central element that fuels this digital revolution is data. Data has become the lifeblood of digital health and research, driving insights, innovation, and improved patient outcomes. However, the potential of data can only be fully realized when there is transparency.

What is data transparency

Data transparency refers to the ability of all stakeholders to have access to and understand the data that is being used. It is about making the data freely available and clear for everyone to see, without hidden agendas or misuse. This transparency is critical to foster trust, enable collaboration, and ensure accountability in the digital health landscape.

They can see where the data comes from, how it is processed, and how it is used. This transparency empowers everyone to make informed decisions, enhances collaboration, and fosters trust.

The importance of data transparency

The value of data transparency in digital health and research cannot be overstated. It forms the foundation of trust between patients, healthcare providers, and researchers. When there is transparency, patients are more likely to share their data, knowing that it will be used responsibly and for their benefit. This trust is crucial for the success of digital health initiatives.

Data transparency also leads to better research outcomes. When researchers have access to transparent data, they can conduct more robust analyses, develop novel algorithms, make accurate predictions, and develop innovative solutions and even discover new biomarkers.

That’s why transparency is one of the core values of Biostrap in how it provides access to data that’s captured by its wearable, Kairos. This transparency enables collaboration, as researchers can share their data and findings, leading to greater scientific progress.

Moreover, data transparency can help to ensure accountability in the digital health space. It allows for the tracking and auditing of data, ensuring that it is used responsibly and ethically.

This accountability can help to prevent data breaches and misuse, protecting the privacy and rights of patients.

The missing link: data transparency in wearables

Wearables, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, and health monitors, collect a wealth of data about our bodies and lifestyles. This data can provide valuable insights into our health and well-being, enabling personalized healthcare and proactive disease prevention.

However, there is a missing link that threatens to undermine their value: data transparency. Many wearable companies operate in a black box, with little transparency about how they collect, process, and use the data.

This lack of transparency raises concerns about the privacy, security, and ethical use of the data.

That’s where Biostrap’s team wanted to bridge the gap and be a fully transparent digital health solution. At Biostrap, we believe that transparency is key to building trust and fostering collaboration in the digital health space.

Hence, we are committed to providing our enterprise clients with clear, understandable information about how the data is collected, processed, and used. It also gives them control over the data, allowing them to decide who can access it and for what purpose.

It can also enable collaboration among researchers, leading to better research outcomes. Especially so because Biostrap also collaborates with researchers, sharing anonymized data to support health research.

Challenges to data transparency in digital health and research

While the benefits of data transparency are clear, there are several challenges to achieving it in digital health and research. These challenges include privacy concerns, data security risks, and the complexity of health data.

Privacy is a major concern in the digital health space. Many individuals are wary of sharing their health data, fearing that it could be misused or fall into the wrong hands. To address this concern, there is a need for strong privacy protections and clear communication about how the data will be used.

Data security is another significant challenge. With the increasing volume of health data being collected, the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks is high. This risk can be mitigated through robust data security measures and regular audits.

To address these challenges, Biostrap has implemented high-quality data protection measures, built a secure ecosystem that’s fully HIPAA-compliant, and ensures that user and patient data is safe and can never be accessed by a third party.

Reach out to our team to discuss how Biostrap can help get your research project off the ground, or how we can help best implement a successful remote health monitoring program in your practice.

Click on the “Partner with us” button at the top of THIS page to book a meeting with a team member.

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Veterans’ lives manifest an intricate interplay of emotional and physical health due to the unique nature of their service experiences. Emotional well-being, informed by the psychological toll of deployments and combat scenarios, is a vital facet of veterans’ health. Physical health, encompassing issues stemming from combat injuries, post-service fitness, and overall vitality, is equally indispensable.

The synergy between these aspects is unmistakable. Their emotional and physical health require dedicated attention, and therein lies the pivotal role of Veteran’s Affairs organizations and institutions committed to fostering the well-being of those who have served our nation.

Health monitoring on an individual basis is becoming more popular; however, such organization play a key role in adequate interpretation of that data. Here’s how biometric monitoring with Biostrap can complement the work of organizations dedicated to veterans’ health and well-being.

Biometric monitoring of veterans

Biometric monitoring emerges as a game-changing tool for veterans striving to enhance their well-being. The Biostrap Kairos and Vital Science app offer a sophisticated platform for the continuous tracking of vital parameters, including heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), respiratory rate and sleep parameters. This technology arms veterans with comprehensive insights into their health, facilitating an informed approach to addressing both physical and emotional concerns.

Heart rate

often reflective of stress levels and cardiovascular health, serves as a fundamental indicator for veterans to manage their well-being. Monitoring heart rate empowers veterans to discern the implications of stress and anxiety, enabling timely interventions such as relaxation techniques or physical activities to mitigate stress.

Heart rate variability

A measure of autonomic nervous system function, emerges as a potent tool to gauge resilience. Higher HRV is indicative of better health and adaptability, while diminished HRV may signal stress and reduced resilience. For veterans, HRV tracking illuminates their physiological response to stressors, allowing for proactive adjustments to enhance resilience.

Sleep parameters

Vital for physical and emotional recovery, sleep quality can now become tangible through Biostrap. Many veterans encounter sleep disturbances post-service, and the ability to monitor sleep patterns, disturbances, and overall sleep quality is a critical component in maintaining optimal mental health and cognitive functioning.

Nervous system balance

Imagine being able to visualize to what extent a veteran’s nervous system is in parasympathetic or sympathetic mode and what their stress levels are at any given point in time. In addition to that you can grasp how these parameters shift in response to certain interventions or events. This is where the Biostrap Spot Check feature comes into play, offering a unique and invaluable perspective on the state of the veteran’s nervous system.

The Biostrap Spot Check goes beyond conventional biometric monitoring. It provides real-time insights into the balance of an individual’s autonomic nervous system, stress index, HRV, and heart rate. All that through a simple three-minute scan using the Kairos wrist-worn device. With this feature, veterans and their healthcare providers can gain an unprecedented understanding of their physiological response to stressors and relaxation techniques.

Organizational involvement

The importance of Veteran’s Affairs organizations and institutions committed to veterans’ health and well-being cannot be overstated. These entities serve as the custodians of veterans’ welfare, guiding them toward a healthier, more fulfilling post-service life. There are several compelling reasons why organizational participation is indispensable:

Early intervention

Organizations are uniquely positioned to detect subtle biometric trends in veterans that may herald impending health issues. Regular health check-ins create opportunities for organizations to provide timely support, averting the progression of health concerns into more severe problems.

Holistic care

The spectrum of challenges faced by veterans extends from physical injuries to intricate mental health issues. Through the comprehensive monitoring of biometrics, organizations can adopt a more holistic approach to addressing veterans’ well-being, concurrently addressing both their physical and emotional health.

Accountability and support

Organizational engagement instills a sense of accountability in veterans. It conveys an unwavering commitment to their well-being and fosters an environment where veterans are motivated to take agency of their health, buoyed by the support of institutions dedicated to their welfare.

The Biostrap solution: innovative, scalable, convenient

Biostrap offers an innovative, convenient, and scalable ecosystem for the active involvement of Veteran’s Affairs organizations and institutions committed to veterans’ health and well-being. In this intricate landscape of veterans’ health, both emotional and physical well-being are inextricably linked, and the role of organizations in monitoring biometrics serves as a beacon of support and early intervention.

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In an age where wearable technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, wearables have emerged as powerful tools for remote health monitoring. These devices, equipped with an array of sensors, can generate a staggering amount of data points, offering valuable insights into our well-being. However, for individuals, interpreting this wealth of data and making informed decisions can be a daunting task. This is where having their data monitored by an organization, led by healthcare professionals, can make all the difference in how individuals incorporate that data into their daily decision-making.

Additionally, these tools are increasingly becoming essential for organizations looking to monitor the well-being of their groups. Whether it’s a police department, first responders, a specific patient group, or an olympic team.

Advanced remote health monitoring

The beauty of modern wrist-worn wearables, such as the Biostrap Kairos, lies in their ability to gather an extensive range of health metrics. From heart rate and heart rate variability, to sleep patterns and activity levels, these devices provide an all-encompassing snapshot of one’s health. Yet, the sheer volume of data can be overwhelming for individuals attempting to navigate the intricacies of their well-being. This complexity often results in underutilized data and missed opportunities for improved health.

For individuals, the challenge is clear: how can they effectively utilize the multifaceted data generated by their wearables to make meaningful lifestyle choices? This is precisely where the idea of having their data monitored by an organization, with professionals who can interpret and guide them, becomes profoundly meaningful.

Precision in data interpretation

One of the primary advantages of using a Biostrap’s remote health monitoring solution is the precision in data interpretation. The Biostrap Kairos is equipped with cutting-edge sensors and technology that provide highly accurate health metrics, such as heart rate, HRV, sleep parameters, nervous system balance analysis, activity levels, and more. When organizations use Kairos, they can trust the data they receive, making it easier to make informed decisions.

Biostrap health monitoring platform offers real-time data analytics, enabling healthcare professionals to track trends, spot anomalies, and identify potential health concerns. This accuracy and immediacy in data interpretation can lead to early intervention, preventing health issues from worsening, and ultimately saving lives.

Personalized health recommendations

The modern concierge of remote health monitoring goes beyond just collecting data; it’s about transforming that data into actionable insights. Biostrap’s health monitoring platform uses advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to generate personalized health recommendations for individuals, including optimal bed time and wake up time for best recovery.

By monitoring a person’s unique health data, the lead of the organization or healthcare professional can provide tailored guidance, including exercise routines, dietary suggestions, stress management techniques, and more. These recommendations are based on the individual’s specific health goals and existing health conditions, making them much more effective in promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Comprehensive health and wellness ecosystem

Biostrap’s remote health monitoring solution is not limited to basic health tracking. Biostrap’s team offers a comprehensive approach to ensure that the organization and its group members receive superb care and support, fostering a sense of well-being.

White-glove experience for organizations

Biostrap’s remote health monitoring solution aims to provide a white-glove experience for organizations. This means that Biostrap offers tailored support and services to ensure the organization’s needs are met.

Organizations will have access to dedicated account managers who will guide them through the setup and usage of the health monitoring platform. These professionals are there to answer questions, resolve issues, and ensure a smooth experience. Furthermore, Biostrap provides on-demand training for the organization’s staff, ensuring they can effectively use the platform and make the most of its features.

Biostrap’s wrist-worn wearable Kairos and health monitoring platform is the modern concierge of remote health monitoring. By choosing this solution, organizations and their group members can benefit from more accurate data interpretation, personalized health recommendations, and a white-glove experience that caters to their unique needs.

It not only enhances the well-being of the group members but also contributes to a culture of health and wellness within the organization.

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Modern healthcare is seeing a transformative shift toward personalized medicine. This innovative approach aims to tailor interventions to suit the distinct genetic, lifestyle, and health parameters of individuals. At the forefront of this revolution are digital biomarkers, discernible indicators of biological processes, and wearable devices, like the Biostrap Kairos, that collect and analyze real-time health data. By harnessing the power of digital biomarkers, healthcare providers can gain valuable insights into patients’ conditions, enabling personalized treatment plans and improving overall patient outcomes.

What are Biomarkers and How are They Used Today?

Biomarkers, in the context of healthcare, refer to measurable biological indicators that can provide information about an individual’s health or disease status. Traditionally, biomarkers have been used for diagnostic purposes, helping clinicians identify the presence or absence of a particular condition. However, with advancements in technology and our understanding of human biology, biomarkers are now being utilized in a more nuanced and comprehensive manner.

In addition to their diagnostic utility, biomarkers are increasingly being employed to inform treatment decisions and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. One exciting development in this field is the use of digital biomarkers, which are captured through wearable devices or smartphones. These digital biomarkers include visual and auditory data, or physiological data, which can be analyzed to identify trends and subtle shifts in a patient’s health and response to therapy.

Personalizing treatment through digital biomarkers

One of the key advantages of digital biomarkers is their ability to match the right patients with the right treatments. By capturing health data trends over time, digital biomarkers can help determine if a treatment or intervention is suitable for a patient. This personalized approach to treatment has the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce the burden of trial and error in finding the most effective interventions.

Patients with immunological disorders provide an excellent example of how digital biomarkers can enhance personalized care. Symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and depression associated with these conditions can significantly impact quality of life and vary over time.

By continuously monitoring a patient’s day-to-day experience through digital biomarkers, healthcare providers can identify responders and non-responders to treatment earlier, allowing for timely adjustments to care plans. This information enables healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about treatment, ensuring patients receive the most suitable interventions.

Predicting risk and improving quality of life

As digital biomarkers continue to evolve and gather more high-quality data, they have the potential to revolutionize patient care. While they currently serve as valuable monitoring tools, providing insights into general health and treatment response, their future applications are even more exciting.

AI-powered digital biomarkers could pave the way for risk assessments that predict future health events and enable proactive interventions.

For instance, Biostrap Kairos’ new nervous system analysis feature will be key to quantifying how much stress an individual is under at in real time. This visualization could help predict breakthrough events and allow healthcare providers to take preventive measures before they occur.

Precision medicine: from research to standard-of-care

Digital biomarkers have made significant strides in the realm of clinical research, where they help define specific patient populations and evaluate the potential benefits of investigational therapies. By leveraging data from diverse sources, these biomarkers inform decision-making in clinical pathways and lay the groundwork for real-world applications of new medications.

That’s exactly how the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles has leveraged Biostrap’s raw PPG data to develop a new physiological biomarker to detect sickle cell pain crisis with patients.

As conversations around personalized care progress, it is crucial to develop algorithms based on unbiased and diverse data sets. By doing so, AI-powered digital biomarkers can facilitate personalized treatments and interventions for all patients, ultimately paving the way for precision medicine to become the standard-of-care.

The integration of biomarkers and digital technology is propelling modern medicine toward a future of personalized care. Through the analysis of visual and auditory digital biomarkers, clinicians can gain valuable insights into patients’ conditions, facilitating tailored treatment plans and improving overall patient outcomes.

As technology continues to advance and our understanding of biomarkers deepens, the potential for predicting risks, improving quality of life, and ultimately achieving precision medicine as standard-of-care becomes increasingly within reach. By harnessing the power of biomarkers, we can unlock the full potential of personalized medicine, transforming the healthcare landscape for the better.

If you’re working on a research project or want to quantify the efficacy of a treatment with your patients, reach out to us and let us help you get the data you’ll need take the care you provide to the next level.

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The duty of protecting and serving often comes with a heavy toll on the mental health of police officers. Often, this toll manifests in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Hence, stress resilience and performance optimization are critical in high-stress professions such as law enforcement. Amid various innovative training methods, monitoring heart rate variability (HRV) has emerged as a potent tool for managing stress and fostering tactical excellence. Let’s dive in the profound impact of monitoring the HRV of police officers, particularly in combating PTSD and fatigue.

Deciphering HRV and Its Role

HRV is a nuanced measure of the autonomic nervous system’s (ANS) adaptability. It signifies the time variation between successive heartbeats, portraying the delicate balance between the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous system branches. A high HRV often signals a resilient ANS, whilst a low HRV can indicate heightened stress levels.

Incorporating HRV into training regimes can be instrumental in optimizing performance and recovery. By tracking HRV, police officers can gauge their training readiness, identify overtraining signs, and adjust their routines accordingly. Keeping an eye on HRV may aid in managing the stress response, thus promoting better recovery, mental clarity, and overall well-being.

Perks of HRV for Police Officers

Monitoring the HRV of police officers offers an array of benefits. For starters, it aids in effective stress management. Whether it’s meditation, biofeedback, or a wide range of health lifestyle choices, monitoring HRV may provide valuable insights in how well the ANS is able to adapt to stressors.

Additionally, practices that boost HRV, and thus overall health resilience, may help police officers sustain composure and enhance decision-making in high-pressure situations.

Moreover, HRV training lays emphasis on sleep quality and recovery monitoring, reducing burnout risk and boosting long-term performance.

Research suggests that high HRV links to improved cardiovascular health, enhanced immune function, and increased cognitive performance. Thus, it empowers police officers to make informed decisions for their physical and mental resilience, leading to better job satisfaction and quality of life.

Unraveling the science of HRV and its link to stress resilience

The science behind HRV lies in the intricate interaction between the ANS, heart function, and brain. It mirrors the dynamic balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activities, influenced by factors like age, fitness level, stress levels, and individual environment.

Studies reveal that individuals with higher HRV exhibit superior stress resilience. They are better equipped to handle stressful situations and recover more efficiently afterwards. HRV training aims to enhance this resilience by teaching individuals to regulate their ANS using specific techniques and exercises, such as breath work or mindfulness practices.

Measuring and Decoding HRV

Measuring and understanding HRV provides critical insights into an individual’s stress resilience and recovery capacity. Several methods are available to measure HRV, ranging from simple smartphone apps to specialized wearable devices, like the Biostrap Kairos wrist-worn device.

Kairos captures beat-to-beat intervals and clinically reliable HRV data, providing an advanced analysis of one’s autonomic function.

The Biostrap Spot Check feature offers a real-time insight into one’s ANS balance via a three-minute recording at rest. As a result, police officers can grasp the extent to which they are in a state of stress (fight or flight) or rest (rest and digest).

Factors influencing HRV and ways to enhance it

HRV can be influenced by several factors, including age, fitness level, stress, environment, and sleep quality. Age generally leads to a decrease in HRV, while regular exercise and physical fitness can improve it. Chronic stress, however, research suggests can reduce HRV and hinder recovery.

To enhance HRV, police officers can adopt various strategies. Stress management techniques, including mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises, can also boost HRV. Prioritizing quality sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet further contribute to optimal HRV levels.

HRV training techniques for police officers

HRV training techniques for police officers involve a combination of physical and mental exercises designed to enhance stress resilience and recovery. These techniques aim to improve the autonomic balance and teach individuals how to regulate their physiological responses.

Breathing exercises are a fundamental component of improving HRV. Techniques such as coherent breathing, or box breath, where individuals breathe in and out for equal counts, promote parasympathetic activation and enhance HRV.

Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery exercises can also help police officers achieve a state of deep relaxation and bring HRV back and even beyond their baseline.

In addition to these techniques, biofeedback training can be a valuable tool. Biostrap Kairos, for example, offers a clinically proven way to quantify nervous system resilience and rate of recovery.

By utilizing the Biostrap Kairos, police officers can receive real-time feedback on their HRV and track their progress over time.

The role of HRV in addressing post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a significant concern among police officers. HRV training can play a crucial role in addressing this condition by promoting stress resilience and recovery.

Research has shown that individuals with PTSD often have lower HRV, indicating an out-of-balance autonomic nervous system. The symptoms can lead to several problems, including:

  1. Difficulty sleeping
  2. Irritability or outbursts of anger
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Hypervigilance
  5. Exaggerated startle response

By engaging in HRV training, police officers can improve their autonomic balance, reducing the risk of developing PTSD symptoms.

HRV training provides them with the tools to manage stress effectively, prevent burnout, and maintain mental well-being.

Case studies and success stories of HRV training in police programs

Several case studies and success stories highlight the effectiveness of HRV training. One such study conducted with a group of young adults showed that HRV training significantly reduced perceived stress levels and improved cognitive performance. Participants reported feeling more resilient and better equipped to handle the demands of their jobs.

Another study involving police officers demonstrated that resilience training reduced physiological and psychological stress and increased peacefulness and vitality. These success stories underscore the potential of HRV training in optimizing police officer performance and fostering psychological resilience.

The future of HRV training in police programs

As demands on police officers continue to rise, the importance of stress resilience and tactical excellence can’t be overstated. HRV training offers a promising solution to enhance performance, promote recovery, and address the physiological and psychological stress they face.

By incorporating HRV into their programs, police officers can improve their stress resilience, decision-making skills, and overall well-being. The science behind HRV and the numerous benefits it offers make it a valuable tool for optimizing police training and performance.

As technology continues to advance, wearable devices like the Biostrap Kairos provide real-time feedback and quantifiable data, making HRV training more accessible and effective. With the support of professional resources and training programs, police officers can harness the power of HRV to excel in their demanding roles.

Choose Biostrap Kairos for a clinically proven way to quantify nervous system resilience and rate of recovery.

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In the demanding world of first responders, stress resilience and tactical excellence are crucial for effective performance. One innovative training method that has gained significant attention is Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training. HRV refers to the variation in time intervals between consecutive heartbeats, which can provide valuable insights into an individual’s physiological and psychological well-being.

Let’s explore the role of HRV training in first responder training programs and how it can improve performance and resilience.

Understanding HRV and its impact on training

HRV is a measure of the autonomic nervous system’s ability to adapt to different situations. It reflects the intricate balance and back-and-forth play between the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) branches of the nervous system. High HRV is often seen as indicative of a flexible and resilient autonomic nervous system, while low HRV suggests a more rigid and stressed state.

When it comes to training, HRV can serve as a powerful tool for optimizing performance and recovery. By monitoring HRV, first responders can assess their readiness to train, identify signs of overtraining, and adjust their training programs accordingly. HRV training helps individuals regulate their stress response, promoting better recovery, mental clarity, and overall well-being.

Benefits of HRV training for first responders

The benefits of HRV training for first responders are numerous. Firstly, it helps in managing stress effectively. By training the autonomic nervous system to respond more adaptively to stressors, first responders can maintain composure and make better decisions in high-pressure situations.

Additionally, HRV training puts more emphasis on keeping an eye on sleep quality and recovery, reducing the risk of burnout and improving long-term performance.

Furthermore, HRV training improves overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that high HRV is associated with better cardiovascular health, improved immune function, and increased cognitive performance. By incorporating HRV training into their programs, first responders can make more informed decisions to enhance their physical and mental resilience, leading to improved job satisfaction and quality of life.

The science behind HRV and its connection to stress resilience

The science behind HRV lies in the complex interplay between the autonomic nervous system, heart function, and the brain. HRV reflects the dynamic balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, which is influenced by various factors such as age, fitness level, stress levels, and the individual’s environment.

Research has shown that individuals with high HRV exhibit better stress resilience. They are better equipped to handle stressful situations and recover more efficiently afterward. HRV training aims to improve this resilience by teaching individuals how to regulate their autonomic nervous system through specific techniques and exercises, such as breath work or mindfulness practices.

How to measure and interpret HRV

Measuring and interpreting HRV provides valuable insight into understanding an individual’s stress resilience and recovery capacity. There are several methods available to measure HRV, ranging from simple smartphone apps to specialized wearable devices, such our Biostrap wrist-worn devices.

Biostrap captures beat-to-beat intervals and clinically reliable HRV data and provides an advanced analysis of one’s autonomic function.

To interpret HRV, it is important to understand the different metrics involved. These include time-domain measures such as SDNN (Standard Deviation of Normal-to-Normal intervals) and frequency-domain measures such as LF (Low Frequency) and HF (High Frequency) power. Each metric provides unique insights into the autonomic balance and can be used to track changes over time.

Factors influencing HRV and ways to improve it

Several factors can influence HRV, including age, fitness level, stress, environment, and sleep quality. Age generally leads to a decrease in HRV, while regular exercise and physical fitness can improve it. Chronic stress, on the other hand, research suggests can reduce HRV and hinder recovery.

To improve HRV, first responders can adopt various strategies. Regular aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming, has been shown to increase HRV.

Stress management techniques, including mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises, can also boost HRV. Prioritizing quality sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet further contribute to optimal HRV levels.

HRV training techniques for first responders

HRV training techniques for first responders involve a combination of physical and mental exercises designed to enhance stress resilience and recovery. These techniques aim to improve the autonomic balance and teach individuals how to regulate their physiological responses.

Breathing exercises are a fundamental component of HRV training. Techniques such as coherent breathing, or box breath, where individuals breathe in and out for equal counts, promote parasympathetic activation and enhance HRV.

Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery exercises can also help first responders achieve a state of deep relaxation and bring HRV back and even beyond their baseline.

In addition to these techniques, biofeedback training can be a valuable tool. Biostrap Kairos, for example, offers a clinically proven way to quantify nervous system resilience and rate of recovery.

By utilizing wearable technology, first responders can receive real-time feedback on their HRV and track their progress over time.

The role of HRV in addressing post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a significant concern among first responders. HRV training can play a crucial role in addressing this condition by promoting stress resilience and recovery.

Research has shown that individuals with PTSD often have lower HRV, indicating a dysregulated autonomic nervous system. By engaging in HRV training, first responders can improve their autonomic balance, reducing the risk of developing PTSD symptoms.

HRV training provides them with the tools to manage stress effectively, prevent burnout, and maintain mental well-being.

Case studies and success stories of HRV training in first responder programs

Numerous case studies and success stories highlight the effectiveness of HRV training. One such study conducted with a group of young adults showed that HRV training significantly reduced perceived stress levels and improved cognitive performance. Participants reported feeling more resilient and better equipped to handle the demands of their jobs.

Another study involving police officers demonstrated that resilience training reduced physiological and psychological stress and increased peacefulness and vitality. These success stories underscore the potential of HRV training in optimizing first responder performance and fostering psychological resilience.

Professional resources and courses for HRV training

For first responders interested in incorporating HRV training into their programs, there are numerous professional resources and courses available. These resources provide in-depth information on HRV, training techniques, and practical applications.

Organizations such as the HeartMath Institute and the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience offer comprehensive training programs and certifications in HRV training. These programs equip first responders with the knowledge and tools necessary to implement HRV training effectively.

The future of HRV training in first responder programs

As the demands on first responders continue to increase, the importance of stress resilience and tactical excellence cannot be overstated. HRV training offers a promising solution to enhance performance, promote recovery, and address the physiological and psychological stress they face.

By incorporating HRV training into their programs, first responders can improve their stress resilience, decision-making skills, and overall well-being. The science behind HRV and the numerous benefits it offers make it a valuable tool for optimizing first responder training and performance.

As technology continues to advance, wearable devices like Biostrap Kairos provide real-time feedback and quantifiable data, making HRV training more accessible and effective. With the support of professional resources and training programs, first responders can harness the power of HRV to excel in their demanding roles.

Choose Biostrap Kairos for a clinically proven way to quantify nervous system resilience and rate of recovery.

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First responders play a crucial role in safeguarding our communities, often facing high-stress situations that can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being. Wearable technology has provided great value in various industries for tracking health metrics, such as heart rate, sleep patterns, and physical activity. Its potential in supporting first responders is undeniable in terms of helping to enhance safety and performance, including the benefits of tracking fatigue, sleep, and recovery.

One metric that has received considerable attention in the context of first responders is heart rate variability (HRV).

What is heart rate variability (HRV)

HRV, the variation in time intervals between consecutive heartbeats. It is a measure of the balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches of the autonomic nervous system and has proven to be a reliable indicator of an individual’s stress levels, emotional well-being, and overall health.

Utilizing wearables, such as the Biostrap devices, equipped with HRV monitoring capabilities can provide real-time data, helping first responders understand their physiological responses during high-stress situations.

Wearable Technology for Measuring HRV

Wearable technology, such as the Biostrap Kairos, EVO, and Ethos can continuously measure HRV throughout the day and night. These devices use either ECG or photoplethysmography (PPG) technology. The latter to measure the changes in blood volume in the microvascular bed of tissue, providing a non-invasive method for HRV assessment.

Advantages of Wearable HRV Monitoring

Measuring HRV offers several advantages for first responders:

  • Continuous, real-time monitoring provides a comprehensive picture of an individual’s HRV throughout the day, allowing for more accurate assessments of stress and fatigue levels.
  • Non-invasive and unobtrusive technology enables first responders to wear the devices during their daily activities and while asleep without hindrance.
  • Data collected from wearable devices can be easily accessed and analyzed, allowing for personalized recommendations and interventions.

Why HRV Matters for First Responders

By monitoring HRV, first responders can gain insights into their autonomic nervous system’s functioning, enabling them to identify early signs of stress and take appropriate action. This information empowers them to implement self-regulation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and mindfulness, to manage stress and maintain their performance under pressure.

The impact fatigue

Fatigue is a significant challenge first responders face. Numerous studies have established a link between the demanding nature of their work and increased risk of this condition. Literally has shown that over 50 percent of firefighter deaths are due to stress and exhaustion.

Additionally, studies have established that chronic fatigue might reduce HRV. By harnessing the power of wearable technology, we can gather valuable insights into their physiological responses, enabling proactive measures to mitigate the risk and impact fatigue.

Sleep tracking

Fatigue resulting from inadequate sleep is a significant concern for first responders, as it can impair cognitive abilities, decision-making, and reaction times, jeopardizing both their safety and the safety of those they serve. Wearable technology with sleep tracking capabilities allows first responders to monitor their sleep patterns and ensure they are getting the rest they need.

Sleep tracking can provide valuable data on sleep quality, duration, and disruptions, helping first responders identify potential sleep disorders or patterns that may impact their performance

Armed with this knowledge, they can implement strategies to improve sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, and adopting relaxation techniques before bedtime. These measures can significantly enhance their alertness and cognitive functioning, reducing the risk of fatigue-related challenges on duty.

Optimizing performance and safety

By leveraging HRV and sleep tracking, Biostrap enables first responders to take proactive steps toward optimizing their performance and safety. Continuous monitoring of HRV can aid in identifying patterns that may indicate the need for extended rest or recovery periods, preventing burnout and promoting overall well-being. Additionally, sleep tracking empowers first responders to prioritize and improve their sleep, ensuring they are well-rested and mentally sharp during critical moments.

Furthermore, the data collected through wearable technology can be analyzed on a broader scale to identify trends across teams. This information can be used to develop evidence-based protocols and training programs aimed at promoting resilience, reducing stress-related incidents, and improving overall performance.

More research needed but we’re at a good start

More research is needed to better understand the relationship between HRV and job-specific stressors faced by first responders, as well as to develop targeted interventions and strategies based on HRV data.

However, wearable technology, like the Biostrap devices, that are equipped with HRV and sleep tracking capabilities hold tremendous potential in supporting our first responders. By providing valuable insights into their physiological responses, these devices offer an opportunity to manage stress, reduce the risk of fatigue, and optimize performance and safety.

As we continue to explore innovative solutions, it is essential to prioritize the well-being of our first responders and equip them with the tools they need to excel in their noble service to society.

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Have you ever woken up feeling foggy, low energy, maybe even achy and craving all the sugars in the world? You likely didn’t get enough deep sleep. Slow-wave deep sleep, also known as stage 3 non-REM (NREM) sleep, is an important stage of sleep that is characterized by slow brain waves, reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, and relaxed muscles. This stage of sleep is essential for both physical and mental health, and getting enough of it is crucial for your recovery and overall well-being. 

The amount of deep sleep you may get each night varies depending on factors such as the time of your last coffee, meal or workout, or even your stress levels. While you will go through several cycles of sleep during the night, it’s been found that you will spend more time in deep sleep during the first half of your sleep session. Then with each sleep cycle, deep sleep decreases. It’s exactly opposite to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. You’ll spend less time in REM in the first half and more time closer to waking up.

In our blog about why tracking your sleep matters, we break down the different stages of sleep, so we highly recommend you to take a look for some additional details.

How do you know when to go to sleep?

There are two main systems that regulate your sleep: circadian rhythm and sleep homeostasis. You have heard us talk about circadian rhythm before, as it’s the environmental cues that control your sleep-wake cycle. As such, the sunrise triggers your body to release cortisol that helps you be alert, while sunsets and darkness impact melatonin release to help you sleep.

While the circadian rhythm, the body’s 24-hour internal clock, is impacted by external cues, sleep homeostasis is an internal regulatory mechanism, also known as sleep drive. It’s similar to your body telling you that you’re hungry and you should eat. The longer you stay awake the stronger the drive gets to make you sleepy.

The more consistent you are with your sleep schedule, the better quality sleep you’ll get each night as both your circadian rhythm and your sleep homeostasis will be in balance. The longer you adhere to that schedule and maintain that balance, the easier it will be for your body to develop a healthy sleep architecture with adequate time spent in all necessary sleep stages.

When will you get the most deep sleep

With a consistent sleep-wake cycle, your body will prepare itself to tap into deep sleep the first half of when you’re used to going to bed. Generally, going to bed before midnight and around 10 p.m. is most beneficial for getting the right amount of deep sleep.

However, if you are used to going to bed around 10 p.m. each night, but stay up on the weekend past midnight, you are stripping your body of most of this restorative phase of sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, a few signs that you’re not getting enough deep sleep are:

  • Feeling drowsy and not refreshed;
  • Lack of alertness and attention;
  • Having a hard time learning and forming new memories;
  • Cravings for high-calorie food mostly sugars and simple carbohydrates.

Why it’s important to get enough slow-wave deep sleep

The physiological adaptations that occur during slow-wave deep sleep (SWS) help you to wake up refreshed, energized, and clear-headed, so you can perform your best that day. Take a look at below how SWS impacts your physical and mental health as well as mood and metabolism.

Physical Recovery

During SWS, the body undergoes a process of physical restoration and repair. This includes the release of growth hormones that stimulate the repair and regeneration of tissues, as well as the rebuilding of bone and muscle. It is also important for the immune system, as it promotes the production of cytokines – proteins that help the body fight infections, inflammation, and stress.

In addition, SWS helps the body conserve energy and replenish glycogen stores – the primary fuel source for muscles during physical activity. This is important for athletes and anyone who engages in regular physical activity.

Mental Recovery

During this stage of sleep, the brain organizes and processes the information that has been acquired during the day. This includes the consolidation of memories, the formation of new neural connections, and the pruning of unnecessary ones.

It’s been found that the glymphatic system that helps control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, flushes out toxic molecules from the brain during SWS. These include beta-amyloids that are one of the main causes of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.

Studies have shown that SWS is particularly important for memory consolidation and learning. During this stage of sleep, the brain replays the neural activity that occurred during the day, which strengthens the connections between neurons and helps to consolidate memories.

Mood Regulation

Sleep plays a vital role in mood regulation, and SWS is no exception. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, mood swings, and even depression. This is because SWS helps to regulate emotions, and the lack of it can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, such as GABA, dopamine, and serotonin that are responsible for mood regulation.

Energy Restoration

Finally, SWS is important for energy restoration. During this stage of sleep, the body conserves energy and replenishes glycogen stores. Additionally, it’s when the body rebalances your blood sugar levels. Studies have found that a lack of deep sleep may increase glucose levels and decrease insulin sensitivity. 

Overall, slow-wave deep sleep is critical for physical and mental health. Getting enough of it is essential for our overall well-being, and a lack of it can lead to a range of health problems, including immune dysfunction, cognitive impairment, mood disorders, and even chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. 

As most of it occurs during the first couple of hours of your nightly slumber, make sure to stay consistent with when you go to bed and aim for shutting the lights off before midnight.

The best way to keep an eye on how much deep sleep you get each night is to track your sleep. The Biostrap Recover Set provides you with all the tools you need to gain valuable insights on your sleep quality and how much time you spend in each sleep stage. Additionally, utilizing AI and machine learning, our Sleep Lab feature will recommend the best bedtime and wake-up time for you to help you to recover optimally each day.

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Are you tired of feeling groggy and unproductive during the day? The key to unlocking your full potential may lie in something as simple as improving your sleep hygiene. Not only can good sleep habits lead to more restful and restorative sleep, but they can also have a positive impact on your heart rate variability (HRV). In this article, we’ll dive into the ways that good sleep hygiene can improve HRV and what you can do to get started on the path to better sleep and overall wellness. So, let’s get ready to catch some Z’s and improve your health!

What is HRV

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in the time intervals between successive heartbeats. It is a marker of the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates many of the body’s internal processes, including heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Additionally, it is a non-invasive tool used to assess the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

While it’s a validated reflection of the state of the autonomic nervous system, it is very easily influenced by both internal, external, and environmental factors. Nearly anything you do, think or are exposed to will trigger a shift in your HRV. For example, breathwork and deep breathing has been found to have positive effects on HRV, and so does spending time out in nature or socializing with friends. On the other hand, chronic stress and anxiety may have a negative impact.

Understanding your HRV levels can be a very powerful tool to have insight into how resilient your body is and how recovered you are on any given day. Additionally, HRV has been found to be an important aspect of cardiovascular health and has been associated with morbidity and mortality in multiple disease states, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

There are a myriad of practices that are beneficial to your HRV and incorporating healthy sleep habits is one of them. So let’s take a look at how and what are some good examples.

What is good sleep hygiene

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our physical, emotional, and mental health. Unfortunately, many of us neglect the importance of sleep and sacrifice our rest for other priorities such as work, socializing or watching TV. However, a lack of sleep and irregular sleep patterns can have serious consequences, ranging from daytime fatigue to an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Good sleep hygiene refers to a set of habits and practices that can help us get the restorative sleep our bodies need. By following good sleep hygiene practices, we can improve our sleep quality and duration, allowing our bodies to recharge and tap into essential restorative mechanisms overnight. In turn, this can lead to a range of health benefits, including improved immune function, better mood and mental health, and increased productivity and cognitive performance.

Several studies have shown that good sleep hygiene can have a positive impact on HRV. For example:

Consistent sleep schedule

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s internal clock also known as circadian rhythm, which can improve HRV. A study published in the Journal of Scientific Reports found that college students who went to bed and woke up at the same time every day had better academic performance than those with irregular sleep schedules. 

Create a relaxing sleep environment

Creating a relaxing sleep environment can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can improve HRV. For example, using a white noise machine or listening to calming music before bed can promote relaxation and help your body activate its parasympathetic nervous system and improve your HRV.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with sleep and disrupt HRV. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that caffeine consumption was associated with a significant increase in sleep disturbance.

Avoid screens and stimulating activities

 

Screens emit blue light, which can interfere with the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin and disrupt sleep. Engaging in stimulating activities, such as watching an exciting movie or playing a video game, before bed can also interfere with sleep and HRV.

Overall, good sleep hygiene is an important factor in promoting healthy sleep and improving HRV. By following good sleep habits and creating a relaxing sleep environment, you can improve the quality of your sleep and support the health of your autonomic nervous system.

Incorporating a wearable such as the Biostrap into your routine takes your health monitoring to the next level. By doing so, you will gain access to a wealth of objective and clinically accurate data on a wide range of metrics such as sleep quality, HRV, resting heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels, allowing you to make informed decisions about your overall health and wellbeing.

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Sleep deprivation is a multi-factorial health issue that may trigger a cascade of serious medical conditions. More on this in a little bit, but nonetheless, it has a significant impact on the body, including the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that regulates many of the automatic processes — heart rate and blood pressure. The connection between sleep deprivation and HRV is relevant in connection to the activity of the ANS, as HRV has been found to be a reliable indicator of ANS function and overall health.

HRV and the autonomic nervous system

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause a reduction in HRV, particularly in the high-frequency range, which is primarily influenced by the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS, is responsible for calming the body, reducing stress, and maintaining balance and homeostasis. It is particularly active during times of rest and sleep.

When you are asleep, there is a shift in ANS activity from sympathetic dominance (fight-or-flight response) to parasympathetic dominance (rest-and-digest response), which helps the body relax and prepare for restorative sleep. However, when you are sleep deprived, this natural shift in ANS activity is disrupted, leading to reduced HRV.

When it comes to dissecting HRV, we look at high-frequency and low-frequency HRV which each have their own relationship with the autonomic nervous system.

Sleep deprivation and low/high-frequency HRV

The reduction in high-frequency HRV during sleep deprivation is thought to be due to an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, which is responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response. This increased sympathetic activity during sleep deprivation can lead to a state of hyperarousal, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, perpetuating the cycle of sleep deprivation.

Additionally, sleep deprivation has been associated with an increase in low-frequency HRV, which is influenced by both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This increase in low-frequency HRV may reflect an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity when you’re sleep deprived, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety, and negatively impact your overall health.

Reduced HRV is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders (i.e obesity), and poor mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of these health conditions, highlighting the importance of getting enough quality sleep.

In conclusion, sleep deprivation can significantly impact HRV, leading to a reduction in high-frequency HRV and an increase in low-frequency HRV, which can negatively affect overall health and well-being. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize healthy sleep habits to maintain optimal HRV and overall health.

Whether you want to monitor your own health or you’re working with patients, measuring HRV nocturnally may serve as an essential tool to help to quantify how certain levels of sleep deprivation may affect HRV and overall recovery.

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Research has shown that HRV is a reliable and non-invasive marker of sleep quality and duration. HRV, or heart rate variability, measures the variation in the time intervals between consecutive heartbeats, which reflects the activity of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) during sleep. The ANS regulates many of the body’s automatic processes, including heart rate, respiration, and digestion, and is responsible for maintaining the body’s internal balance or homeostasis.

During sleep, the ANS shifts from sympathetic dominance (fight-or-flight response) to parasympathetic dominance (rest-and-digest response), which helps the body to relax and prepare for a restful and restorative sleep. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for slowing down the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and reducing the overall sympathetic activity. This shift in ANS activity is reflected in your HRV, with higher HRV indicating greater PNS activity and better sleep quality.

Additionally, when your body taps into this rest-and-digest state, stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline decrease and calming hormones including oxytocin increase.

HRV and sleep

Studies have shown that higher HRV during sleep is associated with deeper and more restorative sleep, longer sleep duration, and less sleep disturbances. In contrast, lower HRV during sleep has been linked to poorer sleep quality, more frequent awakenings during the night, and an increased risk of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.

HRV and sleep interventions

HRV can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of sleep interventions. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) has been shown to increase HRV during sleep, indicating improved sleep quality and duration. However, according to one study, more research is needed to define “whether insomnia treatment might play a role in physiological changes associated with cardiovascular anomalies.”

Similarly, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation have been found to increase HRV during sleep, suggesting that they may be effective interventions for improving sleep quality.

In summary, HRV is a useful tool for assessing sleep quality and duration, and can provide valuable insights into the activity of the ANS during sleep. By monitoring HRV during sleep, you can identify potential sleep disturbances and take steps to improve your sleep hygiene and overall sleep quality. Additionally, healthcare professionals can use HRV to diagnose and treat sleep disorders, and to evaluate the effectiveness of sleep interventions.

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In assessing overall health, the role of the nervous system is often overlooked, but the Parasympathetic Nervous System is a key component in understanding and achieving optimal training and wellness goals.

The body’s Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls and influences internal organ function through largely automatic processes such as digestion, respiration, and heart rate. The larger ANS is divided into several systems including the more well-known “fight-or-flight” Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and lesser known “rest-and-digest” Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). These systems naturally counteract each other and work to achieve balance within the body.

Why It’s Important

The body should naturally remain in PNS most of the time, and only activate SNS in life-threatening situations; however, in the modern age, the body’s SNS response is often triggered by everyday stressors, including adrenaline rushes from caffeine, exercise, and anxiety.

Spending too much time in SNS can lead to a general weakening of the immune system as well as other serious health issues such as:

  • Cardiovascular issues. High blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and heart attack
  • Gastrointestinal issues. IBS, chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Endocrine System issues. Type 2 diabetes, sexual impotence, and decreased energy and longevity
  • Decreased exercise recovery. Muscle and training fatigue

Comparatively, some benefits from spending more time in PNS include:

  • Cardiovascular benefits. Higher Heart Rate Variability, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart attack
  • More stable blood sugar. Decreased risk of diabetes
  • Higher overall energy. Due to more balanced cortisol levels
  • Better sleep quality. SNS can negatively impact circadian rhythm

Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System

While the average person spends too much time in SNS, there are ways to adjust your habits and thinking in order to increase time spent in PNS.

High Intensity Training

Change it up— high intensity exercise activates the SNS and studies have shown that repeated, intense training can decrease the ability to transition back to the PNS. Like most things in life, balance is key: take rest days and be sure to include lower intensity exercises throughout the week.

Aerobic Exercise

Studies have shown that light to moderate aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming for at least 30 minutes per day at least five days per week can improve the PNS response. Over time, the PNS response and Heart Rate Variability increase and Resting Heart Rate decreases. Mind-body centered exercise such as yoga and tai chi carry similar benefits.

Meditation & Massage

Stress relief and relaxation are hugely impactful in achieving the “rest-and-digest” mode of the PNS. Deep breathing and focus on relaxing the mind lead to less stress and less time spent in SNS.

Many of the metrics Biostrap tracks— including HRV, RHR, SpO2, and sleep tracking— can be quality indicators of time spent in the SNS vs. PNS. By carefully tracking your body’s metrics, you can consciously control your Autonomic Nervous System and reap the benefits of the Parasympathetic Response.

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There are many ways in which we can measure the effects of stress on the body as it pertains to physical activity and fitness. In the past, we’ve discussed utilizing the Borg rate of perceived exertion scale to determine how hard you think your body is working. Or instead we’ve broken down the complexities of analyzing heart rate zones to determine how intense a bout of exercise is on your cardiovascular system.

Yet a relatively new method for assessing the effects of physical stress on the body has emerged in recent decades. We refer to this concept simply as heart rate variability, or HRV. While techniques such as the Borg scale utilize qualitative values to measure stress on the body, measuring heart rate variability requires wearable technology that can monitor, record and analyze sets of HRV measurement data. As a result, the data provided by a heart rate variability monitor can prove far more valuable than simply describing how fatigued you may feel.

All of this may seem a bit complex, but have no fear! In reality, measuring HRV only requires a heart rate monitor and a smartphone. Often times an iPhone, Android device, or other simple fitness wearable can get the job done.

But in order to measure HRV, it pays to understand what exactly HRV is, and why it’s so important. From there we can break down the various HRV monitors on the market today that seek to provide this important data. And finally, we can dig into what those HRV values really mean for your overall health. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of heart rate variability.

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

Though the term may sound complex, heart rate variability is simply defined as the time between your heart beats that varies as you breathe in and out. This small window of time is measured in milliseconds when using the RMSSD method, which is an intricate mode of calculation that stands for Root Mean Square of Successive Differences. It’s used to find the standard deviation of heartbeat to heartbeat differences.

Given this information, you may now be wondering why HRV is so important. After all, what can the milliseconds of time between heartbeats really disclose about your overall health?

As it turns out, those milliseconds can tell you a whole lot about your personal well-being. Research increasingly suggests that high HRV — that is to say, more variability between heartbeats — is linked to better overall health and a higher level of aerobic fitness. Low HRV, on the other hand, is linked to increased stress levels, fatigue, and even exhaustion.

HRV can be affected by everything from your mindset to air quality to age to exercise patterns. Because HRV is tied to our autonomic nervous system, it acts as an indicator for both the parasympathetic (rest) and sympathetic (activation) branches of our nervous system. With this information in mind, it’s time to examine the many ways in which HRV can be measured.

Measuring Heart Rate Variability

HRV was once utilized solely as a tool to assess cardiovascular risks for patients that suffered from heart attacks. To produce accurate HRV data at the time, an electrocardiogram was produced to analyze the heart’s voltage over a span of seconds. When medical television dramas depict a doctor staring inquisitively at a long sheet of paper with rising and falling lines, this is the electrocardiogram we speak of. Medical professionals analyze what’s referred to as the RR interval. They are studying the variation in beat-to-beat intervals as indicated by the time between two beats of the heart.

Eventually, however, HRV analysis became a standard tool for sports scientists that sought to monitor overtraining in athletes. Studies began to increasingly show that overtrained athletes had low HRV, and thus the usage of heart rate variability monitors began to rise. Both professional and amateur athletes sought the chance to monitor daily HRV values without stepping into the research lab. As a result, personal fitness devices that contained real-time HRV measurement capabilities rapidly increased as wearable technology advanced.

Wearable Technology for Measuring Heart Rate Variability

Today a number of fitness wearable companies offer biofeedback technology that produces real-time measurements of HRV.

Garmin, for instance, sports a full lineup of GPS-enabled watches that include a heart rate sensor in the watch itself. Apple’s Apple Watch does the very same by utilizing infrared technology that detects the heart beat by measuring reflected infrared light from tissue.

Other companies such as Polar offer products like the Polar H7, a heart rate monitor that takes the form of a chest strap worn across the torso, sitting directly above the heart. Wahoo’s TICKR heart rate monitoring chest strap does the very same.

And even Biostrap’s wristband utilizes a heart rate sensor to monitor oxygen saturation, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, and more. Accessories such as a chest strap or shoe pod allow for even more data-driven capabilities that other fitness wearable companies don’t often provide. By tracking metrics associated with sleep, performance, and even recovery, Biostrap’s technology makes a wealth of valuable personal information immediately available.

These devices monitor and record HRV information, but how does that data get to you? By utilizing Bluetooth 4.0, these devices can sync with most heart rate variability monitor apps available through Google’s Google Play store or Apple’s App Store. One of the most popular HRV apps is entitled “elite HRV,” and it syncs with most devices.

Other instruments, like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone lineup, have implemented heart rate monitors into the phone itself via an infrared finger sensor. The user only has to place their index finger on the sensor to record their heart rate over an allotted period of time. From within these apps and devices, a physiological profile takes shape that seeks to illustrate your heart health over a longer span of time, such as weeks or months. In turn, you have access to powerful physiological information, right at your fingertips.

So What Can You Learn From HRV Data?

You have the device that contains HRV measurement capabilities. You’ve downloaded the necessary apps from the app store of your choice. And that important HRV data we keep referring to has finally synced to your phone. So what can you learn from the data?

It all starts by paying attention to your baseline HRV. This is your everyday HRV based on your resting heart rate when you’re not dripping with sweat after sprinting up a flight of stairs. Understanding your baseline HRV provides you with the perfect snapshot of everyday life. If you’re in good health, your HRV will likely be higher. And if you’re not, it may be lower (your heart rate variability monitor and app of choice can identify if your HRV values are high or low). Refer to the table below for a general idea of where your HRV values should fall.

From there, take time to understand how your lifestyle and health affect your HRV. Perhaps you’re stressed due to tight deadlines at work, or you haven’t slept very well over the past few nights, and your HRV is low as a result. Or instead you may be increasing your training load during exercise, and your HRV is high. Paying attention to your daily life and how it affects your HRV can provide you with a crucial snapshot of your overall health. It can additionally help you determine where improvements in your health should be made. And this all starts by utilizing a heart rate variability monitor.

Is Focusing on Heart Rate Variability Enough?

As with most forms of physiological analysis, focusing solely on HRV or any singular health statistic is not enough. By utilizing multiple forms of health-oriented analysis, a more thorough snapshot of your overall health can begin to take shape. Monitoring other vitals that may include blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and more are all worth taking into consideration. With the help of wearable fitness trackers, like those designed by Biostrap, such possibilities quickly become reality.

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Elite athletes use Heart Rate Variability (HRV), resting heart rate and other metrics to manage their training regimens and recovery time. Intense training stresses the muscles, hormones, heart and lungs. By tracking these biometrics, athletes optimize their mix of recovery time and training. They train smarter, not just harder. Exercise is a form of physical stress. Mental and emotional stress also affect your body.

Both mental and physical stress may disrupt homeostasis. This can lead to metabolism issues, insomnia, heart problems, hormonal imbalances, and chronic illness. Stress management and stress reduction improve both quality and quantity of life. You can use HRV and other key biometrics to track the success of your stress management program and to plan for “recovery” just like an elite athlete.

Before we discuss applications, it helps if you understand what these biometrics measure and how stress may alter these readings in the short and long term.

How Stress Affects Your Heart and Your Oxygen Levels

Heart Rate and Stress

Most health-conscious people recognize that stress impacts well-known metrics like heart rate and blood pressure. Have you ever found that your pulse and blood pressure were higher than normal at the dentist’s office? If so, you experienced this phenomenon.

Resting heart rate measures how fast your heart beats while you rest. Many people take a resting heart rate in the morning as a quick barometer to their cardiovascular health.  Your heart rate varies day to day, and moment to moment. The following factors may alter day-to-day resting heart rate:

  • Caffeine consumption
  • The previous day’s workout
  • Quality of sleep
  • Hydration levels
  • Hormone cycle fluctuations
  • A large meal or alcohol the night before
  • Stress levels

If you consistently follow a well-designed training plan you may find that your average resting heart rate decreases along with improvements in your physical fitness.

However, as a measure resting heart rate is limited. Due to genetics, some people just have faster resting heart rates than other people. Some hormone imbalances like low thyroid levels may decrease your average resting heart rate. Due to these reasons, you may benefit even more from tracking more sophisticated data points.

SPO2 and Stress

SpO2 stands for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation. It estimates how saturated your blood is with oxygen. A healthy, fit person usually sees a SpO2 between 95% – 100%. Illness, altitude, heart disease, smoke inhalation all affect SpO2.

Your SpO2 measure may not vary quite as much as your resting heart rate and HRV, but a sudden drop often indicates stress to your body. Traditionally athletes who train in higher elevations track SPO2 to help ensure they are getting enough oxygen. With the right device this is an easy metric to track along with resting pulse.

HRV and Stress

HRV measures time between your heart beats. When you are at an optimal state of rest and wellness, your heart is ready to respond to life’s demands. The space between heartbeats varies a little depending on your needs. When your system is “stressed,” your resting heart rate may appear the same, but there may be less variation between the heartbeats.

Tracking HRV informs you of subtle changes. For example, people sometimes find their HRV decreases a couple days before they notice cold or flu symptoms.

Factors that influence HRV include:

  • Quantity and quality of sleep
  • The previous day’s workout
  • Caffeine or alcohol consumption
  • Emotional and mental stress
  • Nutritional habits
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Illness or injury

To learn more about these metrics, download our free white paper “The Definitive Guide To A Healthy Heart.” In the meantime, the following tips and techniques help you manage your stress.

Five Techniques To Use Biometrics in Your Stress Management Program

Take Baseline Readings

Take regular, ideally daily, readings since many factors affect biomarkers like HRV and resting heart rate. Try to take the measurements at a consistent time under similar conditions. For example, you may take your baseline reading shortly after you wake up, before you eat or drink anything, and while relaxing. A higher HRV reflects a more optimal state than a lower HRV reading. A lower resting heart rate or pulse also reflects a more relaxed state.

If you notice your HRV and SPO2 trending upwards, this is a sign that your wellness and stress management efforts are working. If your resting heart rate and blood pressure trend downward, this is also a sign of success.

Look at the Big Picture

Have you ever heard the phrase “fighting fit”? In general, maintaining a high fitness level prepares your body to better deal with stress. However, the combination of acute emotional stress *and* physical stress from a vigorous workout may weaken your body and mind. Factor your stress levels with your workouts. Take it easy if you are dealing with major stress like a family emergency or a big deadline.

Light-to-moderate exercise like walking, yoga, dancing, or recreational sports may give you an outlet to recover from stress. Alternately, in some cases you may actually benefit more from a power nap or practicing relaxation techniques than a workout if your stress levels are very high.

Consider Yoga, Tai Chi, or Meditation

Since deep breathing and relaxation temporarily elevate HRV (and lower pulse) these markers may also help guide your practice. Emerging research indicates mindful practices like yoga and tai chi may increase HRV, SPO2 and decrease blood pressure and resting pulse. Some tech-friendly yogis even take an HRV reading during relaxation post at the end of their practice.

Reduce or Manage Your Life Stress

Athletes don’t want to overtrain as they prepare for either a marathon or a sprinting race. The same applies to you while working on big projects, moving, or experiencing another major life change. If possible, simplify your life. Learn to say no and avoid taking on too much.

Take Care of Yourself

Generally when you take good care of yourself, your HRV, SPO2, and resting heart rate tend to improve. Even better, your body and mind are ready to face life’s challenges. The following healthy choices may improve your HRV in both the short and long term:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Drink enough fluids
  • Enjoy moderate activity most days and improve or maintain your physical fitness
  • Avoid smoking
  • Spend a few minutes relaxing each day whether you prefer to meditate, pray, do yoga, or practice breathing exercises.

Take control of your stress levels and your fitness. You can customize your lifestyle and measure results by tracking key metrics like HRV, SPO2, and resting heart rate. In the past, only elite athletes had this opportunity, but now these tools are  available to you. Thanks to fitness wearables like Biostrap you can easily take these metrics at home.

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Resting heart rate, or pulse — the number of times your heart beats per minute — is a standard medical vital sign. But what your doctor can’t measure from the office, or doesn’t, is the more obscure, but equally important heart rate variability (HRV).

Imagine the planets stretched from the sun to poor, beleaguered  ‘maybe I’m a planet, maybe I’m not’ Pluto.  Each planet is a heartbeat. But see how the space between them varies?

That’s heart rate variability.

Heart rate variability measures the space between each beat, and how much it varies from the other spaces. Does your heart go Thump. Space. Thump. Space? Or does it go Thump. Space. Space. Thump. Space. Thump. Space. Space. Space.

If some spaces are longer and others are shorter, you have high heart rate variability. If all the spaces are the same, without peaks and valleys, you have low heart rate variability.

Which is Better?

High heart rate variability is a sign of health. Low heart rate variability is associated with aging, decline, illness and mortality.

What’s our maximum heart rate during exercise?

Our heart rate varies in response  to what’s going on around us. As the energy needs of our body increase our heart rate quickens. It beats faster to increase the volume of oxygenated blood it can push to our muscles.

At rest a healthy heart beats between 50 and 90 times a minute. During exercise or activity it might double.

To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.  You shouldn’t exceed that target. When you exercise, aim to stay within 60 to 85% of that maximum heart rate. (Ex. if you are 30 your maximum heart rate is 190. Stay in a target zone  between 114 and 161 BPM. For a 60 year old, the maximum heart rate is 160, so your target range is lower, 96 to 136.) Some physicians and trainers recommend staying within 50 to 75%. These are just guidelines. Individual goals should reflect your general fitness and heart health.

Why Does It Matter?

HRV measures your heart’s resilience. Its ability to bounce back from effort. High HRV lets you respond with speed and efficiency when your body demands more blood, more oxygen, more performance. High heart rate variability is a sign of flexibility, strength and responsiveness.

As such it is a key indicator of heart health and general fitness.

Stress, Aging and HRV

Decreasing heart rate variability has been inked with decline and is a predictor of mortality. Research links low HRV to illness, sexual problems, and reduced independence (our ability to perform everyday tasks with ease and confidence).

HRV is closely linked to stress and aging.

Humans engage in a constant cycle of stress and recovery. Our bodies are designed to mobilize when stressed, triggering various processes to restore balance. We fluctuate between homeostasis (balance) and allostasis (all the tricks our bodies use to respond to stressors and recover equilibrium).

HRV is a marker for two kinds of allostasis: acute (temporary stress) and cumulative (allostatic load). HRV is sensitive to acute stress. Mental effort such as complex decisions or speaking in public lower HRV. As a marker of cumulative wear and tear, our HRV has also been shown to decline with the aging process.

Our resting heart rate stays constant as we age but our HRV declines. Regular exercise slows aging and raises our HRV.

The more varied our heart rate (the space between the beats) the healthier we are. High HRV renders us better able to maintain balance (homeostasis), overcome stress, and slow down the aging process (the cumulative wear and tear or allostatic load).

Can We Improve our HRV?

The good news is yes, heart rate variability can be regained. HRV is a function of cardio health. The heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it gets stronger with exercise. Anything you do to improve your heart health will also improve its HRV.

Interval training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) alternates microbursts of intense activity with moderate exercise. It’s especially beneficial for cardiovascular fitness, weight loss, and increasing HRV.  This training lets your heart  practice a cycle of maximum effort and recovery. It’s in this recovery that the heart strengthens and HRV increases.

Every week brings new research on the impact of HRV. Recent studies have shown just 10 weeks of HIIT improved insulin function. HIIT may protect sedentary women against diabetes.

A technical analysis of HRV includes measuring bands by frequencies, classified as very low frequency, high frequency and low frequency.  Each of these frequencies plays a special role in the autonomic nervous system and vagal health. High frequency bands reflect vagal activity. The low/high frequency ratio implicates sympathetic activity.

The very low frequency band indicates the balances between the vagal and sympathetic systems. New research shows that, unlike the other 2 bands, the very low frequency of HRV does not bounce back quickly after mental stress task. This underscores the link between stress, cognitive function, and HRV.

This research confirms that the low frequency is the “slow recovery” component of HRV and the other bands are the “quick recovery” components. This may shed light on the potential role of HRV on cardiovascular disease prevention.

HRV impacts multiples aspects of physical and mental healthy. Patients with depression and hostility  or depressive disorders have reduced heart rate variability and may be at higher risk for coronary heart disease. Reduced HRV is also linked to anxiety sexual problems and reduced capacity for independence and self care in older people.

Our Evolving Understanding

A new tennis ball bounces with vigor, almost quivering with potential energy. It bounces high. Bounces low. Thwangs off the racket.

Now think of an old spent tennis ball. Limp. Not much bounce.

A healthy heart is like a new tennis ball. It is strong and elastic.

HRV measures the elasticity of our hearts. It is a key measure of heart health, where high heart variability signifies vigor, and low HRV is a sign of diminishing health.

Tracking our heart rate and HRV lets us evaluate steps we take to improve health and fitness.

Fortunately, there is a direct correlation between exercise and heart health. All we need to do is get started.

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You naturally have your own body rhythm that determines how much sleep you need and when your body prefers to sleep. One of the best things you can do for your health is to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to many health issues and also tends to lower your Heart Rate Variability scores.

By recognizing your natural rhythms, you may be able to plan your day to capitalize on your strengths. In addition, timing your rest and workouts may even help improve your heart rate variability (HRV).

What is Circadian Rhythm?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, your circadian rhythms reflect your cycle of alertness, drowsiness, and sleep. Do you feel drowsy between 1 pm and 3 pm? If so, this is part of an average circadian rhythm. The exact time varies depending on whether you are a morning lark or a night owl. If you are well rested you might not feel as drowsy as you would if sleep deprived.

Your brain’s hypothalamus controls your circadian rhythm. Usually, natural day and night patterns influence this resulting in people craving more sleep during darker winter months than they do during the long summer days. The modern lifestyle disrupts natural circadian rhythms.

Finding Your Circadian Rhythm

In addition to day and night patterns, lifestyle and personal preferences may come into play. Dr. Michael Breus wrote “The Power of When” about individual variations in circadian rhythms. He classes people into four sleep chronotypes types: bear, lion, dolphin, and wolf.

According to Dr. Breus, your chronotype determines when you are most energetic. You can live your best life by planning to work, exercise, make decisions, or sleep at the “right” times for your natural rhythm.

He developed a sleep rhythm quiz to help people determine which type best describes them.

Wolf:

The wolf is the proverbial night owl. If you are a wolf you tend to be drowsy if you need to wake up early in the morning. Wolves peak from noon to 2 pm and again in the evening.

Lion:

The lion is the early bird that gets the worm. If you are a lion then you are likely ready to seize the day early in the morning. Your most productive hours are in the early morning. You tend to feel exhausted at night and go to bed early.

Dolphin:

The dolphin is harder to categorize than the bear, lion, and wolf. If you are a dolphin, you may be a light sleeper and often feel sleep deprived. Dolphins tend to be most productive mid-morning to early afternoon.

Bear:

The bear is the most common chronotype. If you are a bear, then your waking and sleeping rhythms follow the sun and moon. You sleep well and are most alert mid-morning. You may feel a big energy dip during the mid-afternoon.

Tips:

We can’t always control which hours we need to be awake. Work schedules, family obligations, travel, and our social lives sometimes require us to be awake during less ideal times. Try these tips to make the best use of your natural rhythms:

  • Try to avoid accumulating sleep debt. If you are caught up on your sleep then staying up later one night or getting up too early doesn’t affect you as much.
  • Plan your day to prioritize getting 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.
  • Try to plan your challenging projects or meetings during your peak alertness and productivity hours as much as possible.
  • Pay attention to how you feel and to your daily HRV readings.
  • Be physically active or exercise daily, for many people outdoor activity helps balance their circadian rhythms.

Working with your body’s rhythm helps you stay productive while looking and feeling your best.

Sources and Resources

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