Reading time: 3 min

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.

Reading time: 2 min

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.

Reading time: 3 min

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.

Reading time: 3 min

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.

Reading time: 3 min

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.

Reading time: 4 min

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.

Reading time: 5 min

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.

Reading time: 3 min

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.

Reading time: 4 min

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.

Reading time: 3 min

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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Calisthenics may remind some of PE classes from a foregone era, but like all fitness trends they cycle around again.

Trendy workout formats like Crossfit, bootcamp classes, Strong by Zumba, and others are fully or partially based on calisthenics. Even Pilates, barre, power yoga, and dance fitness classes contain exercises that may be described as calisthenics.

What Are Calisthenics? Is It Just Another Name For Bodyweight Training?

The term Calisthenics refers to exercises that don’t require weights, machines, or equipment. People also frequently refer to calisthenics as body-weight training.

Most classic Calisthenics are a form of resistance or strength training exercises. Popular bodyweight calisthenics include squats, pushups, lunges, crunches, and planks. Some high-intensity calisthenics raise the heart rate and trainers and boot camp instructors often arrange them into circuits for an interval-based or steady state cardio workout. In addition to the previous examples, calisthenics that fit this category include jumping jacks, burpees, and mountain climbers.

Many prefer calisthenics and bodyweight training because they don’t need expensive equipment to get an effective workout.

Pros And Cons Of Bodyweight Calisthenic Workouts

Some people base their fitness routine around bodyweight training and calisthenics. Others prefer to supplement their weight lifting workouts with calisthenics. You don’t have to choose one approach exclusively, however there are some key benefits and disadvantages to bodyweight training.

Benefits Of Calisthenics Based Workouts

  • You use your own body or gravity as resistance so you don’t need additional equipment.
  • Most calisthenics can be made more or less challenging by adding equipment such as resistance bands. For example, people training to do pull-ups can use a heavy resistance band to make the pull-up a little easier while they build their strength.
  • Many calisthenics require only a small amount of space so people can do them in hotel rooms, dorm rooms, and other crowded spaces.
  • You can adapt calisthenics to many training strategies. For example, many trainers leaders arrange bodyweight exercises into circuits for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. Others may arrange them into a classic bootcamp style workout.
  • They offer a fun, excuse-proof way to workout. Some people mix it up through apps, workout card games, or following their favorite YouTube trainer. The options are limited only by your fitness and creativity.

Disadvantages of Calisthenic Based Workouts

  • Like any exercise, you need to use good form for a safe and effective workout. If a bodyweight exercise is too challenging, it may not be possible to modify certain exercises.
  • Weight lifting is so effective because you can progressively increase the resistance as your body adapts. For some bodyweight exercises, once you master it you have to switch to more challenging variations or add extra resistance to see more gains.
  • People who use step counting fitness trackers often feel disappointed when they work up a sweat but see a very low step count. Many effective strength exercises like squats, pullups and pushups do not register as steps for most trackers.

Calisthenics And Your Biometrics

Calisthenics affect your biometrics in different ways depending on how they fit into your routine. Vigorous circuit workouts using calisthenics will affect your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) readings as they involve anaerobic training. You may need to allow yourself an active recovery day after a vigorous calisthenics circuit session. As you get fitter, you may find that this style of program causes your and HRV to trend downwards over time.

As mentioned, people who wear popular step counting devices sometimes feel cheated by how few steps they accumulate during a calisthenics workout. Fortunately, exercise classification functions evolved and Biostrap can recognize, classify and track over 100 exercises including many popular calisthenics. This function also may help you refine your technique in response to the feedback.

Finally, many use heart rate training to pace their bodyweight workouts. Your working heart rate may prompt you to ease up or work harder depending on conditions that day. Monitoring your heart rate also helps you better time your recovery intervals.

Calisthenics are ideal whenever you want or need an efficient, no-equipment workout. They are a classic in bootcamps, gyms, PE classes, and boutique studios throughout the world.

Sources And Resources

Drop and Give Me 20! – A research study on the effectiveness of bootcamp style fitness trends by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) By John Porcari, Ph.D., Kirsten Hendrickson, B.S., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Mark Anders

The Seven Minute Workout – The Well, New York Times, by Gretchen Reynolds

Reading time: 4 min

Not getting enough sleep? You’re not alone. According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep they need to feel well-rested and energized the following day. When this occurs, we fall into what’s known as 6sleep debt.

Sleep debt, or sleep deprivation, occurs when you aren’t getting the sleep you need to feel awake, alert, and ready to go. And while one night of interrupted sleep may be a nuisance the following day, prolonged periods of sleep loss can lead to daytime sleepiness, emotional instability, weight gain, and several other health problems.

Why We Sleep

As human beings, our bodies require prolonged periods of rest not only to feel rejuvenated and refreshed but also to repair tissue, grow muscles, and synthesize hormones. We spend one-third of our lives asleep, and going without sleep can lead to psychosis or even death.

We can break down the stages of sleep into two primary categories: non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Non-REM slow-wave deep sleep is characterized by slow brain waves and the release of growth hormones as our brain and many physiological systems enter a state of repair. REM sleep is similar to how our mind operates during the day, with one caveat — the brain is active and working, but our muscles are in a state of paralysis.

Beyond these realities, scientists don’t fully understand why we sleep. Some propose that sleep restores the brain’s energy while others hypothesize that sleep plays a major role in the connectivity and plasticity of the brain. The latter theory explains why individuals who are sleep-deprived suffer from memory loss and the inability to pay attention.

Regardless of the underlying reasons behind our need for sleep, we ultimately know that sleep is an extremely important aspect of our well-being. Without it, we suffer.

What Is Sleep Debt?

Sleep debt is the act of not getting enough sleep. You can often gauge whether or not you’re receiving enough sleep by monitoring how you feel the following day. If you’re tired, drowsy, and inattentive, chances are you’re suffering from short-term sleep debt. And if symptoms such as blood pressure changes, weight gain, or other serious health problems take shape over time, you may be suffering from the cumulative effects of chronic sleep debt.

The Symptoms of Sleep Debt

The primary short-term symptom of sleep debt is excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms may include the following:

Irritability
Depressed mood
Forgetfulness
Clumsiness
Lack of motivation
Increased appetite
Carbohydrate cravings
Reduced sex drive
Inability to concentrate
Fatigue

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The Effects of Sleep Debt

Sleep loss in any form can come with serious side effects that will impact both your short-term and long-term health. Here’s a look at some of these effects.

Weight Gain

The hormones leptin and ghrelin control feelings of hunger and fullness. When you suffer from lack of sleep, leptin will decrease and lead to the constant feeling of hunger alongside a general slowdown of your metabolism, which may cause weight gain over time. Ghrelin will increase with lack of sleep increasing hunger levels.  Also, keep in mind that getting plenty of sleep can burn calories.

Blood Pressure & Heart Disease

During normal sleep, your blood pressure will naturally decrease. If you’re suffering from a sleep deficit, your blood pressure will stay higher for a longer period of time, just as it does during the day. Over time, this may lead to an increased risk of heart disease, thus illustrating the need for a normal sleep schedule.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to build up in your blood, which will damage your blood vessels over time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when your sleep patterns are negatively impacted, less insulin is released into the bloodstream after you eat.

Meanwhile, your body may release other stress hormones to help you stay awake. These stress hormones impact the ability of insulin to do its job effectively. As a result, glucose will remain in your bloodstream and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sleep Debt Treatments

Treating sleep debt in any form is only required if you physically can’t go to sleep or suffer from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. Oftentimes you can improve sleep debt by simply increasing the amount of time you’re asleep or by altering your sleep habits to further encourage healthy amounts of sleep.

If you physically can’t go to sleep or you suffer from a sleep disorder, two primary avenues exist that can treat your sleep deprivation: cognitive treatments and medications.

Cognitive Treatment

Cognitive treatments that seek to repay your sleep debt are available in abundance. For instance, relaxation and meditation techniques utilize guided breathing and mindfulness approaches that encourage your body and mind to fall asleep naturally.

Other cognitive treatments include controlling pre-bedtime activities and optimizing your sleep environment to increase your sleep duration. This may include limiting social media usage before bed and removing other distractions like bright lights or screens.

Medications

If the cognitive or non-medical intervention proves to be ineffective, sleep medicines are available that can help induce sleep. Some of these medications are available over-the-counter while others require a prescription.

Some individuals may form a dependence on sleeping medications, meaning they can’t go to sleep without taking medication. For this reason, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider and review all your options before determining if sleep medication is right for you.

Habits for Healthy Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is dependent upon your sleeping habits and nightly routines. Also known as sleep hygiene, healthy sleep habits will leave you feeling rested and refreshed each morning.

Some good sleep habits include:

Going to bed when you feel tired
Not eating 2-3 hours before bed
Engaging in regular, daily exercise
Keeping the bedroom quiet and cool
Turning off electronic devices
Using an alarm clock to regulate when you wake up

Paying off sleep debt

If you fail to get your recommended amount of sleep, you’ll begin accumulating a sleep debt. For instance, if you need eight hours of sleep but only get five, you’ll have a sleep debt of three hours. If this pattern continues throughout the week, your sleep debt will climb, and the effects of sleep deprivation will quickly take hold.

The only way to pay off your sleep debt is to start getting the sleep you need, along with some extra time each night, or with naps, until the debt is fully ”paid off”. Once you’ve paid off the sleep debt, you can resume your normal sleeping schedule. 

Even if paying off your sleep debt seems impossible, remember that it can be done with conscious effort. While repaying tens or even hundreds of hours of sleep debt may seem out of reach, it can be accomplished by reflecting on your current sleep habits and making adjustments whenever necessary.

Consider using a sleep tracker to fully understand your sleeping habits. Once you’ve finally woken up feeling refreshed and recovered, you’ll have paid off your sleep debt in full.

Did we miss anything?

If you have any questions, suggestions or topic requests, please reach out.