Why we should care about HRV (Heart rate variability)
If you are experiencing chronic pain, fatigue, or anxiety, it can be extremely difficult to absorb information while trying to find relief.
(too long, didn’t read) section below for immediate solutions. Then, bookmark this article for when you’re feeling up for an educational deep-dive!
What is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart Rate Variability, or HRV, shows how long it takes for your heart to beat each time. So, your Heart Rate is how many times your heart beats per minute, and your HRV is how long it takes for your heart to beat each time.
Why is my Heart Rate Variability significant?
Your heart rate variability is a good indicator of how well you can deal with and bounce back from stress, whether it’s physical (like exercise or illness) or emotional and mental (like worry or anger) (like anxiety). By making your heart rate more variable, you will sleep better, feel less pain, and improve your health and fitness overall.
What Does My HRV Score Mean?
Your HRV Score shows how different your heart rate is from person to person. Most of the time, HRV is measured in milliseconds, and a higher HRV score means that your health is better.
To understand why a high HRV score is a sign of good health, you need to know that the autonomic nervous system controls how often the heart rate changes (or ANS). The autonomic nervous system controls things like digestion, blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate that you don’t have to think about. It has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight mode“) and the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest, digest, and recovery mode”).
When your body senses a threat, it turns on the “fight or flight” mode, which is part of the sympathetic nervous system. In order to protect itself, the body uses the sympathetic nervous system to speed up breathing, raise blood pressure, and increase stress hormones like cortisol. This makes sure that you have all the energy and resources you need to stay safe in a dangerous situation.
The “rest and digest” mode is the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the state of relaxation. It slows down your heart rate and breathing and helps your body get back to its normal state (a natural balance). When you are in a parasympathetic state, your body feels safe moving blood flow and energy to restorative functions like sleep, digestion, and reproduction.
So, a big difference in the time between your heartbeats, or a high HRV score, means that your autonomic nervous system can respond quickly by activating the sympathetic nervous system in stressful situations and then switching to the parasympathetic state when the threat is gone.
Your sympathetic nervous system is like the gas pedal and your parasympathetic nervous system is like the brake. Getting “stuck” in either one for too long, especially in your sympathetic stress response, can lead to long-term health problems. Your HRV score shows how well your body can switch between your “gas pedal” and “brake” so that your body can work at its best.
There are many ways to improve your HRV, which can help you sleep better, digest food better, and feel better in general.
How to make your HRV better?
Even though there is no “right” HRV score, knowing what the average HRV score is can be helpful.
But keep in mind that HRV metrics are not absolute. If you know what your average HRV score is, you can use that as your own baseline instead of trying to match a number.
You can improve your HRV in a number of ways, like by exercising and eating healthy foods, but there are two that stand out for measurable HRV improvement:
Breathwork is the practice of breathing on purpose, which is easy to learn and can change your body and mind in powerful ways. Breathing can be an automatic response of your nervous system (faster breathing in a “fight or flight” state, slower breathing in a “rest and digest” state), but with breathwork, you can move your body into a relaxed parasympathetic state by focusing on your breath.
Stimulating the Vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the essential element for rest, digestion, restoration and relaxation. This makes you calmer, less stressed, less anxious and results in far better sleep. A better night leads to a better day. And you dont need sleep music, habit menu or watch some sleep gifs!
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TLDR: Your Heart Rate Variability, or HRV, is variance in time between your heart beats and is an important metric for measuring how well your nervous system is able to switch between “fight or flight” (sympathetic state) and “rest and digest’ (parasympathetic state).
By increasing your HRV, it’s possible to reduce pain, get better sleep, and support your body to become more resilient to stress.