If you think your heart beats at a regular interval like a metronome, think again.
We have a natural variability in the spacing between our heart beats. This phenomenon is
called heart rate variability, and HRV for short. It says a lot about our bodily systems,
which is why athletes and health enthusiasts alike have been so interested in this, and
why you should be too. Simply put, HRV is a measurement of the balance between your
parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. These two systems make up the autonomic nervous
system, which handles about 90% of the body’s involuntary functions.
The sympathetic nervous system is what kicks into gear when we are stressed or in danger.
We sweat, our heart rate goes up, and the interval between our heart beats goes down.
We produce norepinephrine, and our body is primed to either fight or flight.
The parasympathetic nervous system
is pretty much the opposite, and it functions like a brake by disabling the sympathetic
nervous system. Dubbed the rest and digest response, it activates when we are in a relaxed state,
and engages processes such as the production of saliva and peristalsis. It uses acetylcholine
to make the heart beat slower, and with greater intervals. When in balance, they therefore
produce high HRV through a more variable heart rate. The more variable your heart rate, the
more you are able to readily respond to your environment and switch gears between these
two systems. HRV is used as a health marker. It generally decreases with age. High HRV is
an indication of cardiovascular health, fitness, willpower, calm and positive emotions, and
your ability to handle stress and exercise. Low HRV is related to inflammation, chronic
stress, chronic pain, depression, cancer and low emotional flexibility. HRV values have
actually been used to predict injury recovery and cancer outcomes. One sports scientist
has been able to predict very accurately the point differential in wrestling matches based
on pre-match HRV readings. Elite athletes use daily HRV measurements to adjust their
training regimen and prevent overtraining. There is also an interesting link between
HRV and willpower. HRV is a huge predictor of persistence and self-control, and it increases
when exerting self-regulation. This mechanism is called the pause and plan response. By
changing our physiology, we can manipulate our HRV, and the way we do this, is through
breathing, and what is called resonance frequency breathing. Combining this breathing with a
biofeedback device to monitor your HRV in real time is called HRV training. By slowing
down your breathing, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and raise your
HRV, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to synchronize with your respiration,
resulting in a state that the HeartMath institute calls coherence. The optimal rate of breathing
that produces coherence and increases your HRV the most, differs from individual to individual,
and is called your resonance frequency. For most people it will be around 5.5 seconds.
Doing minimum 10 minutes of this breathing every day, you can develop the skill of producing
a state of coherence at any given moment. Activating this state, you can get into the
zone so to speak, and increase your performance for single actions such as swinging a golf
club, or hitting a baseball. HRV training has shown to be incredibly beneficial for
kids with overactive sympathetic nervous systems and resulting belly aches. After a few weeks
of daily training, they show massive improvements in their baseline HRV and are able to function
much better. Some autoimmune conditions related to the gut have been helped by this type of
training as well, as our gut permeability is closely related to our parasympathetic
nervous system. Other benefits of HRV breathing include pain management in conditions such
as fibromyalgia and chronic muscle pain. It can help with asthma, depression, hypertension,
and self-control. It’s also great for stress management. Around 20% of people will feel
sleepy from following this breathing rhythm, which makes it a great tool for falling asleep
quickly at night. If you want to experience this state of coherence, I've created two
videos for you to practice this breathing. One is suitable for the morning or day and
looks like this, and one is made for night time with minimal blue light, if you'd prefer
doing it right before bed. The interest in HRV has increased substantially the past decade,
and several consumer technologies have emerged to help measure your personal HRV metrics.
The most accessible way to accurately measure your HRV is to get a polar heart rate chest
strap, and connect it with an app called EliteHRV. EliteHRV also sells a device called CorSense
which you stick a finger into, to measure your HRV. The previously mentioned HeartMath
Institute has created the emWave Device, and the Inner Balance sensor, to provide biofeedback
as you perform HRV training. The Oura Ring is a sleep tracker that shows you an average
HRV value from your night of sleep. I’ve added links to these in the video description
below, and also links to a few more resources on HRV if you’re interested in learning
more about the subject. Thank you for watching this video. Subscribe if you’d like to see
more Mind Drip videos. And don’t forget to try out the HRV breathing, by clicking
on one of the videos here on the right side.