Heart Rate Variability and Sleep

If you exercise and train regularly, then you may know the importance of tracking your HRV for your performance and your health. Although eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, and choosing good habits is essential for HRV, getting enough sleep is also important. In this article, we will look at how sleep affects HRV and how you can improve your rate. 

Resting HRV (Sleeping HRV)

What exactly is resting HRV? Before we talk about that, we need to understand why HRV is important. Heart rate variability (HRV) is different from your heart rate. While your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute, HRV is the measure of the variation in time between those heart beats. Everyone has a different heart rate variability, and it depends on several factors which we will explore later in this article. 

You can check your HRV any time of the day. However, checking it while you’re resting indicates your overall rate. A resting HRV is a major biometric for HRV because it provides a baseline for HRV. 

Does Lack of Sleep Affect Heart Rate variability?

Diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices affect your health and also your heart rate variability. Studies show that a lack of sleep can affect your HRV by altering your cardiovascular health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body does not have enough time to enter the recovery process where it can heal and repair. According to research, neurocognitive functions and cardiovascular issues occur from a lack of sleep. 

Sleep deprivation causes a disturbance in the neural pathways, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other serious conditions. It can also increase stress levels, putting more stress on the nervous system. 

How Does Less Sleep Affect HRV?

Sleep deprivation affects everyone in different ways and there are two specific forms of sleep deprivation, acute and chronic. Acute sleep deprivation usually happens for one to two nights and a time of rest comes after as you regulate your sleep cycles. On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation occurs when you sleep less than 70% of your required hours for more than three nights. 

A lack of sleep affects HRV because the body produces more cortisol, sending the nervous system into overdrive. Heart rate variability lowers and has a harder time recovering. Athletes may struggle with both kinds of sleep deprivation before and after practice times and games. 

What should My HRV Be When I Sleep?

Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy HRV, especially if you are an athlete who focuses on regular training. Since everyone has a different HRV based on several factors, your sleeping HRV will also have a different range. 

When we look at HRV, we usually talk about it using the terms high and low. Someone with a regularly high HRV is usually a healthy, resilient person. If you have a regularly low HRV, it could mean you either suffer from health conditions or you are at risk for them.

Why A High HRV At Night Is Good

A high HRV at night is a good thing because it means your body is ready to fight illness and disease. It’s had time to recover and now your system is strong and adaptable to meet changes throughout the day. Since HRV helps measure the amount of stress in your body, a high HRV at night shows your body is under less stress. 

Why Measure HRV?

We’ve talked about measuring HRV during the day and night, but let’s explore why measuring your HRV is important. Measuring your HRV helps you understand more about your health. Most people use a monitor to track their heart rate variability because it also measures the health of the nervous system. 

HRV helps us understand how the nervous system is processing the amount of stress the body goes through during the day and the night. As the nervous system triggers response to stress, it also helps regulate the recovery process after the body deals with stress. The recovery process is essential for homeostasis in the body. 

Why Is My HRV So Low At Night?

Collecting data from your HRV is easy to do when your body is in a resting period, usually first thing in the morning. Measuring HRV in a resting state will give you the most accurate measure of your range. It’s also important to measure your HRV at night because it tracks any physiological stressors that may impact health and wellness. 

During sleep, your HRV will fluctuate with circadian rhythms and sleep stages. If you spend a lot of time exercising, especially at night, your nighttime HRV may look lower. This is because your body is taking longer to enter the recovery process. A consistently low night time HRV could mean an underlying health condition. 

Does HRV Increase While Sleeping?

HRV fluctuates throughout the day and the night, even during different sleep stages. HRV can increase while sleeping, and if so, it’s a good sign that your body is recovering. A higher HRV while you’re sleeping is a sign of improved cardiovascular function and lowered risk of heart attacks. If you notice a regularly high HRV while you’re sleeping, it also means your nervous system is functioning well and regulating the balance of stress response. 

How Can I Improve My HRV While Sleeping?

Measuring your HRV is one of the best ways to monitor your performance and physical fitness. Tracking your HRV while you’re sleeping and at regular intervals during the day helps you understand more about your nervous system and overall health. If you’re looking for ways to improve your HRV, here are a few things you can do. 

Maintain A Well-Balanced Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to improve your HRV and reach optimal health and wellness. If you’re an athlete, including more protein in your diet can boost your energy and improve your sleep quality.

Train Regularly

Athletes know well that regular training and exercise can improve their HRV. However, it’s important to give your body plenty of time for recovery by not over training. Too much training can cause muscle strain, reducing HRV. 

Get Plenty Of Sleep

As we’ve seen throughout this article, getting plenty of sleep will balance circadian rhymes and maintain proper HRV. Establish good sleep habits to help your body adapt and maintain deep sleep. 

Stay Hydrated

When you’re training, drink more water to replenish lost fluids. Dehydration can reduce HRV and your physical performance. Even if you don’t feel dehydrated, drink more water to boost oxygen and blood flow in the body. 

Practice Meditation 

Mediation is another helpful tool to improve your HRV. It helps calm your nervous system and stimulates recovery. Mediation also helps lower stress levels, which improves the health of your nervous system. 

What Is A Dangerously Low Heart Rate When Sleeping?

While you can expect your heart rate to oscillate when you’re sleeping, there is a dangerously low heart rate range. If you have a dangerously low heart rate when sleeping, bradycardia can occur. This is when you have a resting heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute. 

Although athletes can often have this heart rate because of their recovery process, it’s important to monitor your rate for a consistently low rate. Bradycardia is often a sign of a more serious health condition. Monitor your sleeping HRV and contact your doctor if you notice a regularly low sleeping heart rate.