Did you know that monitoring your heart rate variability (HRV) can help boost your overall health and wellness? If you’re familiar with tracking your heart rate, keeping up with your HRV is slightly different. In this article, we will explore what HRV means and what your score means while you’re sleeping.
What is HRV?
Have you ever stopped to listen to your heartbeat? You may notice that it never beats at the same rhythm. Your heart rate increases after exercise and slows down when resting. Tracking your HRV is different from your basic heart rate. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation between your heartbeats, measured in milliseconds (MS).
Just like your basic heart rate, your HRV will also vary depending on your current activity. Typically a higher HRV score means your body is better able to handle stress, while a lower HRV score can be a sign of current or future health problems because your body is less resilient to stress and changing situations.
What is a Good HRV Score?
A good HRV score is different for every person. Scores depend on several factors, including gender, age and fitness level. When you’re at rest, your score is higher than when you’re exercising or dealing with illness. Each person is unique and will have a different score than someone else. When you’re tracking your score, it’s important to measure it against your own personal averages rather than someone else’s score. A good score for each person depends on their own personal factors, including medical history, age, gender, and current health. If you see improvements in higher average HRV scores, this means that your body is getting better at handling stress.
HRV and Sleep
Is there a connection between HRV and sleep? The answer is yes. If you are tracking your sleep patterns, consider tracking your HRV while you sleep. Your heart rate naturally slows down when you’re sleeping or resting. Likewise, your HRV also changes as you move through REM and non-REM sleep cycles. It’s important to monitor your HRV during your sleeping hours because it can help determine your sleep quality. Sometimes, it can detect sleep disorders or other health conditions.
If you have a cardiovascular condition, your HRV may change during sleep. If your overall HRV is lower, you may suffer from poor sleep quality. People who have a higher overall HRV usually experience better sleep at night.
What Causes Low HRV During Sleep?
If you wear a fitness tracker or smartwatch to improve your health and fitness, you may notice you can gather a lot of data. These devices can help you improve your heart rate as well. This is helpful if you suffer from poor sleep habits.
Since sleep helps restore our bodies, it makes sense that our breathing would slow down. However, a healthy person will still have a high HRV during sleep. There are several things that can cause low HRV during sleep.
A bedtime routine is a simple habit you can create to induce better quality sleep. If you have a low HRV during sleep, your body may be in overdrive to restore balance somewhere in your system. Consider creating a bedtime routine to relax your mind and body to prepare for quality sleep. Many people find reading, stretching, or taking a warm bath helpful in creating a bedtime routine.
Your sleep environment is another factor that can keep your body in overdrive and cause a low HRV. Take a few moments to consider your nighttime surroundings.
- Check the temperature of your room
- Adjust the lighting - a dark room is best
- Clean the clutter - it’s hard to sleep in a messy area
Your sleep environment is equally important as your bedtime routine. Try these few steps to boost your sleep quality and your HRV score.
Sleep and stress levels have a close connection. If you experience a lot of stress in your life, it can affect your sleep patterns. Since heart rate variability tells us a lot about the nervous system, high stress levels can quickly decrease your HRV. Managing your stress will improve your sleep quality and your overall health.
Studies show that a low HRV while sleeping may result from a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea and insomnia are common sleep disorders that affect your quality of life. If you have a consistently low HRV, seek medical help immediately to help avoid further health issues.
How can I improve my HRV while sleeping?
If you’re concerned about a low score, there are several things you can do to improve your HRV. Taking these steps will improve your sleep habits and boost your HRV score.
Skip the Alcohol
It’s tempting to reach for a glass of wine at night to cope with a stressful day. However, alcohol is the last thing that will boost your HRV. In fact, it will lower your HRV even more and may cause a restless night of sleep. Reach for the extra water and hydrate your cells instead.
Engage In Exercise
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to improve your HRV. Walking, swimming, yoga, stretching, or strength training for a few hours each week will boost your health and your HRV.
Just make sure not to overwork your body.
Focus On Nutrition
Many people don’t know that nutrition plays a big part in managing your heart rate variability. Eating at the right times every day can also help keep your rhythms on tracks and boost your HRV. Avoid eating 3-4 before bedtime to help your body settle into the restoration phase for your health.
Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation will help relieve stress and promote total body relaxation that can improve your HRV. Meditation includes focused breathing techniques that reduce stress and boost mental awareness. All of these can benefit your HRV.
Should I worry about low HRV?
If you experience a low HRV, it’s not time to worry yet. The first thing you need to do is closely monitor your HRV during the day and while sleeping. As we learned above, there are many factors that can cause a drop in HRV. Abnormalities in your HRV are not necessarily something to worry about, keep a close eye on it. Let your doctor know about your concerns and they can work with you on improving your HRV.