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Sleep Health – Five Tips For Higher, More Consistent HRV

20th March 2023 by Gemma Fisher
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HRV is a powerful metric; it can give us unique insights into our body’s response to stress. In the scientific literature, higher HRV is typically associated with better health and improved performance [1]. But HRV isn’t as simple as, “How high can you go?”  — having more consistent HRV values from day to day can also signal an enhanced ability to respond to daily stressors [2].

With that in mind, how can you increase your HRV and make it more consistent?

Five Tips For Higher, More Consistent HRV



1.  Stay active.

One of the most effective ways to lower your resting heart rate and increase your HRV is staying active. Regular exercise a few times per week can lead to improved HRV at any age [3] and is one of the most effective, established ways to make progress for more sedentary individuals. If you’re already very active, rather than aiming for a higher HRV score, focus on incorporating HRV monitoring into your training routine and watch how your HRV consistency changes. This approach can lead to improved performance [4].



2. Get good sleep.

Good sleep is just as important as exercise. Several studies have shown how sleep deprivation, or simply lower sleep quality, is associated with reduced HRV [5]. So, especially when something like a new exercise regimen or work-related stress begins to add strain to your day — recovery becomes essential.

Check out Ten Tips for Better, Deeper Sleep to put yourself on the path towards a good night’s sleep.



3.  Eat well.

Activity, sleep, and diet are the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle. What we eat and when we eat can have a significant impact on our sleep and resting physiology (heart rate and HRV). While individual needs can vary, try avoiding processed foods and late, large meals, as these have been shown to reduce HRV [6].



4. Breathe.

Deep breathing techniques (everything from yoga, mindfulness, meditation, or biofeedback) can effectively strengthen the parasympathetic system (your “rest and digest” network), resulting in improved HRV. While putting these techniques into practice, keep in mind that your HRV is likely going to be higher during the activity itself than your nighttime values. This is especially true when breathing close to our resonant frequency, which is typically 6 breaths per minute [7].

The research is still emerging on if these daytime HRV increases can reliably improve your resting, nighttime HRV, but it’s one of the many tools you can access easily and is definitely worth exploring.

For some, the breathwork just works. Check out this example of HRV expert Marco Altini’s data showing an increase in weekly and monthly HRV while practicing deep breathing for up to 40 minutes a day.



5. Listen To Your Body And Better Manage Stress  

The previous four tips are all key to improving our HRV, but stress will still play a significant role in our lives for a variety of reasons. On days when your HRV is a bit lower than usual, try to prioritize recovery, reduce training intensity, and take extra care of yourself. These small steps can lead to improved health and performance [8].



Using Oura

If you have an Oura Ring, there are multiple ways you can explore how your body is responding to stress and start making adjustments that can improve your HRV:

  • Look for sharp increases or drops in your average nighttime HRV; it can provide clues into how your lifestyle is impacting your body.
  • Look for an upward trend in your nighttime HRV trace, a sign that your body is recovering while you sleep.
  • Look for lifestyle practices that encourage HRV consistency in your HRV Balance.

HRV is Highly Individual



Many of these HRV tips have worked for a variety of people. However, HRV is highly individual, so remember to always compare your HRV to your own averages and avoid comparisons to others.

As often happens when we try something new, it’s also important to experiment and see what works for you, your body, and your lifestyle. Improving our physiology takes time; each of these habits might take several weeks to build and deliver  benefits, but exploration will only help you find what’s best for your health!


Courtesy of OURA Team

Author: Oura Team  February 26, 2021

About The Author

Marco is an HRV expert and data scientist with a background in computer science and physiology. Over the years, he has published more than 50 papers at the intersection between technology, health and performance.

If you’d like to follow Marco’s work, you can find him on Twitter @altini_marco.

References
[1] Kemp, A. H., & Quintana, D. S. (2013). The relationship between mental and physical health: insights from the study of heart rate variability. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 89(3), 288-296

[2] Flatt, A. A., Esco, M. R., Allen, J. R., Robinson, J. B., Earley, R. L., Fedewa, M. V., … & Wingo, J. E. (2018). Heart rate variability and training load among national collegiate athletic association division 1 college football players throughout spring camp. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 32(11), 3127-3134

[3] Sandercock, G. R., Bromley, P. D., & Brodie, D. A. (2005). Effects of exercise on heart rate variability: inferences from meta-analysis. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 37(3), 433-439

[4] Javaloyes, Alejandro, et al. “Training prescription guided by heart rate variability vs. block periodization in well-trained cyclists.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 34.6 (2020): 1511-1518

[5] Spiegelhalder, K. A. I., Fuchs, L., Ladwig, J., Kyle, S. D., Nissen, C., Voderholzer, U., … & Riemann, D. (2011). Heart rate and heart rate variability in subjectively reported insomnia. Journal of sleep research, 20(1pt2), 137-145

[6] Young, H. A., & Benton, D. (2018). Heart-rate variability: a biomarker to study the influence of nutrition on physiological and psychological health?. Behavioural pharmacology, 29(2-), 140.

[7] Vaschillo, E. G., Vaschillo, B., & Lehrer, P. M. (2006). Characteristics of resonance in heart rate variability stimulated by biofeedback. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 31(2), 129-142

[8] Granero-Gallegos, A., González-Quílez, A., Plews, D., & Carrasco-Poyatos, M. (2020). HRV-Based Training for Improving VO2max in Endurance Athletes. A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(21), 7999


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