HRV For Biofeedback Training

May 26 2011

What is HRV?

Heart rate variability, or HRV, is a metric often computed by a biofeedback machine to determine the regularity of a heartbeat. It compares the time between each beat, to determine how steady your heart performs.

Why is HRV Important?

Heart beat variability has been studied in clinical research for the past 50 years. This research has shown consistent findings that HRV can predict early mortality in patients with various heart conditions, and can predict various future outcomes for people with advanced diabetes.

HRV For Biofeedback Therapy

Heart rate variability is an important metric for people using biofeedback therapy. Monitoring HRV during biofeedback training can assist a person in reducing their stress levels, calming their anxiety and developing good breathing habits.

How is HRV monitored?

If determining your heart rate variability was as easy as taking your heart rate, everyone would know what H-R-V stands for, and we’d all be monitoring it regularly. However, computing HRV requires a high-resolution heart sensor and software that can process the recorded signs in real time.

Fortunately, there are solutions on the market, including the Iom from Wild Divine, that can monitor and record heart rate variability. The Iom does this with bio-sensors that records several types of heart activity simultaneously, including BPM and pulse strength.

With the Iom’s bundled software, this biofeedback machine can perform several calculations on the data to provide a detailed measure of HRV.

HRV For Biofeedback Training?

To understand the importance of heart rate variability in regards to biofeedback training, one must understand the physiology that drives the heart.

Autonomic Nervous System

Most of your organs and non-voluntary bodily functions are controlled by your autonomic nervous system. The ANS can speed up or slow down your heart rate, depending on the amount of stress that you are experiencing.

Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic nervous system makes up one half of your ANS, and is responsible for activating your body in response to a perceived threat or stressor. As such, within 5 seconds of stimulation – from a stressful thought or pain in the body – a signal from the nervous system can measurably increase your heart rate.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

The other half of your nervous system is responsible for slowing down your heart rate, as well as initiating other bodily functions that correspond to a relaxed mental and physical state. This part of the nervous system has a near-instantaneous effect on heart rate. Promoting the activation of the PNS is why most people are interested in biofeedback training.

Breathing

The timing, regularity and depth of your breathing can have a profound impact on the functioning of your heart.

For instance, many people exhale too fast and too deeply. This can lead to lower amount of CO2 in their system, making them prone to anxiety-related symptoms. Such a person would likely have a habitually overstimulated nervous system, showing a high HRV reading.

Thus, by monitoring your HRV, you can begin to retrain your breathing, reversing the chain-reaction of bodily changes that eventually leads to panic disorders. This is one way that HRV can be used to improve your health and mental wellbeing.

HRV Explained

Good HRV

Good health often corresponds to coherent heart rate variability. This simply means that beat-to-beat changes in your heart’s rhythm remain fairly consistent. Think of a metronome ticking with great precision — this is ideal when you are at rest.

Good HRV is referred to as having resilience, and is associated with a healthy functioning heart. For biofeedback training, good resilience is an indictor that a person is in a state of true relaxation. This means that their parasympathetic nervous system is dominant and that their breathing is slow, deep and regular.

Bad HRV

Bad HRV is called rigidity and can be an indicator of impending health concerns. In biofeedback training, high rigidity is associated with feelings of stress and anxiety; it also corresponds to shallow, erratic breathing.

If your HRV reading shows high rigidity, you may also be experiencing high blood pressure, impaired cognitive functions or strong negative emotions. Consistently high rigidity may indicate a serious healthy concern, especially if you’re diabetic or have a known heart condition. Consult your physician immediately if this is the case.

What Biofeedback Machines Measure HRV?

As I mentioned before, the Iom, by Wild Divine can measure heart rate variability, along with other important bio-signs for biofeedback training.

The Iom receives pulse wave measurements through a photoplethysmography sensor (PPG). The PPG sensor uses infrared light to measure blood flow in the index finger. This information is processed by the Iom’s computer software (compatible with PC or Mac) to produce a waveform representation of your heartbeat. By analyzing your heart’s interbeat intervals, the software can determine HRV with high accuracy.

HRV Biofeedback Machine: USB Device

Where To Buy The Iom?

The Iom is only sold through its manufacturer, Wild Divine. You can browse their online webstore to learn more about their multi-channel biofeedback machines and interactive software bundles.

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