What is HRV training?
HRV training is a type of bio-feedback therapy. It refers to meditative techniques aimed at regulating heart rate variability (HRV) for therapeutic purposes.
HRV refers to the time between consecutive heartbeats, which is regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS consists of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the "fight or flight" response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the "rest and digest" response). HRV intervention involves specific strategies, such as paced breathing, meditation, and physical exercise, to influence and optimize the balance between these two branches of the ANS.
Why is HRV training important after a brain injury:
Depending on your concussions sub-type, a concussion can impact your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This can alter your cardiac cadence (lower HRV) and disrupt the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. A lower HRV could be contributing to headaches, insomnia and stress / anxiety.
Frequent HRV therapy can help raise your HRV, and correct dysregulation of the ANS.
Re-balancing your ANS (by raising your HRV) can have a number of direct benefits on concussion recovery:
Alleviate symptoms associated with dysregulation of the ANS – such as exercise intolerance, head fog, headaches etc.
Improve neuro-plasticity – HRV training can enhance blood flow to the brain, encouraging neuroplasticity.
Help measure concussion recovery – If your symptoms primarily stem from dysregulation of the ANS, then HRV readings could act as an indicator along your recovery timeline.
Reduced anxiety and stress – As your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems rebalance, the body is more adept to deal with the stress and anxiety caused by concussion symptoms. This can also contribute to reduced levels of inflammation in your body.
How to raise your HRV:
HRV training is simple and can be done from the luxury of your own home.
1. Measure your resting HRV to get a baseline reading - you can do this with an ECG heart-rate monitor such as the Polar H-10 (wrist monitors are less accurate).
2. Practice - Download an HRV guided meditation app, such as Elite HRV. Connect your ECG monitor and begin with 20 mins of HRV training a day.
3. Maintain consistency – your HRV will increase in just a few weeks.
For more tips on HRV training, check out the following resources:
· HRV and Concussion – Elite HRV
· ‘How HRV training can boost your wellbeing’ – Tim Ferriss
· Dr. Leah Lagos – author, biofeedback expert