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What Exactly is HRV Biofeedback?

What exactly is Biofeedback?
Using biofeedback, you can gain valuable insight into the health of your physiological state, including your heart rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, muscle tension and brainwaves. Understanding these measures allows you to gain greater awareness of your body states and gives you the opportunity to develop these states for improved health.

These physiological states are controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), meaning the body performs them unconsciously. The ANS is made up of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). They work antagonistically, with the SNS activated during stressful events and the PNS activated for relaxation and regeneration. Any way to promote activation of the PNS is beneficial, and the ability for breathwork to do this has been well-documented. Biofeedback devices work by using sensors which detect the body’s physiological states and transmit the signals to an app or program. The user watches in real-time how their thoughts, actions and respiration directly influence their internal systems. In some cases and as part of a healthy lifestyle, biofeedback may reduce the need for medication and alleviate symptoms of disease.

Heart Rate Variability

Many people believe that our heart beats like a musician’s metronome, that is, the time between heart beats is generally the same. However, this is not the case, as the time between each of our heart beats actually increases and decreases over time. This change is known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV). At Unyte, we are very interested in the biofeedback measurement of HRV, one of the most well-researched types of biofeedback. Unyte’s iom2 biofeedback sensor is placed on the earlobe, where it detects each heartbeat which we then use to calculate HRV. A high HRV means that the amount of time between each beat varies quite a lot and a low HRV implies a small variation in the time between heart beats. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but high HRV (a wide range of time between beats) suggests increased resilience to stress and increased cardiovascular fitness. This enables you to appropriately react to your environment, activating stress hormones during times of trouble, and promoting digestion and relaxation otherwise. A practical application of this is used by athletes. First thing every morning they measure their HRV - If their HRV is high, they know their body is resilient and strong, and it is a good day to undertake an intense workout.

How Unyte Uses HRV

Unyte helps you learn how to effectively control your HRV using our “resonance score”. Resonance is a well-known phenomenon in physics, when a vibrating system causes another nearby system to begin vibrating with even greater amplitude, enhancing the effect. We use this concept of resonance as follows: By measuring the user’s heart rate, we calculate HRV. These times between heartbeats generally follow a sinusoidal cycle, which is a smooth, periodic curve resembling a wave. Your respiration pattern also follows a similar cycle, increasing with each inhale and decreasing with each exhale. The closer these cycles match, the higher your resonance score. Using the breathing indicator, you can learn to align your respiration cycle with that of your heart beat cycle. This state of matching cycles is associated with a relaxed nervous system and many health benefits.

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