Pardon our dust! We’re still sprucing up this space and not all pages are finished yet.

Heart Rate Variability and Your Well-Being

The obsession with taking care of oneself and our own personal health is growing every day, and we love it! With smart devices now capable of tracking important health markers, technology is making it easier and easier to stay in-tune with our bodies. From identifying red flags to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we have insight into our health more than ever before. One major health marker that can indicate health issues is your heart rate variability. So, why is it important to pay attention to the heart rate variability marker? Read on to find out. 

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the variation of time your heart fluctuates between heartbeats. The measurement tracks the very small variations, which can add or subtract a fraction of a second between beats of the heart. Specialized devices measure these fluctuations that otherwise may go unnoticed.

This variation is controlled by an individual’s nervous system in the area called the ‘autonomic nervous system’ (ANS.) This is where the relaxation or fight-or-flight response is decided. 

What Does HRV Tell Us About Our Health?

How your heart responds and adapts based on what you are doing can tell a lot about your health, current and future. Common stressors like anxiety, chronic stress, not getting a good night’s rest and poor diet can shift our fight-or-flight response into high-alert. 

If your heart rate has a high variability, this means that it is adapting well. A low variable heart rate usually indicates that your heart is not adapting properly to activity, mood or situational changes and is more common in those with high blood pressure. Individuals with high blood pressure have a faster pace of heartbeats per minute, meaning less time between heartbeats for there to be a variation.

Other reasons for a low HRV could be sleep apnea, diabetes, asthma, anxiety, depression, or heart arrhythmia.

What HRV Devices Are Out There?

Luckily there are a great number of portable devices and applications that can be used to help monitor the body to assist in tracking your health. Some of our favorites include:  

  • Oura Ring – This device is worn on your finger and helps you track sleep and activity. Unlike a fitness tracker, it scores you daily for sleep, activity, and readiness. The sleep score tracks the time spent in the different levels of sleep. It also tracks resting heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, body temperature and nighttime movements.
  • WHOOP – The WHOOP HRV device not only tracks what you do, but also provides real-time feedback. That way, you can make smarter decisions and build healthier habits.
  • Empatica Embrace 2 – This comes in a wearable bracelet smartwatch and provides data directly to your doctor.

Most devices also include some sort of app that resides in your phone to help monitor your health. For example, one app called EHRV ‘lets you tag your HRV measurements with the important things going on in your life, helps you analyze the results, and provides daily HRV-based guidance.’

How Do Sleep And Airway Specialists Use Hrv For Better Health?

AtUntethered Airway Health Center, we send patients home with an appliance. After about a week of tracking sleep, breathing, etc, we are able to analyze the trends and find if there is a point of airway restriction. From the HRV, we can tell if there is an upper airway restriction or nasal cavity obtrusion. We can tell if there’s a REM sleep deficiency, fragmented sleep, or more. Sometimes, this all is related to heart rate spikes, microarousals, teeth clenching and grinding, and even a collapse of the airway.

What Can We Do About a Low or High Heart Rate Variability? 

Once we figure out what you are dealing with, we can then help you address it in several ways, depending on your unique health and situation. 

  • For those with obstructive sleep apnea, there is usually an obstruction within the airway. Or, there is a narrow dental arch or weak tongue, forged over time by mouth breathing or other growth restrictions. Oral appliances help by expanding the palette and creating more room for air to go in and out.
  • There are also airway pressure devices including CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which uses air pressure to keep the airway open preventing breathing problems, or BIPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) which uses positive pressure ventilation to open your lungs. CPAP devices are great while in use, but they do not cure sleep apnea.
  • Myofunctional therapy uses a combination of physical therapy exercises to improve the bite, breathing, and facial posture. The training targets the face, neck, and mouth’s soft tissues to reach optimal tongue position and oral rest posture. When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, strengthening the tongue and orofacial muscles can help them reside in their proper places. As a result, it can improve breathing during rest. 

Schedule An Appointment With Untethered Airway Health Center 

Do you want to better understand your heart rate variability? Or, do you think you may have sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing disorder? Schedule a virtual consultation with Dr. Turner at Untethered Airway Health Center. We’ll help you find rest and relief.

Want to learn more about HRV in dentistry? Check out Dr. Turner on the Heart Rate Variability Podcast. 

author avatar