Chronically low HRV

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kayakmac08
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Chronically low HRV

Post by kayakmac08 »

Hi all,

For those of you who are into tracking your HRV, I've got a question: How big of a dent does chronic stress and/or having a newborn make on HRV? I know some effect is expected, but how much? At what degree of effect are we like, "Alight, there's probably more going on here"? Any wisdom or experience on this matter? I know it's a bit of a silly question, but I'm a bit desperate (see bolded text below for why). Any anecdotes, experiences, etc. would be helpful. The info on this topic is maddeningly general most of the time.

Some context: I've been tracking my sleeping HRV for about a year. About 3 months ago, we had a baby (our first). Also, right before the newborn came, I got diagnosed with sleep apnea and started using a CPAP. Over this entire past year, I have averaged about 200 minutes of Zone 2-3 cardio per week. My BMI is about 22, my resting HR is about 46, and my "estimated VO2 max" (according to fitbit) is 51-56. I rarely eat before bed and rarely drink alcohol in the evenings, and when I do either, it doesn't seem to influence my HRV. In the last year, I've been sick twice (both times were COVID and neither time did I have a fever).

Now here's what's happened to my HRV over the last year:

-Before the newborn and while having untreated sleep apnea, my HRV trended between 55 and 75, quite consistently
-For the last 3 months, since having the newborn and while using CPAP, my HRV has been trending between 10 and 40, (averages about 30) but about every 2 weeks it suddenly jumps into the 90s or low 100s. This has been a remarkably consistent pattern for 3 months. What the heck?

My theory is that, despite being in better shape now than I was a year ago, the presence of an infant (who interrupts my sleep 1-2 times per night most nights) and the extra stress/anxiety in my life due to said infant, plus stuff with work, is suppressing my HRV significantly. My sense is that my HRV should be trending around 90 but instead is trending around 30 purely because of these two factors. But then the other half of my brain is like, "I call BS on that. Moderate stress and sleep disruption alone are not enough to give you--an otherwise healthy person who's getting plenty or REM and deep sleep and lots of exercise--the HRV of an out-of-shape old man with the bubonic plague; you probably have something else going on under the hood".

I definitely get that HRV is widely variable and trends down with age, can be impacted by lots of factors that generally impact the CNS. But based on my overall health, and the fact that every few weeks my generally dismal HRV increases by 500%, makes me wonder if something else is going on. Do I need to get screened for cancer or something? (that's a joke, but like....seriously, what on earth is going on with my CNS?) Anyway, thanks for reading!

Thanks!
Last edited by kayakmac08 on Tue Aug 01, 2023 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • 4/4 male, born 1989
  • Status discovery: 2020
  • Regimen: 14+ hr. fast/day; 200-300 min of mod-vig exercise/week; Med-esque diet; Supplementing with Trig DHA, B vits, D3
JD2020
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Re: Chronically low HRV

Post by JD2020 »

Congratulations on the addition to the family. My thoughts: ignore potential implications of all measures for at least the first 6 months. Give everyone in the family and everything in your body a chance to adjust. If you can find the time without creating additional stress, some evening meditation might be helpful to your CNS and therefore impact your HRV. But if anyone had told me that I should carve out 20 minutes at the end of the day for meditation when the children were 3 months old, I might have blown a gasket.
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TheresaB
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Re: Chronically low HRV

Post by TheresaB »

kayakmac08 wrote: Tue Aug 01, 2023 11:34 am But based on my overall health, and the fact that every few weeks my generally dismal HRV increases by 500%, makes me wonder if something else is going on.
HRV is controlled by the vagus nerve. Sounds as if recent life events have impacted your vagal tone. You can read more in our ApoE4.info wiki page: Vagus Nerve
-Theresa
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Quantifier
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Re: Chronically low HRV

Post by Quantifier »

I have been able to raise my HRV by doing breathing exercises at bedtime. 10 rounds of inhaling for a count of 4, holding my breath for a count of 7, exhaling for a count of 8. But it only works for nights when I get to spend at least 5-6 hours in bed. I don't think these exercises can overcome the effect of disrupted sleep.
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Julie G
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Re: Chronically low HRV

Post by Julie G »

I definitely get that HRV is widely variable and trends down with age, can be impacted by lots of factors that generally impact the CNS. But based on my overall health, and the fact that every few weeks my generally dismal HRV increases by 500%, makes me wonder if something else is going on. Do I need to get screened for cancer or something? (that's a joke, but like....seriously, what on earth is going on with my CNS?) Anyway, thanks for reading!
Like Quantifier, I was able to raise my HRV pretty dramatically with deep breathing exercises as outlined in this blog. This may not counteract the effect of poor sleep, but certainly can't hurt and the stress-management benefit may be helpful. Having a new baby is amazing, but really, really hard. Hang in there. It gets easier every day.
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kayakmac08
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Re: Chronically low HRV

Post by kayakmac08 »

Thanks, all, for the input.

Update: So I injured my back 7 days ago and have been on 4mg/day of methylprednisolone for 6 days. And for the 5 nights since I started taking this anti-inflammatory (glucocorticoid), my sleeping HRV jumped out of its trough of 10-30 (where it had been pretty consistently for the last month or so) and leapt onto a plateau of 65-85, where it has stayed since I started taking the drug. This tells me that, either I was exercising too much and needed the time off (unlikely, because over the last year, modulations in my exercise frequency and intensity haven't seemed to impact my HRV more than a dozen or so points here and there) OR it is indeed the drug that has improved my HRV. If the latter, then it seems likely that I have some sort of unaddressed chronic inflammation issue going on, that the drug has suppressed.

Curious if anyone else has experienced a dramatic rise in HRV while taking anti-inflammatory drugs, and--if so--whether it led you to any discoveries.

I am planning to get a colonoscopy this fall (for reasons entirely unrelated to the back injury), and I'm betting it will uncover something interesting going on down there that may be contributing to the HRV weirdness.

I've been doing deep breathing exercises and practicing mindfulness for the last couple weeks, and have been using earplugs and mouth taping to help boost my sleep efficiency and duration (which has been going alright, actually), but my HRV patterns didn't budge until the drugs happened.
  • 4/4 male, born 1989
  • Status discovery: 2020
  • Regimen: 14+ hr. fast/day; 200-300 min of mod-vig exercise/week; Med-esque diet; Supplementing with Trig DHA, B vits, D3
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