Anyone experimented with Heart Rate Variability measurement?

If the theory about CFS being caused by an infection of the vagus nerve leading to chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system is correct, then it should show up in Heart Rate Variability measurements. HRV is supposed to correlate with parasympathetic nervous system arousal. I saw a psychologist a few years ago who was right into it when I was really stressed out and this technology first hit the market, but the devices at the time were specialized and expensive and I never asked him to test me, so I never actually got my HRV measured.

Now HRV measurement devices are relatively cheap though, and a friend of mine recently put me onto the EliteHRV app, which works on an iPhone with a relatively inexpensive Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor.

The basic idea is that the more time your body spends in parasympathetic arousal, associated with higher HRV readings, the more recovery/healing you get.

I’ve just started this morning with my first Morning Readiness reading; so it’s too early to give any concrete results. I have noticed that my HRV drops while playing Yousician Piano, presumably because I’m still learning and the challenge of getting the notes right is mildly stressful. I hope this changes as I play better, since I play music to relax; not to get more stressed.

Anyone else experimented with HRV measuments?

Author: Graham

I'm a guy in his late 40's, recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since May 2009. I now offer coaching and support to other people with CFS/ME.

3 thoughts on “Anyone experimented with Heart Rate Variability measurement?”

  1. Hi – I’m looking into this too, especially as I’ve realised that emotional stress plays a huge role in my fatigue and I have mild dysautonomic symptoms. I’ve bought a polar H7 band and am looking for the most useful software. HRVelite, sweetbeat HRV4 and Bioforce come up a lot but most people are using them for training so they know when the ‘stressor’ (training) has taken place – I’m trying to establish what foods/activities/other stressors might be contributing so will be interested in different ways of collecting and analysing the data..

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I noticed the same thing; the trick for us is to work out how to remove or otherwise deal with the stressor.

      Perhaps the most useful thing I learned on the EliteHRV Facebook page was that the symptoms that elite athletes get from overtraining are very similar to CFS symptoms: fatigue, headaches, dizziness. Mind you, I tended to think “Just stop training then you idiots!!!”. Why put yourself through that if you have the option?

      I also found it interesting how quickly and easily I can switch from parasympathetic to sympathetic, for instance I notice when I play music if it’s a challenging song that’s just a bit fast for me, my HRV drops when I start getting flustered, indicating I’ve switched to sympathetic; however it recovers almost as soon as I relax again afterwards. Even healthy people are switching between them all the time, so it’s the ratio of time spent in each state that I think is important.

      I’d love to hear what you discover; and if you’d like to chat about ways to deal with emotional stress, let me know since that’s what I specialise in now.


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