How to use Heart Rate Variability (HRV) with Circular?
Circular tracks your HRV when you have your ring on and automatically draws conclusions for you. These often come out as recommendations on your feed. But you can also study your data using the graphs to understand how your body reacts. In this article, you will learn how to take advantage of this critical value to live your life at its fullest.
Understand your HRV baseline
Your HRV baseline is your typical HRV as you feel ordinarily. Your baseline is the starting point for your HRV explorations since it will help you compare your daily HRV value with a personal more long-term HRV. Circular automatically detects your baseline.
During the first weeks, the app is establishing your baseline. It is looking to see what your average HRV values are as well as how much they fluctuate (standard deviation and coefficient of variation).
Ideally, you’ll form your baseline during a “normal stress” week. Exercise, work, etc is fine during this first week. If you establish it during an abnormally stressful or high volume training week then it’s not a big deal because the baseline constantly adjusts and updates itself over time, so as your health or fitness levels change, it will learn what your new baseline patterns are. This happens on a rolling 14-day basis.
This value is tailor-made as Kira gets to know how your body works overtime! It is important to understand that HRV is an interesting metric to compare to your own trends and baseline because it is unique to you.
So what’s the big deal with HRV baseline?
Well, it is used as a comparison to your HRV trends over time. Sometimes your HRV might lower after a workout and then spike up again after a couple of hours. It lowers and spikes up compared to your baseline HRV. These trends can unveil interesting messages your body is sending, that is why in the app’s graph, you will always find your baseline HRV as a comparison to your daily/monthly/lifetime HRV graphs.
The goal is not to compare yourself with others but to get to know yourself.
Circular also calculates a “Lifetime Baseline”. It might get tricky to understand, but in practice, it is made easy to comprehend. This measure is the average of all the baselines calculated each week, your average baseline since you started using the ring. It is an important measure because it enables you to get the bigger picture. We compare it to your weekly calculated baseline in order to see if you’ve lowered your HRV or not over time.
When does Circular calculate my HRV?
Your HRV is tracked only during your sleep. It makes more sense as nocturnal tracking provides an excellent HRV measurement window where many of the environmental stressors aren’t present.
The time when you sleep is also the period when your body is at rest. Is also makes sense because HRV is the indicator for rest-related parasympathetic autonomic nervous system. That is why you will find the details in the sleep analysis section of the app.
How does Circular calculate my HRV?
We apply the RMSSD calculation. RMSSD is strongly backed by research and is considered the most relevant and accurate measure of Autonomic Nervous System activity over the short-term (5 minutes or less). Root Mean Square of Successive Differences (RMSSD) is the industry standard for calculating HRV.
Where can I view my HRV data and baseline?
As mentioned above we take the values of your HRV during your night. You can, therefore, see the details of your nights data inside the « Sleep analysis » circle. Then we calculate the average of these values to give you one unique value per day. This will be the value that you can compare to your baseline. You can find it in the « Activity analysis » circle as well as in the “Sleep analysis” circle.
The interesting parts are when you switch to the -weekly- or -monthly- view. It might look more like the graph below where you can see clear variations and patterns over several days. That’s where we can interpret the ups and downs and recommend you at best.
Comparing my HRV with my baseline
Circular makes it easy to understand what are your HRV trends. Every morning you can check your daily HRV value and compare it with your 14-days baseline to see where you are at. You can compare your values by visualizing the whole week, to know its evolution and compare each day between them. And you can also compare your data in a wider view; by month and by lifetime, where your monthly average can be compared to your lifetime baseline. This can allow you to see if you have succeeded in increasing your baseline over time.
You can also receive recommendations on your feed. It will tell you if you are ready for the upcoming day if your HRV is largely higher than you baseline HRV and will tell you if you are not ready if it is largely lower than you baseline HRV. If it is lower and you receive such a recommendation in your feed we will recommend you to rest or at least take it easy for few days as you either need recovery from intense exercises or you are stressed or about to get sick.
If you clearly identify the source of an HRV drop yourself, there are no mysteries and taking a look at this list of things to do might get you on the right path to a higher HRV:
- Reducing carbs and processed foods/ better diet
- Reducing alcohol quantity
- Sleep more or follow Circular’s recommendations about your sleep
- Acupuncture/meditation/breathing exercises/listen to music (HRV increase for a day or two afterward)
- Exercise more (aerobics is preferred)
- Managed stressors with acting & improv classes
- Cold therapy with cold showers & sea swims
- Avoid pollutants and toxins: Avoid canned foods (the linings contain BPA) and drink your water out of glass bottles or containers. Stay away from plastic containers as much as possible.
Noticeable trends might be:
- It is interesting to note that your HRV can fall down if you are about to become ill before you even develop symptoms. If this is the case, and you can take it easy for a day or two, your body will fight the illness. Your HRV can stay very low even after the symptoms disappear. This indicates that your body is still recovering and is not ready for maximum performance.
- You may notice that a very intensive exercise can significantly reduce your HRV, but if you recover well, it will come back to your baseline and above. This is usually a sign that your body is coping well with the training load. If your HRV does not rise back, you may have trained too hard or too often. However regular endurance exercises tend to increase your baseline HRV over the long term.
- If you do not sleep well or become stressed, you may see your baseline HRV decreases, indicating that your energy may not be at its best and that you need to take some time to recover.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption can reduce your baseline HRV.
- You will most likely notice that your HRV drops down temporarily after a night out.
- Overall, HRV decreases with dehydration and returns to baseline with good hydration. As mentioned, both exercise and alcohol can cause dehydration.
After changing your lifestyle to get a lower HRV, don’t expect it to get back to its baseline instantly. It usually takes a couple of days, so continue with the good habits a little longer, and see the difference in the graphs for yourself.
That’s it! You are only two steps away from improving your lifestyle with CIrcular, in ways you never could of before with such precision and ease.
Indeed, you shouldn’t compare your heart rate variability with other people, because HRV is affected by a number of internal and external factors, such as age, hormones and the overall body functions, as well as lifestyle.
You can still compare (for information purposes) to this table which depicts a picture of average HRV’s depending on your age and condition if you really want to. But it makes more sense to react accordingly to what your body needs, and not go for under or over realistic goals stated in this table.
HRV analysis is important for your wellbeing. The whole point is for you to understand what is causing a drop in HRV and if you are recovering or not. If you make changes to improve your HRV and act accordingly you will get rid of stress inducers and any negative action your body does not need. As weird as it seems, this simple metric is a very powerful tool and can get you very precise insights about your wellbeing. Adjusting your HRV is a scientifically proven method and is being more and more used by professionals. Being able to track it from your home at all times might just get you a head start over those who don’t.
We remind you that the Circular™ ring is not a medical device and should not be used to diagnose or monitor a pathology.