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Slow breathing to increase your Heart Rate Variability

November 30th, 2022,

5 Min. Lesezeit

Slow breathing to increase your Heart Rate Variabilityfeatured image

‘But what does science say?’ It’s a question we ask ourselves at moonbird every day. Especially our postdoctoral researcher, Elisabeth Honinx, as it’s her focus to investigate and gather scientific grounding for everything that we do at moonbird.

Elisabeth continuously assembles the most interesting studies on breathing and related topics. Here, we’d like to give you a monthly overview of the latest research, news, and developments in the World of Breathing. Be inspired.

1. The effect of 4-day online breath workshop on HRV and sleep in medical professionals

Medical professionals often suffer from stress, sleep deprivation and burnout due to a high patient flow and shift work. A recent study examined changes in sleep and heart rate variability (HRV) in medical professionals after they attended a 4-day online workshop on breathing meditation. The study took place during the COVID pandemic in a hospital. Both total sleep duration, as well as the duration of deep sleep, REM sleep and light sleep increased significantly. In addition, HRV also increased significantly, while heart rate decreased significantly.

Breathing and meditation appear to be effective tools to combat stress and sleep deprivation.

Conclusion - An (online) breathing workshop can increase sleep and HRV, as measured in medical professionals. This contributes to the fact that breathing and meditation can lead to relaxation and prove to be effective methods to combat stress and sleep deprivation. For medical professionals, it can additionally further improve patient care which reduces the risk of medical errors.


2. Increasing HRV changes brain activity in the networks that regulate emotion

High heart rate variability (HRV) is associated, among other things, with healthy brain systems. Especially with the brain networks that regulate emotion and heart rate. HRV is therefore a widely used parameter of emotional well-being. Still, the question remains: can increasing HRV also alter brain function?

To test this, 106 young adults participated for five weeks in one of two interventions that either (1) increased HRV (Osc+ condition) or (2) had little effect on HRV (Osc- condition). They then examined the effect of the interventions on brain activity both at rest and during a task that required participants to control their emotions.

Increased heart rate variability may improve emotional control

So what was revealed after the Osc+ intervention? During the resting phase, the connection in and between emotion-related brain networks strengthened. This means that coordination between different brain areas increased, as did activity in those areas. During the task phase, activity decreased in areas responsible for processing tactile experiences such as pain and touch. This suggests that increased HRV is associated with greater attentional control. Thus, you are less distracted by your emotions and better able to focus on the task at hand. The Osc condition did not show these effects.

Conclusion - These findings suggest that improving heart rate variability increases the coordination of emotion networks in the brain and that daily HRV training can improve attention control. So keep on practicing daily!


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