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Heart Rate Coherence

awaken Feb 13, 2020

Enhance Awakening to Sleep Better

While it may seem strange to be talking about "awakening" in regards to improving sleep, we aren't using "awaken" in the literal sense here. Instead, we're talking about awakening your senses to the world around you, cultivating positive emotions, and engaging more intentionally and fully in your life. Frequent stress and depleting or negative emotions (such as frustration, anger, anxiety, or fear) drain energy from body, mind, and heart and interfere with sleep. Falling asleep in a positive emotional state and with a relaxed balance in your autonomic nervous system is ideal for promoting restful, restorative, and pleasant sleep. Regularly experiencing positive emotions such as joy, compassion, love, and appreciation can stop this energy drain and help you re-balance.

Heart Rate Coherence

One of the most effective ways to achieve balance is through awareness and control of the patterns of our heart rhythms. The heart and brain communicate constantly and influence each other’s functions. Stress and other negative emotional states are reflected in certain heart rhythm patterns. You may be familiar with the sensation of your heart "racing" when you are under stress. In reality, your heartbeat is speeding up and slowing down all the time, even under normal circumstances. It can speed up and slow down in a disorganized, chaotic pattern (called “incoherence" and shown in the red graph below) or in an organized, predictable, rhythmic pattern (called “heart coherence” and shown in the blue graph).

When you're stressed or experiencing depleting or negative emotions, your heart rhythm is incoherent.
 This chaotic, irregular pattern can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Positive emotions like appreciation, love, compassion, and joy create a more coherent heart rhythm, contribute to nervous system balance, and can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.


The Quick Coherence Technique

(Used with permission from HeartMath LLC. Learn more about using HeartMath to support resilience here).

The Quick Coherence Technique is a short practice made up of two simple steps. You can do the technique anywhere at any time, but to promote sleep, we recommend you practice it in bed after you've done your evening routine. Try it to help renew your emotional state and facilitate better sleep.

  1. Focus your attention on the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Breathe at whatever rhythm is comfortable, perhaps aiming to inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds.
  2. Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative, renewing feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. You could do this by revisiting positive feelings you have about someone you love, a pet, a special place, or an accomplishment. You can also simply focus on cultivating a feeling of calm or ease.

Bonus: Try a Trainer

HeartMath has created effective, fun, and easy-to-use techniques and technologies based on heart rhythm coherence. Dr. Culbert is a HeartMath Interventions Certified Practitioner/Instructor and a Certified HeartMath Coach/Mentor.

You can use HeartMath techniques and technologies to learn to effectively self-regulate stress and emotional reactions during daytime activities and before bedtime. We offer several HeartMath technologies at the NMH store. HeartMath technologies will help you see the changes in your heart rhythm in real time. This enhances the learning process and can make practicing coherence-building techniques more engaging and effective.


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