Looking at HRV is not like looking at basic bio-data data like steps, calories, or resting heart rate.
As a measure of variability over time it is both more powerful and a bit harder to understand.
I'm currently using two different app/hardware combos to look at information related to HRV.
The fist app is called Biostrap. It provides hardware and software for looking at sophistcated biometric data including HRV. I'm currently only using the wristband, and only looking at HRV.
I'm also using Complete Coherence's Android App with a Polar H10 heart rate monitor. The Complete Coherence app doesn't provide you with direct information on HRV, but offers you insight on how well you are using their breathing exercises which are designed to improve HRV.
As a result, the Complete Coherence application is a little bit more intuitive, though not as clean or modern looking as Biostrap. Because you are measuring coherence (their term) and not HRV directly they're a bit freer to make it easier to consume. It's a simple 1 - 100 scale with color coding from bad (red) to good (green).
Here some example graphs that it produces after (not during) a session:
The one challenge is that it is sometimes hard to tell why I'm getting the scores that I'm getting. I'm doing the breathing exercises and mostly that makes the score go up, though sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, there isn't a strong indication of what I could do better. With a bit of trial and error I discovered that playing with the breath-timing settings allowed me to get more consistent results. Presumably this means that there was a breathing pattern that better suited me and changing it (changed from 6 breaths-per-minute to 5 breaths-per-minute) produced improved HRV.
But I can't actually see that directly in the app.
In contrast, Biostrap is designed to provide you directly with HRV readings. This is considerably more involved process than just strapping on a writband and having it count steps or give you your resting heartrate.
The Biostrap hardware uses a clinical-grade photoplethysmogram (PPG) to gather much more precise heartbeat data than other PPG-based fitness bands.
Because the hardware is more purpose-built for heartrate it looks a bit more utilitarian (no displays or buttons) and it requires a little more handholding. You have to explicitly tell it to do a biometric session and when you are going to sleep.
The data that comes back is much more detailed and the analysis gives you a much clearer picture of the HRV measurements the app is taking. It isn't transmuted into a user friendly number or code.
As a result I can see what my HRV measurements are: I can see averages, I can see individual data points, and I can see trend information over time. The app has a clean, modern look which you can see here:
Yes, but what does it all mean you ask? What's good? What's bad? What's average?
The first answer I found was, 'It depends' and then, 'You're better off comparing against your self over time.'
And then I found this article that at least provides some guidance.
After all is said and done, my average is a tiny bit above the average for my age and gender, so that's good, I guess. Now I have a goal to work toward which is to improve on that.
Of course, Biostrap doesn't provide me with guidance on how to improve.
For that, I'm going to continue to use the Complete Coherence system for improving HRV, along with regular exercise and meditation. Hopefully I will see long term improvement in my averages. I like the Complete Coherence program (which extends well beyond HRV into other mindfulness-related areas). I am sharing it with some colleagues who are interested in improving health and new ways to manage stress and improve energy.
My name is Jonathan Fries. I work for Exadel, Inc. Exadel - https://www.exadel.com - is a great company, with great people all around the world. I currently lead the Boulder, CO, USA office.