Do Longer Exhalations Increase HRV During Slow-Paced Breathing?

Author: Zachary M Meehan1, Fred Shaffer2
1 Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Delaware, 105 The Green, Wolf Hall, Newark, DE, 19716, USA.
2 Center for Applied Psychophysiology, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO, USA.
Conference/Journal: Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback
Date published: 2024 Mar 20
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s10484-024-09637-2. , Word Count: 278

Slow-paced breathing at an individual's resonance frequency (RF) is a common element of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback training (Laborde et al. in Psychophysiology 59:e13952, 2022). Although there is strong empirical support for teaching clients to slow their respiration rate (RR) to the adult RF range between 4.5 and 6.5 bpm (Lehrer & Gevirtz, 2014), there have been no definitive findings regarding the best inhalation-to-exhalation (IE) ratio to increase HRV when breathing within this range. Three methodological challenges have frustrated previous studies: ensuring participants breathed at the target RR, IE ratio, and the same RR during each IE ratio. The reviewed studies disagreed regarding the effect of IE ratios. Three studies found no IE ratio effect (Cappo & Holmes in J Psychosom Res 28:265-273, 1984; Edmonds et al. in Biofeedback 37:141-146, 2009; Klintworth et al. in Physiol Meas 33:1717-1731, 2012). One reported an advantage for equal inhalations and exhalations (Lin et al. in Int J Psychophysiol 91:206?211, 2014). Four studies observed an advantage for longer exhalations than inhalations (Bae et al. in Psychophysiology 58:e13905, 2021; Laborde et al. in Sustainability 13:7775, 2021; Strauss-Blasche et al. in Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 27:601?60, 2000; Van Diest et al. in Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 39:171?180, 2014). One study reported an advantage for longer inhalations than exhalations (Paprika et al. in Acta Physiol Hung 101:273?281, 2014). We conducted original (N = 26) and replication (N = 16) studies to determine whether a 1:2 IE ratio produces different HRV time-domain, frequency-domain, or nonlinear metrics than a 1:1 ratio when breathing at 6 bpm. Our original study found that IE ratio did not affect HRV time- and frequency-domain metrics. The replication study confirmed these results and found no effect on HRV nonlinear measurements.

Keywords: Heart rate variability; Inhalation-to-exhalation ratio; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Slow-paced breathing.

PMID: 38507210 DOI: 10.1007/s10484-024-09637-2