Circadian rhythms are omnipresent in almost any biosignal. In this chapter, we join them with the need for practical tools for screening in preventive settings and point out heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of autonomic nervous system activity, as a chronobiologic, unspecific index of mental and physical health. We discuss methods to calculate the circadian variation of HRV measures, particularly the cosinor procedure. We present reference values for circadian variation parameters of HRV and data concerning reproducibility. Furthermore, we show data giving first evidence of HRV as a comprehensive health index by showing altered circadian variation patterns of HRV depending on mental (trait dysthymia) as well as physical (inflammatory markers) health. Finally, we present examples of disturbed chronobiology of HRV in clinical and preventive settings and its practical application in medical consultation.
Part of the book: Chronobiology