Using Stress App While Getting Tooth Drilled At Dentist

That title does not lie. I wore a Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor paired with SweetwaterHRV’s SweetBeat Life to the dentist where I was to have a cavity filled. I measured the entire session and have pulled the data for the specific five minutes where the drill was going and that burning smell filled the room. To that measurement in a moment.

I also visited my stockbroker today to review the state of affairs. I wore the same heart rate sensor and had SweetBeat Life reading my vitals. At one point in the discussion he asked me to make a long term decision that could effect the fortunes of my children and their children’s children. I have the data from that five minute discussion as well. To that in a moment.

As a baseline I have uploaded five minutes of a coherent session that I did some time back. It is the most perfectly relaxed and coherent session I have experienced. The data was exported and put into Kubios HRV freeware. Here is what that report looks like:


You can see at the green arrow the waveform of my heart rate. It looks nearly like a perfect sine wave, smooth and relatively even. The blue arrow shows a nice distribution of heart frequencies which indicates good variability. And the orange arrow shows the Low Frequency to High Frequency ratio (LF/HF) of my system as 9.5. This is a smooth, relaxed state.

For comparison I pulled five minutes of a difficult work session. I don’t know what was happening that day, I was just out of sorts while doing email and tweeting. Here are those readings:


You can see the waveform (green arrow) is much flatter, there is a much smaller distribution of frequencies (blue arrow) and LF/HF ratio (orange arrow) is 1.056. This is a stress state and the metrics are very clear that there is very little variability in the heart rate.

To our friend the stockbroker. Though I spent an hour in the appointment there was one five minute period where I was “on the spot” with respect to a decision. Here is the picture:


The waveform is chaotic at points (green arrow), but there are clear sine waves for a portion of the period. The distribution of frequencies (blue arrow) is quite broad and the LF/HF ratio is 8.046. This is nearly the same ratio as in the relaxed state. So though I felt somewhat out of sorts at moments mostly because I never was any good at picking stocks, I was generally in a Poised state during that meeting.

The Dentist came as quite a surprise. There were periods where I was very concerned that I would feel intense pain. Fortunately I have an excellent dentist and things turned out to be quick and painless. The data shows I was not nearly as upset on a physiological level as I thought I would be:


To remind you, this five minutes was when the drill was going. The waveform (green arrow) is a more jagged than a relaxed waveform, but there is some variability. See the difficult session above to see a waveform with little variability. The frequency distribution (blue arrow) was much broader than I would have expected. And the LF/HF ratio was 4.350, not as low as the difficult session at all. In fact, the LF power which indicates a mixture of the Sympathetic Nervous System (Fight/Flight) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest/Digest) was equal at the dentist and the stockbroker.

So the conclusion here could be that having a bad day doing email is far worse than visiting the stockbroker or the dentist.  If you are banging away at email , feeling out of sorts and find yourself in San Francisco, head over to Dr. Shek and have him the get the drill out!

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