Overnight sleeping heart rate variability of Army recruits during a 12-week basic military training course

Publication Name

European Journal of Applied Physiology


Purpose: This study aimed to quantify sleeping heart rate (HR) and HR variability (HRV) alongside circulating tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) concentrations during 12-week Basic Military Training (BMT). We hypothesised that, despite a high allostatic load, BMT would increase cardiorespiratory fitness and HRV, while lowering both sleeping HR and TNFα in young healthy recruits. Methods: Sixty-three recruits (18–43 years) undertook ≥ 2 overnight cardiac frequency recordings in weeks 1, 8 and 12 of BMT with 4 h of beat-to-beat HR collected between 00:00 and 06:00 h on each night. Beat-to-beat data were used to derive HR and HRV metrics which were analysed as weekly averages (totalling 8 h). A fasted morning blood sample was collected in the equivalent weeks for the measurement of circulating TNFα concentrations and predicted VO2max was assessed in weeks 2 and 8. Results: Predicted VO2max was significantly increased at week 8 (+ 3.3 ± 2.6 mL kg−1 min−1; p < 0.001). Sleeping HR (wk1, 63 ± 7 b min−1) was progressively reduced throughout BMT (wk8, 58 ± 6; wk12, 55 ± 6 b min−1; p < 0.01). Sleeping HRV reflected by the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD; wk1, 86 ± 50 ms) was progressively increased (wk8, 98 ± 50; wk12, 106 ± 52 ms; p < 0.01). Fasted circulating TNFα (wk1, 9.1 ± 2.8 pg/mL) remained unchanged at wk8 (8.9 ± 2.5 pg/mL; p = 0.79) but were significantly reduced at wk12 (8.0 ± 2.4 pg/mL; p < 0.01). Conclusion: Increased predicted VO2max, HRV and reduced HR during overnight sleep are reflective of typical cardiorespiratory endurance training responses. These results indicate that recruits are achieving cardiovascular health benefits despite the high allostatic load associated with the 12-week BMT.

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Defence Science and Technology Group



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