What Is Biofeedback?

Think of biofeedback as a tool that can help you better understand your body’s physiological functions. By implementing this tool into your day-to-day life, you can learn how to better manage stressors to improve your overall health and well-being.

Biofeedback is a method of therapy that that can be used to promote a more body conscious lifestyle. It’sthe process of gaining better understanding of your body’s physiological functions and learning how to voluntarily control body processes that are most of the time considered involuntary (e.g breathing rate and heart rate) (Biofeedback for Sleep Disorders 2009)
Having control over these functions is important in order for you to keep your body in a stable equilibrium, which is the autonomic balance between your “fight-or-flight” and “rest-and-digest” systems. When in a stressful situation, your body activates your fight-or-flight system. Activation of this system is okay for a short time period but when persistent activation is seen over a longer duration of time,  numerous adverse conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and anxiety disorders can arise. By knowing how to relax yourself in stressful situations, you can greatly improve your body’s autonomic balance, thus also improving your health and well-being (Yu et al. 2018).

Types of Biofeedback

There are many different types of biofeedback that allow you to examine and monitor what is going on within you:

  • Heart Rate / Resting Heart Rate: the number of heart beats per minute in an active and resting state
  • Heart Rate Variability: the variation of time taken between each heart beat
  • Respiration Rate (Breathing Rate): the number of breaths taken per minute
  • Body Temperature (Core/Skin): core temperature refers to the temperature deep inside your body while skin temperature refers to your surface temperature
  • Activity Level / Step Count: measure of work output particularly pertaining to the number of steps taken per hour/day

Biofeedback Devices

As biofeedback is a term that refers to the monitoring of physiological changes, this wouldn’t be possible without a biofeedback device. Biofeedback devices measure body functions by using numerous sensors that connect to your body either invasively or non-invasively. The devices are responsible for processing the information gained from the sensors and producing visual and/or audio feedback in a way consumers can understand (Frank et al. 2010). For example: when your heart rate increases, the sensors will pick up the change, process the information, and give you feedback via a screen or auditory beeps, letting you know your heart rate has increased, thus allowing you the opportunity to incorporate techniques to slow it down.

Figure 1 depicts the process of biofeedback and how biofeedback devices work.

Figure 1. Biofeedback System

Numerous biofeedback devices today are catered to the average consumer with their smaller sizes and non-invasively wearable properties. With advances in biosensors, many devices are equipped with bluetooth capabilities to connect right to your smartphone so that you can see a live data feed of your own physiological functions being measured (Yu et al. 2018).

Do I Need a Biofeedback Device?

Although there may not be any major issues in your your day-to-day lifestyle that make it necessary for you to invest in a biofeedback device, it might be important to do some research on the ways these devices can benefit your health in small ways that could chronically improve your overall health and well-being

Whether you suffer from poor sleep, high amounts of stress/anxiety, back pain/discomfort, weight gain, or difficulties getting pregnant, biofeedback devices can be instrumental for framing a better lifestyle to deal with these issues.

Key Points

Biofeedback is a method of gaining better understanding of your body’s physiological functions and learning how to voluntarily control body processes such as heart rate, breathing rate, etc.

Biofeedback devices allow you to see what’s going on inside your body by giving you real-time data which let you alter your physiology to improve your physical and psychological health and well-being, and can be of great benefit for improving various aspects of your life, especially if you suffer from:

-Poor sleep
-High amounts of stress/anxiety
-Back pain/discomfort
-Difficulties getting pregnant


Biofeedback for Sleep Disorders
. (2009, February 2). Cleveland Clinic. 
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/ccf/media/files/Sleep_Disorders_Center/Biofeedback.pdfFrank, D. L., Khorshid, L., Kiffer, J. F., Moravec, C. S., & McKee, M. G. (2010). Biofeedback in medicine: who, when, why and how? Mental Health in Family Medicine7(2), 85–91.Yu, B., Funk, M., Hu, J., Wang, Q., & Feijs, L. (2018). Biofeedback for Everyday Stress Management: A Systematic Review. In Frontiers in ICT (Vol. 5). https://doi.org/10.3389/fict.2018.00023

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