We’re aware of many of the tiny nerves that make up our bodies. We feel an immediate twinge when we pinch our fingers in a door or step on a stray Lego. But nerves do more than just feel pain. And some nerves are more important than others. The vagus nerve would definitely fall into this latter category.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
“The vagus nerve serves as the body’s superhighway, carrying information between the brain and the internal organs and controlling the body’s response in times of rest and relaxation,” Katherine Gould writes for Live Science.
The nerve, which is the largest and (arguably) most important of the body’s 12 cranial nerves, runs all the way from the stem of the brain down to the top of the colon.
“Although we refer to the vagus nerve as singular, it’s actually a pair of nerves that emerge from the left and right side of the medulla oblongata portion of the brain stem,” Gould continues.
The vagus nerve is one of the most incredible systems in the human body. It’s directly involved in hundreds of bodily functions, including everything from carrying sensory information from the skin of the ear to controlling the muscles in your digestive tract to influencing your body’s immune system.
Unfortunately, the vagus nerve can become compromised. And when it does, certain complications ensue. These issues can range from mild (like digestive problems) to rather serious (heart problems and seizures). And if they aren’t addressed, these underlying issues can lead to additional health issues.
The Benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Over the years, a concept known as vagus nerve stimulation has been used to provide people with a variety of health benefits. The efficacy of treatment is highly dependent on the type of stimulation, as well as underlying health factors that are specific to the individual. Having said that, some commonly cited benefits include:
- Reduces symptoms of depression
- Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
- Promotes relaxation
- Reduces stress
- Improves focus
- Boosts mood
- Promotes better sleep quality
- Reduces cravings
In other words, vagus nerve stimulation has the potential to positively impact almost every aspect of how you feel and function.
3 Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve can be stimulated in a variety of ways. It’s best to think of vagus nerve stimulation in two categories. The first is direct stimulation. Presently, there’s really only one method of direct vagus nerve stimulation. That’s through implantation of a medical device that emits electrical pulses. The second is indirect stimulation.
While direct stimulation is only used in serious cases – namely epilepsy patients – indirect stimulation can be safely performed by anyone who wants to feel better and restore proper functioning to the body.
Let’s explore a few of the most common and effective methods you can use to stimulate your own vagus nerve:
1. Exposure to Cold Temperatures
Wim Hof is one of the foremost leaders in learning how to control your mind and thoughts . Those who’ve followed his methodology over the years – which is known to yield benefits like increased energy, better sleep, and improved focus – would agree with the latter descriptor. And one of his keys to success is cold therapy.
The reason cold therapy is at the heart of the Wim Hof Method is that sudden cold exposure increases vagus nerve activation. But if you don’t have access to a semi-frozen lake, a cold shower will do the trick.
2. Listening to Music
Believe it or not, listening to music could help stimulate your vagus nerve and put your mind and body at ease. Well, if you have the right headphones, that is!
Xen by Neuvana is a relatively new product on the market, but it’s been designed by a top cardiac surgeon and is making massive waves in the industry. It’s supposed to sync electrical stimulation with the listener’s music to provide easy and effortless vagus nerve stimulation.
3. Deep Breathing
Your neck and heart contain neurons with receptors known as baroreceptors. These are basically specialized neurons that detect your blood pressure and transmit the signal to the brain. If your blood pressure is too high, the signal activates the vagus nerve and tells it to lower the blood pressure and heart rate.
Baroreceptors are very sensitive. And the more sensitive they become, the more likely they are to properly regulate high blood pressure. This is precisely where deep breathing comes into play.
Studies suggest that deep breathing increases the sensitivity of baroreceptors and activates the vagus nerve. The result is significantly lower blood pressure. (This is one of the reasons yoga and meditation are highly recommended.)
Prioritize Your Health and Wellness
It’s never been more important to prioritize your physical health and emotional well-being. And as you search for new solutions and better answers to the issues that are plaguing you, vagus nerve stimulation is something to carefully consider. If nothing else, it’s certain to leave you feeling happier and more balanced.