You've probably heard of the fight-or-flight response. Now, what about the rest-and-digest response? Or tend-and-befriend? Even if you're not familiar with them, you can likely imagine what's more optimal for the body: being in a state of resting and digesting rather than feeling the urge to fight or flee.
So, if there's something you can do to trigger the rest-and-digest response versus fight-or-flight, wouldn't you want to know? Well, that's where vagus nerve stimulation comes in!
A quick overview of the nervous system
If you divide the nervous system into 2 major parts, you get the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Your CNS is made up of your brain and spinal cord. Then, your PNS connects your CNS to the rest of the body.
The PNS can be broken down even further into the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.
The somatic nervous system connects the skin, sensory organs, and skeletal muscles to nerves. In addition to being responsible for almost all of your voluntary muscle movements, it's also responsible for processing sensory information from external stimuli including hearing, touch, and sight.
Now, the autonomic nervous system is what we'll primarily be focusing on today. This system is what controls those unconscious bodily functions, like breathing, heart rate, and digestion. With the help of the autonomic nervous system, we don't need to consciously tell ourselves to take every breath or digest our food.
Before we get into the vagus nerve, we need to break down the autonomic nervous system a bit further into sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.
The sympathetic system is associated with fight or flight, and situations that call for a quick response. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system is associated with the rest-and-digest response.
And can you guess what the driving force behind the parasympathetic nervous system is? That's right: the vagus nerve!
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve plays a powerful role in balancing the nervous system. That way, you're not always in fight-or-flight OR rest-and-digest.
It helps with sensory and motor functions, as well as things like:
- Communication between the brain and gut
- Decreasing inflammation
- Deep breathing
- Blood pressure
- Fear management
- Controlling the heart rate
The vagus nerve is the 10th, cranial nerve and the longest of all 12 cranial nerves. In addition to being the longest, it's also the most complex. We know that by stimulating the vagus nerve, the brain and body can experience a wide range of benefits.
With that in mind, it's no surprise vagus nerve stimulation is a technique that's been utilized for hundreds of years.
What is vagus nerve stimulation?
When you stimulate the vagus nerve, parasympathetic activity is triggered. And this can come with plenty of perks! While VNS therapy can provide a number of emotional and physical well-being benefits, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved its use, in some forms, to treat medical ailments like epilepsy, depression, and cluster headaches.
By the way, we discuss how to stimulate your vagus nerve for improved mental health in this blog post.
When it's used to treat medical conditions, VNS typically requires surgery to implant a commercially available programmable pulse generator device to provide electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve.
But, for those who want to experience the wellness benefits of VNS without a surgical procedure, there are far less invasive and practical ways to do so!
Meet Xen by Neuvana
Xen by Neuvana leverages how the brain, body, and nervous system work together. Xen can help create happier, healthier, more balanced lives.Xen by Neuvana is specifically designed to stimulate a branch of the vagus nerve. When the left earbud is placed in your left ear and your Xen unit is turned on and properly paired with the Neuvana App on your smartphone, a gentle electrical signal is transmitted that's intended to stimulate the vagus nerve.
Research suggests vagus nerve stimulation can have significant health and wellness benefits. And we hear from so many of our customers that it benefits them! Just as each person is unique, results may be different for each user, which is why we offer a money back guarantee.
It is well accepted that stress has negative health effects on the body. And VNS could help you negate these effects. Research also suggests the type of stimulation Xen provides may improve sleep, reduce stress, boost your mood and enhance focus to support overall wellness.
Using Xen by Neuvana headphones is one great way to stimulate the vagus nerve. But here are our other 5 tips on vagus nerve stimulation you can try today.
5 Tips on Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Utilize cold therapy
Cold therapy is one of the earliest medical treatments humankind knows of. In fact, the Edwin Smith Papyrus (3500 BC), the oldest medical text, repeatedly mentions cold therapy. For many people, cold therapy is an effective way to stimulate the vagus nerve and experience benefits like slowed heart rate and deeper breathing.
Researchers have discovered exposing yourself to cold on a regular basis can lower your fight or flight response and increase parasympathetic activity through the vagus nerve. A quick way to introduce yourself to this practice is taking a 30-second cold shower or splashing ice cold water on your face.
As you instruct yourself to take slow, deep breaths, this can signal to the body it's time to relax. Parasympathetic activity can increase, which means the vagus nerve is stimulated. Try stretching each deep breath to about 10 seconds total (or 6 breaths per minute) and notice the relaxing effect this has on the body and mind.
Finding a meditation practice that works for you can take some time. But it can also have positive effects on several areas of your life. In fact, studies show meditation can strengthen vagal tone to help you enjoy the effects of vagus nerve stimulation.
Take a look at this study to learn how positive emotions build physical health.
We know the vagus nerve is far reaching. Close to it’s origin in the brainstem, one of the areas it's connected to is the vocal cords. Humming is one way to stimulate the vagus nerve, as the vibrations in your vocal cords can trigger the vagal response. Try humming your favorite song or simply repeating "OM" to see how this feels for you.
We already discussed how Xen by Neuvana headphones can be useful for vagus nerve stimulation. But did you know you can listen to your favorite music at the same time and enjoy even more benefits?
Listening to relaxing music can help promote the vagal response and strengthen vagal tone. (For more on vagal tone and why it's important to strengthen it, check out this blog post). When you do this using your Xen by Neuvana Headphones, you can experience the benefits of relaxing music paired with gentle, non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation at the same time.
Xen syncs to your music library, Spotify®, Pandora®, and most other streaming apps. Xen makes it easy for you to try vagus nerve stimulation for yourself: at home, on your commute, or at the office. It’s compact, portable, and rechargeable. Would you like to learn more about how it works? Take a look at this collection of FAQs. Or click here to shop Xen by Neuvana.