Trouble sleeping leads to trouble doing just about anything else. The consequences of not getting enough rest - or good quality rest - go far beyond just feeling grumpy the next day. In fact, sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious long-term health consequences, including obesity, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and much more.
So, what can you do to combat sleep struggles and wake up feeling rested, healthy, and ready to go? It turns out, the key could lie in stimulating your vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve and restful sleep
What is the vagus nerve, you might be asking? Simply put, it's the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system. This system handles regulating a variety of body processes that take place without conscious effort. This can include breathing, heart rate, sweating, digestion, social interaction, and much more.
It also happens to be one of the most important nerves in the body. The vagus nerve gets its name from the Latin term for “wandering.” It starts at the brain and wanders near the ear canal and then into almost every major organ system of the body.
The vagus nerve is also closely associated with sleep quality. It balances the nervous system by promoting a relaxation response, a critical component of good sleep.
Under ideal conditions, your body sends autonomic signals, including notably increased parasympathetic (vagal) activity and reduction of sympathetic drive before you fall asleep. This contributes to your heart rate slowing down. As you can imagine, a slower heart rate induces a state of relaxation, and ultimately sleep.
But, you can struggle with a variety of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation if your vagus nerve isn't adequately stimulated. Perhaps you just don't get enough hours of sleep, or you can't fall into a deep sleep, if you can fall asleep at all.
That's where vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) comes in. Evidence shows that stimulating the vagus nerve can have dramatic effects on your overall well-being, including that it can contribute to a better night's sleep!
So, you know that your vagus nerve should be stimulated to help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. But how do you do that?
How to stimulate the vagus nerve science for a better night's sleep
VNS has been scientifically researched for decades for its power to improve not only sleep, but a variety of other functions.
Wondering how to stimulate the vagus nerve for a better night sleep? Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve sends messages to the brain to generate calming sensations to the body. While this modern technique is available today, VNS isn't a new concept. In fact, human beings have practiced forms of vagus nerve stimulation for centuries. Meditation, yoga, chanting, and mindfulness are all practices that provide indirect stimulation to the vagus nerve.
It sounds simple, but many find that level of relaxation difficult to achieve.
Enter auricular (ear-based) vagus nerve stimulation.
Auricular (ear-based) vagus nerve stimulation is shown to be a safe and effective method of neurostimulation. Studies have been done on both healthy subjects as well as those battling chronic conditions, including sleep disorders.
Using current technology, the vagus nerve can be stimulated in a few different ways. The most attainable, minimally invasive option is known as tVNS (transcutaneous VNS).
tVNS utilizes electrical stimulation through the surface of the skin. It's often done via the left ear but can also be done on the neck. The user applies the tVNS themselves, and it doesn't require surgery or any other procedure. tVNS is an accessible way to promote and maintain general health and wellness, including promoting better sleep quality.
Auricular VNS falls under the tVNS category. It delivers electrical stimulation to the auricular branch of the vagus nerve (ABVN) which happens to be the only peripheral branch of the vagus nerve. This makes for an easily accessible target within the human ear!
Ear-based vagus nerve stimulation has been successfully studied in many people, for various reasons. They include mood, sleep, focus and cognition, and athletic performance recovery.
Today, scientists are focusing even more on the benefits of ear-based tVNS and its potential to maintain a healthy balance in the nervous system and, to the extent possible, mitigating the effects of chronic conditions.
That's where the Xen by Neuvana headphones come in.
Neuvana Xen headphones
Xen headphones deliver electrical signals to your vagus nerve so you can experience the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation in an attainable, non-invasive way. The headphones can help you manage anxious feelings, allow your body to recover quicker from stress, and help you get a better night's sleep. This compact, portable, and rechargeable technology can be used almost anywhere.
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 is intended to stimulate the vagus nerve.
Whether you're at home, on your commute, or at the office, you can get the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation while listening to your music. Many users prefer to use Xen by Neuvana as part of their morning routine. If you'd like more tips for establishing a mindful morning routine, don't miss this post.
You simply connect Xen to your phone wirelessly via Bluetooth® to start, then you sync to your music. The waveform follows the beat of your music, whether it's from your music library, Spotify®, Pandora®, or other streaming apps. Then, you customize your sessions by choosing a waveform and adjusting the intensity to find what works best for you.
What else should I know?
If you're ready to start experiencing the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation, we suggest 15-minute sessions twice a day.
As you become more accustomed to the product, you may gradually increase the time per session, up to 25 minutes.
Remember, Xen may create a state of deep relaxation. That means you should not drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or engage in any other activity which can put you or others at risk of injury while using Xen and for thirty minutes after use.
If you have other questions, be sure to have a look at our FAQ page where we cover what it feels like to use Xen headphones, when to use Xen by Neuvana, and much more.
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