Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Coping With Stress and Anxiety

Are you suffering from the 21st century’s silent killer? With financial worries, climate concerns, and global insecurity becoming ever more prevalent, one thing is for sure: we are all feeling more stressed than ever.

Stress and anxiety

From demanding work deadlines to personal responsibilities, stress is an inevitable part of modern society. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and religion, each individual is at risk of experiencing stress or anxiety in their lifetime. Consequently, it affects sleep, focus, and overall well-being.

Are you feeling tired, weary, or more lethargic than before? Do you struggle to concentrate at work? One of the main causes might be stress and anxiety.

What if there was a way to manage it, something safe and not involving medication? The last thing we need is more pills. The key to a calmer future lies in a secret solution — vagus nerve stimulation.

What is the vagus nerve?

Named after the Latin word for 'wandering,' it originates in the brain, travels by the ear, and moves on to every major organ in your body. The vagus nerve controls a vast range of functions and communicates sensory information between the brain and the organs. The stronger your vagus response, the more likely your ability to recover quickly from stressful events.

The vagus is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system and the most complex of the cranial nerves. Think of it as a massive, meandering network of over 100,000 fibers. It is the body’s superhighway. The chemical it releases, acetylcholine, is involved in regulating blood pressure, glucose levels, the digestive system, and other bodily functions.

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an alternative to meditation. It tells your body to slow down, take deep breaths, and, most importantly — relax. The cumulative, long-term effects lead to improved sleep length and quality, improved mood, lowered anxiety, and increased resilience to stress.

Benefits of vagus nerve stimulation

VNS might be the key to effectively dealing with stress and anxiety. For over 30 years, medical professionals have treated epilepsy and depression by using implants to stimulate the vagus nerve. However, this invasive vagus nerve stimulation has some side effects and was used to treat serious health conditions. An alternative option is non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS), which has the potential to deliver similar benefits.

Stimulation of the nerve has a positive effect on mood, sleep, and overall well-being. Also, VNS has shown a positive effect on heart rate variability (HRV), a key factor in psychological well-being and quality of life.

Research shows the positive relationship the vagus nerve has on the following:

  • Gut-brain axis support. The vagus nerve is vital in the control of inflammation as well as the management of food intake and satiety.
  • Blood pressure and heart rate regulation. The parasympathetic system decreases blood pressure and heart rate, helping with calmness, relaxation, and digestion.
  • Head pain relief. Non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation also demonstrated efficacy for acute migraine or cluster headache attacks.
  • Inflammation reduction. Electrical activation of the vagus nerve can improve acute and chronic inflammation.

And what about your sleep? Stimulating the vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the essential element for rest, digestion, restoration, and relaxation. This makes you calmer, less stressed, and less anxious and results in far better sleep. A better night leads to a better day.

How do you stimulate it?

The secrets of the vagus nerve have been known for centuries, and while it can be stimulated by meditation or acupuncture, it takes time to master and involves some effort. Fortunately, there are some other options:

There are areas where this nerve is very active, such as the ear, jaw, and neck region near the carotid sinus, better known as the sleep artery.

With that in mind, here are alternative ways to stimulate the vagus nerve:

  • Make a humming sound.
  • Cold-water treatments, such as putting cold water on the face and neck region.
  • Any breathing exercise involving breaths through your nose, like the box breathing technique.
  • Neck and jaw release exercises.

Vagus nerve stimulation continues to be investigated by science and new electrostimulation startups. More new companies are creating non-invasive vagus nerve stimulators based on specific neuromodulation signals, electric signals with a specific voltage, amplitude, and pulse, that create a tingling effect on your skin. Soon, we will see safe, easy, and fast ways for people to activate and stimulate their vagus nerve with some wearable devices and gadgets.

Key takeaways:


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.