Nathia González Blog

The consequences of not getting a good night’s rest goes far beyond not feeling energized for work in the morning. In fact, poor sleep quality is linked to a variety of serious long-term health consequences, including obesity, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and many more.

It turns out, the key could lie in stimulating your vagus nerve…

You may be “wandering” what is the vagus nerve? The literal translation of Vagus from Latin to English means “wandering”. The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve and it exits the skull through the jugular foramen, near the ear canal to enter the neck leading to an unpredictable course through the body. The vagus nerve is extremely important because it has a  profound effect on the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system regulates a variety of bodily processes that occur without our conscious attention; things such as digestion,thermal regulation when sweating, breathing, and something as simple as our social engagement in our daily human interactions.

The vagus nerve is very closely associated with our sleep quality. It has a profound effect on the quality of our sleep since it plays an important role in the rest-relaxation component of the autonomic nervous system, which is fundamental for a good night’s rest. With proper vagal tone, the body instructs the autonomic nervous system to increase parasympathetic activity and reduced sympathetic drive (fight or flight) so the body can enter a state of relaxation, slowing down the heart rate to prepare the body for a good night rest.

Often people wonder why their quality of sleep has diminished after a traumatic event, why all of the sudden they struggle with a sleep disorder, and/or are sleep deprived; all these can be happening as a result of the inadequate tone of the vagus nerve.  Vagus nerve stimulation has been demonstrated to have a dramatic effect not only in improving the quality of sleep but also on an individual’s overall well-being.   Now you are wondering: how the heck do I stimulate the Wandering nerve to get a better night’s rest?

A few simple tips to stimulate the vagus nerve prior to sleep

Vagal nerve stimulation has been scientifically researched for decades for its power to improve not only sleep, but a variety of other functions.

In fact, human beings have practiced forms of vagus nerve stimulation for centuries. Yoga, tai-Chi, meditation, mindfulness and many other practices that provide an indirect stimulation to the vagus nerve. It may sound simple, but for the agitated modern day lifestyle, relaxation can be  difficult for some to achieve.

A few simple tips for stimulating the vagus nerve for a better night’s sleep are:

  • turn off technological devices such as cellphones, tablets, television, and/or computers 60 minutes prior to sleep. Devices that emit blue light at night inhibit the body’s nocturnal rhythm called the cicardian rhythm. Exposure to blue light prior to sleep suppresses the hormone melatonin which which governs sleep.Given the intimate relationship of the endocrine and nervous systems, even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion.

So, Read a book, reflect on your day, say a gratitude prayer, can be the perfect ways to prepare the body prior to sleep.

  • Light stretching before bed has a tremendous effect on relaxing the nervous system. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system by bringing awareness to the body which in turn can help develop mindfulness and better sleep. Stretching can also help relieve the physical tensions associated with long days of work sitting, standing or running errands.
  • A breathing practice prior to sleep also brings awareness to the quality of breath circulating throughout the body. Deep and slow breathing has been shown to reduce anxiety and increase the parasympathetic function. The vagus nerve has nerve roots that communicate with the primary muscle of respiration which is the diaphragm. Breathing moves tissues, fluids, stimulates or down regulates the tone of the nervous system decreasing inflammation in preparation for sleep.

To conclude, the vagus nerve is  the tenth cranial nerve that exits the skull  and is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, and respiratory rate. Appropriate vagus nerve tone is critical to sleep quality. A simple and consistent sleep hygiene routine such as a breathing practice, gentle stretching, and turning off electronics a few hours before sleep can have a profound effect  on a restful night’s rest. For more advanced techniques to regulate  vagal nerve activity and central nervous system decompression as a result of stress, neck pain, tension headaches, lack of sleep, injuries and or accidents consider enrolling in my Neurovascular release classes (NVR) to develop greater understanding and bodily awareness.

Nathia González

About the author : Nathia González

Was born in Bogota, Colombia but at the young age of nine, my family and I moved to Canada as a result of the political climate in Colombia in the early 2000’s. Both Colombia and Canada are dear to my heart. From a very young age, I was introduced to sport; I swam, played tennis, did in-line skating, was a prospect for the first youth Olympic games (Singapore) for basketball, and I currently compete in Track & Field both at the National and International level. Sport for me has been an agent of growth and transformation. Sport influenced my career choice (Kinesiology and Structural Integration), some of my friendships, it has allowed me to travel around the world, experience different cultures, and meet amazing people.

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