The vagus nerve isn’t what you think it is. 😉 In this post, I’m breaking down the vagus nerve: how it’s tied to so many functions in your body and why you should show it a little love.
Hi friends! Happy Tuesday! I hope your week is going well. It was a busy weekend over here. We got to watch Livi in her first dance competition (they CRUSHED IT!) and are back home and back into the weekly grind. I’m already counting down the days until spring break for these kiddos.
For today’s post, I wanted to chat a bit about the vagus nerve. It’s a magical component of our bodies, and something I don’t think a lot of us know much about. I have a hunch that we’re going to start hearing a LOT more about the vagus nerve in the next year or so and its importance, so I thought I’d share some details about it today!
The vagus nerve is a carries signals from the brain down to the digestive system and organs and back again. Vagus means “wandering” and it’s the longest cranial nerve (called Cranial X), running from the brain stem and ears down to the colon, saying hey to almost every major organ on the way there. It’s connected to so many different things: your metabolism, digestion, sleep, immune response, sweating, breathing, heart rate, and mood. I know you’re like, “BUT WAIT. It’s attached to so many different things! Why does no one talk about this?” I know, right?!
You can actually stimulate your vagus nerve by using pressure points, breath, and vocalization strategies. You’ll encourage our amazing vagus nerve response and enable it to do all of the necessary communication to the best of its ability.
How it’s tied to sleep:
When everything as working as intended, your body naturally switches between the parasympathetic and sympathetic drive. The vagus nerve helps to counterbalance the “flight or fight” response. As your sympathetic response decreases before bed, your heart rate slows down, and you’re able to get more restful sleep. When this doesn’t happen, you can lie awake in bed, having difficulty relaxing, wake often during the night, and toss and turn. By simply stimulating the vagus nerve, it can help with sleep and so many of the processes above. (I personally think it makes a huge difference with digestion and mood!)
Vagus nerve location:
Here’s a handy video that breaks it all down in 2 minutes! Nerd out with me a little, friends.
How to stimulate the vagus nerve:
– Deep, slow belly breaths. The exhale is what causes the relaxation response, so take your time! As you inhale, feel your belly and ribcage expand. And then count to 8 as you deeply exhale, pushing the air out, and drawing the belly in.
– Gargling, singing, and humming!
– Laughter! This is such a mood boost it itself.
– Massage. I’ve learned so much from Jill Miller (she and Katy Bowman were on the podcast!) and she has quite a few videos on her YouTube for tips on stimulating the vagus nerve response.
This is my very favorite one: calming massage.
So, tell me, friends: how well did you know your vagus nerve before this post? What method above are you going to try today?? I also love this facial massage.