We have great news! You don’t have to go to a spa or take a yoga class to de-stress. In fact, there is a scientifically-proven way to de-stress in just minutes a day, and you can do it at home. It’s called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and it works by activating the vagus nerve—which runs from your brainstem to your abdomen—to help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
This post will detail several vital things you need to know about VNS, including what it is, how it works, and how you can try vagus nerve stimulation at home with the Xen device by Neuvana.
The Vagus Nerve and Its Role in the Nervous System
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the human body and plays a critical role in the nervous system. It’s responsible (at least in part) for regulating a variety of functions, including heart rate, digestion, and immune response. The vagus nerve also helps counter the effects of the “fight or flight” response—aka the stress response—by promoting relaxation and calming the mind and body.
In other words, vagus nerve stimulation can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being. This is why VNS is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. However, even those who don’t have medical conditions that could be treated with VNS, could still benefit from things like improving their sleep, focus, recovery, and reducing their pain levels.
What the Science Says
We mentioned that VNS has scientifically-proven benefits, but don’t just take it from us. For example, consider the results of this 2020 study:
“The vagus nerve plays a vital role in the regulation of affect by providing interoceptive feedback. Whereas effects of chronic VNS on mood have been often reported (Albert et al., 2015; Elger et al., 2000; Schlaepfer et al., 2008), effects of acute non-invasive taVNS on mood have been scarcely investigated, particularly after a mood challenge. Here, we used an effortful task block to perturb mood and concurrently applied taVNS for 90 min. Using linear mixed-effects and hierarchical Bayesian models, we found that taVNS facilitated mood recovery in the post stimulation VAS, but not in the stimulation VAS directly after the task block. Furthermore, we showed that lower positive baseline mood correlated with taVNS-induced increases in invigoration of effort (Neuser et al., 2020). Crucially, taVNS-induced effects on mood did not depend on the side of stimulation, sex of the participants, or order of the sessions. Collectively, our study provides strong evidence for post-acute effects of taVNS on mood recovery after an effort challenge as well as for a moderating role of affect on motivational effects elicited by acute taVNS during an effort challenge. We conclude that taVNS could be a promising tool to improve mood regulation in response to challenges which might indicate its potential as an adjunct therapy.”
How Does Vagus Nerve Stimulation Work?
Vagus nerve stimulation works by sending electrical impulses to the vagus nerve—but the method you choose for doing this can vary. These electrical impulses help to activate the vagus nerve, which in turn helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
The electrical impulses are generated by a device called a vagus nerve stimulator (or VNS). There are two types of VNS devices: implantable and non-implantable. Implantable vagus nerve stimulators are surgically implanted under the skin, and they deliver electrical impulses to the vagus nerve on a regular basis (usually for 30 minutes a day). Non-implantable vagus nerve stimulators, on the other hand, are devices that you can use at home on an as-needed basis.
These less-invasive devices have made VNS a lot more accessible. Now, people who want to experience things like a brighter mood or better sleep can try vagus nerve stimulation. Until recently, most people didn’t have this option unless they had serious medical conditions VNS was being used to treat.
Suppose you’re interested in trying vagus nerve stimulation at home. In that case, the Xen device by Neuvana is an awesome place to start. Xen is a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator that you can use for just minutes a day. It’s as easy as putting the vagus nerve-stimulating headphones in, connecting them to a handheld device, and controlling your VNS session from the Neuvana app on your phone.
Other Benefits of VNS
Along with helping users de-stress, VNS can offer a number of other benefits. Let’s talk about five of those next.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or another mood disorder, vagus nerve stimulation can help. In fact, VNS is approved by the FDA as a treatment for depression. In addition, one study found that vagus nerve stimulation improved symptoms of depression in people who had failed to respond to other forms of treatment.
Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. However, Vagus nerve stimulation has been shown to help reduce inflammation. For example, one study found that vagus nerve stimulation reduced levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines—molecules that play a role in inflammation—in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Improve focus and concentration
If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), vagus nerve stimulation may help improve your symptoms. According to this 2019 study, VNS improved focus, concentration, and impulsivity in people with ADHD. If you don’t have ADHD but would still like to boost your focus and concentration, VNS may help with that as well.
Get better sleep
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, vagus nerve stimulation may be able to help. One study found that vagus nerve stimulation improved sleep quality in people with insomnia.
Vagus nerve stimulation can also help relieve pain. This 2011 study found that vagus nerve stimulation reduced pain perception in people with fibromyalgia—a condition characterized by chronic pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, vagus nerve stimulation may offer some relief.
As you can see, vagus nerve stimulation offers a lot of potential benefits. And the best part is, you can try it yourself at home with a device like the Xen by Neuvana.
Many other exciting benefits are being investigated along with the proven benefits and uses for vagus nerve stimulation. For example, VNS is a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and shows potential as a treatment for other neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury.
Be sure to speak to your doctor or give a non-invasive VNS device a try to see if vagus nerve stimulation can help you feel your best.