Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Improve Sleep, Mood and SIBO

The vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body, is really important for keeping the body in balance. It runs from the brainstem to different organs in the chest and abdomen, affecting things like heart rate, digestion, and immune responses. Knowing how it works and how to get it going can lead to some pretty big health improvements.

Detailed illustration of the vagus nerve, highlighting its pathway from the brainstem to various organs in the chest and abdomen

What is the vagus nerve and what does it do?

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” functions. Here are some of its key roles:

  • Heart Rate Regulation: It helps slow down the heart rate after a stressful event.
  • Digestion: It stimulates the production of digestive enzymes and the movement of the gut (peristalsis).
  • Inflammatory Response: It modulates the immune system, helping to control inflammation.
  • Mood Regulation: It influences the release of neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and GABA, which promote relaxation and reduce anxiety [3].

The Impact of Inflammation on Vagal Function

Inflammation can significantly affect vagus nerve function. When the body is in a state of chronic inflammation, the vagus nerve’s ability to regulate internal organs is compromised. This reduced vagal tone can slow down the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC), a crucial component of gut motility that helps move food and waste through the digestive tract [6].

SIBO and Vagal Dysfunction: The Vicious Cycle

Woman holding a model of a gut and a brain, representing the connection between gut health, brain function, and vagal dysfunction

A slowdown in the MMC can lead to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), where excessive bacteria accumulate in the small intestine. This bacterial overgrowth further exacerbates inflammation, creating a vicious cycle [7,10]:

  1. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation reduces vagal tone, impairing gut motility.
  2. SIBO Development: Reduced MMC activity leads to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
  3. Increased Inflammation: The presence of SIBO increases intestinal inflammation.
  4. Neuroinflammation: Inflammation in the gut can lead to neuroinflammation, affecting brain health and further reducing vagal motor output [8].

Breaking this cycle is essential for restoring gut health and overall well-being [9,11].

Health Benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Stimulating the vagus nerve can lead to a whole range of health benefits, including [4]:

  • Reduced Inflammation: Helps control chronic inflammation, which is linked to many diseases.
  • Improved Mood: Enhances the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood, potentially alleviating depression and anxiety.
  • Better Digestion: Enhances gut motility and enzyme production, improving digestive health.
  • Enhanced Sleep: Promotes relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Pain Relief: Modulates pain perception, providing relief from chronic pain conditions.
  • Increased Energy: Improves overall energy levels by enhancing metabolic function and reducing inflammation [5].

Natural Ways to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

Person meditating on a sofa with a journal in front of them, illustrating natural ways to stimulate the vagus nerve such as meditation
  1. Deep Breathing Exercises: Slow, deep breaths can activate the parasympathetic system, reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or the 4-7-8 method can be particularly effective [12].
  2. Cold Exposure: Exposing your body to cold, such as through cold showers or splashing cold water on your face, can stimulate the vagus nerve. This method helps in activating the parasympathetic system, aiding in stress relief and inflammation reduction [13].
  3. Meditation and Yoga: Both meditation and yoga are proven to enhance vagal tone. Practices like mindfulness meditation and certain yoga poses encourage relaxation and improve the body’s stress response [14].
  4. Singing, Humming, and Chanting: Engaging in activities that involve the vocal cords can stimulate the vagus nerve. Singing, humming, or chanting can be particularly beneficial in promoting relaxation and enhancing mood [15].
  5. Gargling: Gargling can stimulate the vagus nerve by activating the muscles in the back of the throat. This simple practice can help in enhancing vagal tone and promoting a state of calm [16].

Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS)

Originally, Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) involved a device surgically implanted in the body to deliver electrical impulses to the vagus nerve. Now, non-invasive options like tVNS are available, which use devices outside the body to achieve similar effects [17]. There are two primary types of tVNS devices:

  • Ear (Auricular) tVNS: These devices stimulate the vagus nerve through the skin of the outer ear.
  • Neck (Cervical) tVNS: These devices target the vagus nerve in the neck region [18].

Some people use TENS units with an ear clip on the ear as a cost-effective way to stimulate the vagus nerve [19]. In my clinic, I prefer and recommend Pulsetto because it’s better designed and more effective. Additionally, Pulsetto has helped improve my heart rate variability (HRV), which is an important indicator of autonomic nervous system health. I only suggest products I’ve used and seen the benefits of.


  • Do not use tVNS if you have a cardiac device like a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator [22].
  • It’s important to remember that vagus nerve stimulation might not be right for everyone. Talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms and medical history to find out if this new device is right for you.

Introducing Pulsetto

Pulsetto device designed for transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation, showcasing its user-friendly and effective design for improving health

Pulsetto is a cutting-edge device designed to make it easy and effective to do tVNS at home. Here’s why Pulsetto stands out [20]:

  • User-Friendly: Pulsetto is designed for ease of use, making it accessible for anyone looking to improve their health through vagus nerve stimulation.
  • Effective: By providing consistent and targeted stimulation, Pulsetto helps manage stress, improve mood and sleep and enhance overall health.
  • Convenient: Whether you are at home or on the go, Pulsetto allows you to integrate vagus nerve stimulation into your daily routine effortlessly.

To help you get started, I have a special code for a discount on Pulsetto. It’s a great opportunity to try out this innovative device and experience the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation for yourself. Just use the coupon ”panagiotis” at checkout. You can click here to get started.


It’s been shown that understanding and stimulating the vagus nerve can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being. This nerve plays a key role in regulating heart rate, digestion, inflammation, and mood. There are natural methods that can help, such as deep breathing exercises, cold exposure, meditation, and devices like Pulsetto for transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation. These can help improve vagal tone, reduce inflammation, and break the cycle of gut-brain dysfunction. As always, it’s important to talk to your healthcare professional to find out the best way to meet your needs. Following these strategies can lead to better health, more energy, and a better quality of life.

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