Our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is our fight or flight response. When our SNS is activated, our body feels like we are in a state of fear. Living with this constant stress results in having chronic sympathetic nervous system activation. This isn’t healthy on many levels and gravely affects our immune system.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is our rest and digest response. When we do activities to support our PNS, we feel rested, renewed, relaxed, and at peace. We feel more happy and energetic, thus aiding a strong immune response.
The vagus nerve begins at the brain and connects to every organ within the body. It is the longest nerve in your body and is a major communication highway that feeds/gives information every second of every day. The vagus nerve plays a vital role in activating our PNS. We can stimulate the vagus nerve in order to access the parasympathetic state. Some ways to stimulate the vagus nerve are deep + slow breathing, meditation, singing/chanting, taking a probiotic, exercise, massage, and by laughing + socializing. These are some beautiful ways to activate our PNS and as a result, boost our immunity.
Another essential, and perhaps more accessible, way we can activate our natural PNS response while strengthening our immune system is to get proper, restorative sleep. Sounds simple, right? During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormones for healing, which aid in cell repair and healthy cell regeneration throughout the body. It has become increasingly clear that sleep and the immune system are closely connected. Consistent sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function – healing wounds, warding off infections, and protecting against chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Conversely, serious sleeping problems (insomnia, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disruption) can interfere with the healthy functioning of the immune system.
Supporting our PNS and stimulating the vagus nerve will help us stay healthy via the mind-body connection. Given the current state of the world, staying healthy and protecting ourselves from COVID-19 is imperative. You can start today by doing yourself a favor and get a good night’s sleep! Will you commit to getting enough deep, restorative sleep?
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