Vagus is vaguely taking shape

If I thought last week that we were getting a lot of new terminology, this week has confirmed my impression indeed! After filling in the six pages of names for various brain parts, I have to say it may still take a while before they are memorized…

I did have some kensho moments, nevertheless, as some formations I’ve already bumped into managed to manifest and say hello among the crowd. I’ve been wrestling with insomnia for quite some time, waking up almost every night after 4 to 5 hours of sleep, and sleeping the rest of the night in intermittent chunks if at all. I’ve read about causes for insomnia and my symptoms fit rather nicely (if nice were a good term…) with descriptions of hyperarousal of the nervous system (Kay and Buysse, 2017): when I wake up in the middle of the night, my heart is beating fast and strong like somebody had ordered it turn up the heat and prepare for war.  It’s very curious how after years of meditation I do not really suffer from rumination – my mind is rather still – yet the restlessness has remained in my body as if it were a blind ghost of days done by not  finding its way to the next world.

Now I know where the vagus nerve is lurking, and I intend to pore deeper into it’s function in controlling the balance of autonomic nervous system. I’ve already experimented with breathing techniques which seem to be helping, possibly by increasing vagal activity via respiratory sinus arrhythmia. (Tsai et al., 2015) I’ll write more about it in the coming blog entries when I have had time to look a little closer into the papers that I have found covering the subject.


Kay, D. and Buysse, D. (2017) ‘Hyperarousal and Beyond: New Insights to the Pathophysiology of Insomnia Disorder through Functional Neuroimaging Studies’, Brain Sciences, 7(3), pp. 1–19. doi: 10.3390/brainsci7030023.

Tsai, H. J., Kuo, T. B. J., Lee, G. S. and Yang, C. C. H. (2015) ‘Efficacy of paced breathing for insomnia: Enhances vagal activity and improves sleep quality’, Psychophysiology, 52(3), pp. 388–396. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12333.

Posted by Tapio Saarinen

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