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5 Life-Changing Vagus Nerve Exercises for Kids

Updated May 21, 2024

Reviewed By: Vanessa Leikvoll

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Take a deep breath through your nose right now. Feel the air fill your lungs, expanding your chest and belly. Now, slowly breathe out through pursed lips, allowing your breath to wander wherever it goes. 

This is how you stimulate your vagus nerve, one of your body’s most critical communication channels.

This remarkable vagus nerve travels from your brainstem to your abdomen, winding through nearly every organ. It regulates digestion, immune function, inflammation, heart rate variability, mood, lung capacity, stress resilience, and more. Over 75% of all nerve fibers carrying messages to internal body systems belong to the vagus network. 

Yet, the vagus nerve is vulnerable to interference and damage from various factors, leading to frustrating symptoms for kids, such as constipation, mood disorders, and disrupted sleep.

Fortunately, targeted Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care and vagus nerve exercises can recalibrate vagus nerve signaling, dampen inflammation, improve nervous system balance, and resolve stubborn health challenges. 

What is Vagus Nerve Dysfunction?

The vagus nerve acts as the main conduit carrying signals to trigger the parasympathetic “rest and digest” relaxation response, essential for rebuilding, restoring, and recharging the body. 

Since the vagus nerve innervates many different organs and muscles–from the gut, lungs, and heart to the larynx and eyelids–imbalances in its activity quickly spiral into various concerning symptoms.  

Children struggling with vagus nerve dysfunction often experience:

  • Digestive complaints like reflux, constipation, abdominal pain, nausea   
  • Disrupted sleep with difficulty falling or staying asleep  
  • Low heart rate variability and erratic cardiovascular rhythms
  • Heightened inflammation and food or environmental sensitivities
  • Chronic migraines and headaches   
  • Mood disorders like anxiety or depression
  • Reduced immunity and recurrent infections or illness  

Physical trauma at birth, like vacuum extraction procedures, frequently strains delicate nerve tissues in the brainstem and upper neck. These micro-lesions compound emotional trauma, toxin exposures, infections, medication overuse, and sustained stress system activation. Unable to properly regulate nervous signaling, the vagus gets stuck on “high alert” rather than calming to prompt restful parasympathetic pathways.    

Why Stimulating the Vagus Nerve Matters

Activating the vagus nerve flickers on the parasympathetic “rest and digest” pathway, which is responsible for relaxation, tissue growth and repair, stable blood sugar and thyroid levels, reproductive system function, and dampening inflammation. 

Since three-quarters of nerve fibers carry sensory information and motor commands between the organs and the brain, which belong to the vagus network, enhancing conduction along this channel benefits whole-body wellness.  

For children in the rapid development years between birth through age five, properly functioning vagus transmission is especially vital for:  

  • Digestive Strength: The vagus stimulates digestive enzymes, gut motility, and bowel regularity. Addressing low vagal tone can resolve reflux, constipation, and diarrhea.   
  • Respiration Quality: Proper vagus activity helps regulate oxygenation, lung expansion capacity, and stable breathing rhythms to prevent asthma flares.  
  • Growth Trajectories: Ensuring robust parasympathetic activation fuels human growth hormone.   
  • Learning Agility: Lowering reactive anxiety via the vagus nerve improves focus, attention span, and sensory integration.
  • Milestone Achievement: The vagus reinforces nerve firing to enhance movement and speech.
  • Immunologic Harmony: An anti-inflammatory reflex mediated by the vagus nerve lessens seasonal allergy reactions.  
  • Recurrent Illness Prevention: Research reveals that better vagus nerve function bolsters immune system vigor, lessening the reliance on antibiotics for recurrent infections.  

5 Vagus Nerve Exercises for Kids 

Families ask what daily habits help get the vagus nerve back online. Targeted stimulation through select movements, breathing patterns, vocalizations (like singing), and regular exposures measurably activates parasympathetic “rest and digest” pathways. 

While children love trying fun, hands-on activities for prolonged exhales, these also prompt the body’s natural healing capacities. 

Here are five safe ways to stimulate the vagus nerve at home with your kids: 

1. Focused Exhalations

Focused exhalations that elongate and put force behind the outbreath strongly activate the vagus nerve by stimulating muscles in the throat, diaphragm, and abdomen. Have your child practice controlled, resistance-based exhales by blowing bubbles with a wand, playing a harmonica-style toy, spinning pinwheels held in front of pursed lips, or inflating small party favor whistles. These fun gadgets create backpressure, necessitating tightly pursed lips and a slow, steady stream of air to produce bubbles, musical notes, wheel spins, and whistle sounds. 

Expertly prolonging exhalation in these manners sends the wandersome vagus nerve signals, indicating a prolonged relaxed state that allows the parasympathetic nervous system to prevail.

2. Chanting

Chanting “om,” “ohm,” or “aum” and humming melodies can also stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps with relaxation. Laughing heartily or yawning fully can also help massage vagus signals. 

Practicing these techniques several times daily can help with speech development and relaxation. Using vocalizations that create vibrations in the neck and facial muscles can help promote balance in the body. Making chanting sessions fun by using different voices and gradually lowering pitch and volume can be enjoyable for children.

3. Cold Therapy

Exposing kids to cold water can activate the vagus nerve and trigger a biological response that slows heart rate and relaxes blood vessels. This can help promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Just brief exposure to cold water followed by a few deep breaths can help kids regulate their nervous systems more effectively.

4. Singing

Singing strongly activates the muscle fibers surrounding vagus nerve pathways in the neck and face. Have your child practice singing along to their favorite upbeat songs. Any form of vocalizing uses facial and throat muscles innervated by the vagus nerve, but pairing singing with faster rhythmic breathing also expands lung capacity.  

Try having kids belt out short phrases, then take a big breath, making silly sounds on the inhale too. Harmonizing melodies exaggerate controlled breathing, while singing mobilizes muscles attached to vagus fibers.

5. Gratitude Moments

Encourage your child to share three things they are grateful for before bedtime, using emotional words to describe how it made them feel. This can help them relax and improve their mood. Over time, this practice can lead to better sleep and stronger family bonds. Additionally, addressing underlying issues and incorporating specific care strategies can maximize the benefits of these exercises.

Chiropractic Care and Vagus Nerve Stimulators   

While home vagus nerve exercises engage the vagus, restoring optimal neural signaling requires addressing root issues, like subluxations, that interfere with the delicate neural pathways. Our advanced scans, called INSiGHT Scans, locate these zones precisely for correction. From there, neurological adjustments tailored to the child’s needs release compressed pathways and relax chronically tensed muscles around the tract. 

Impaired vagus nerve function underlies so many health struggles. If your child is struggling with any health challenges, use our PX Docs Directory to find a qualified pediatric chiropractor near you today. When coupled with a neurologically-focused care plan, Vagus nerve exercises can be instrumental in restoring your child’s nervous system and quality of life.

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