Book Talk: Bedtime Stories for Adults by Kirsten Wallace

Bedtime Stories for Adults by Kirsten Wallace brings awareness and understanding of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, hypnosis, and, vagus nerve stimulation. And with this, the aim is to overcome insomnia, stress, anxiety, depression and to relax and achieve a deeper sleep. 

When you suffer from insomnia, you frequently find that many other areas of your life also suffer greatly. You can feel like you struggle to concentrate on those around you.

You feel like you lack good, healthy energy. You feel like you cannot keep up with conversations, or you feel like you are too emotionally unstable or snappy to deal with people effectively.

These are all problems, but they become especially noticeable when they start to impact more than just yourself.

By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve, you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you.

— Dr. Arielle Schwartz, Clinical Psychologist
Vagus nerve and treatment of depression and anxiety

Stimulating the vagus nerve can play a key role in the management of mental health over long periods of time.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is a key part of your parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system. It influences your breathing, digestive function and heart rate, all of which have a huge impact on your mental health. According to Wallace, the vagus nerve functions as the body’s superhighway, taking information between the brain and the internal organs and controlling the body’s reaction in times of relaxation and rest.

The huge nerve originates from the brain and branches from numerous directions to the throat and chest. It’s accountable for activities like carrying sensory data from the epidermis of the ear, so controlling the muscles you use to eat and talk and affecting your immune system.

What you really need to pay attention to is the ‘tone’ on your vagus nerve. Vagal tone is an internal biological process that represents the activity of the vagus nerve. Increasing your vagal tone activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Having a higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress. Increasing your vagal tone, helps to improve physical and mental health.

The vagal response reduces stress.
It reduces our heart rate and blood pressure.
It changes the function of certain parts of the brain, stimulates digestions,
all those things that happen when we are relaxed.

— Dr. Mladen Golubie, MD, Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic

Vagus nerve stimulation, where the heart is stimulated with pulses of power, is occasionally employed for patients with otherwise untreatable depression. The Vagus nerve delivers parasympathetic motor fibres to each of the organs (except the adrenal glands).

Steps to stimulate the vagus nerve naturally to improve vagal tone and holistic well-being

Cold exposure

Acute cold exposure has been show to activate the vagus nerve and activate cholinergic neurons through vagus nerve pathways. Sticking your face, hand or foot in ice cold water, go for walk in cold weather with minimal clothing, or take a cold shower are ways to ease your way into longer cold exposure treatments. While it stimulates the vagus nerve, it also supports the endocannabinoid system (without smoking marijuana). They are produced naturally within the body and impact a number of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin.

Deep and slow breathing

Rather than taking 10 to 14 shallow breaths each minute, try shifting to about 6 breaths over the course of a minute to relieve stress.

Breathe deep from the diaphram or the solar plexus chakra (upper gut vs lower gut and without raising shoulders). Your exhale should be long and slow.

Singing, humming, chanting and gargling

The vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat. Try gargling before swallowing.

Use the chakra mantra (the seed syllable of each chakra) in a tone that is natural and comfortable for your own voice. Let the sound roll out during your breathe. During the story telling shared in Bedtime Stories for Adults, try to include the breathing exercises (above) and the humming mantras or chants:

  1. Lam” — root chakra — Element: earth; Energy: safe, grounded; Action: I am.
  2. Vam” — sacral chakra — Element: water; Energy: in the flow. Action: I feel.
  3. Ram” — solar plexus chakra — Element: fire. Energy: self-mastery. Action: I do.
  4. Yam” — heart chakra — Element: air. Energy: love. Action: I love.
  5. Ham” — throat chakra — Element: ether. Energy: creativity, expression, purification. Action: I speak.
  6. Aum” — third-eye chakra — Element: transcendent. Energy: mind. Action: I see.
  7. Just listen — crown chakra — element: nothing, everything, and all that between and beyond that. Action: I know.
Yoga, GABA (neurotransmitter) levels, Gut Health, Insomnia, and Vagal Nerve Tone

As different as each of these sound, they are very much interconnected with mental health and holistic well-being. Studies have found that intervention with each of this areas is related to improvements in mood, anxiety and sleep. Even one session of yoga each week can help to maintain elevated levels of GABA and mitigate insomnia and depressive symptoms.

Insomnia relief from vagus nerve stimulation
  • What are these warning signals that you already are beginning to see in your sleep pattern?
  • Has the sudden and untraceable headache started kicking in?
  • Have you started losing focus and concentration?

Perhaps you see yourself in a discussion or among a group of people and you suddenly just seem to have drifted far away in your mind. This is where you get stuck, till night, and you just can’t find any sleep because you can’t find your way out.

The stories that calm the mind …

This book is composed of stories that will help you calm your mind, give you positive thoughts, and find inner peace. These bedtime stories found in this book will help you relieve your stress levels, secure a good night’s sleep, and also help you feel energized and ready when you wake up in the morning.

Guided Meditation to Help You Relax

Each chapter or story differs in the level of fantasy, wonder and meditative guidance. The book, though, reminds me of why I like audio books. I want to close my eyes and have someone read the story to me.

… Notice the comfortable, warm temperature of your body. Notice the shape of the leaves on the tree; a warm breeze blows, and one of the leaves drifts lazily down to the ground. There’s no one else around; this is your place–only yours. Notice the rise and fall of your abdomen as the breath keeps moving, easily, in and out. Your body is relaxed, and you are supported. The tree provides all the shelter you need ..

These are relaxing lullabies to reduce stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
It is a form of natural healing to motivate a good night’s rest and to help you fall asleep quickly.

Your mind is your temple, writes Wallace. Treat it with hope, inspiration, and wonder. Magic is not gone from your world or life. You’re full of it and life is of it. It’s all there for the taking. And so is a peaceful nights rest and a sound mind.

Enjoy, relax and have a nice rest!

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