Behind Closed Doors: The Vagus Nerve and Sex

May 20, 2017 | Posted in Editorial Features by colette-callaway

One of my favorite terms is biohacking. Once you become hungry for information about your body - particularly the kind that alters your mental state, as your body is wont to do, you start to discover amazing things. These amazing things often seem like hidden secrets; simple ways to adjust your health that will give all your neurotransmitters a boost, restore your libido, create infinitely higher orgasmic potential, generate mind-bending energy, and give you clear skin and a killer body.  

And no - this isn't where I try to tell you some kind of strange magic bullet of a vitamin, I promise. An exponentially increasing number of scientific studies have proven that there is far more of a link between our brains and our bodies than we'd previously thought. Most of us in the Western world long ago renounced mystical concepts like chakras and energy healing and the physical power of compassion... but oddly enough, the most groundbreaking research has proven that a lot of these seemingly "woo" concepts aren't really that far off. 

Enter: the vagus nerve. What is the vagus nerve, you ask? It's a long, meandering nerve that runs all the way from your brain through your soft palate, your throat, your heart, your stomach, and your pelvic region - specifically the cervix and uterus in women. It completely bypasses the spine, making it a unique nerve system for those who sustain spinal injuries, and it processes positive thoughts and emotions. Your vagus nerve can have something called vagal tone - meaning that the nerve is always active and engaged to some degree. The more vagal tone someone has, the fewer anxiety disorders, migraines, depressions, IBS, acid reflux, fatigue, and brain fog issues they will have, and the more life-changing orgasms they're capable of. 

Especially for women, that makes a lot of sense. When the vagus nerve is all systems go, a lady is much more likely to experience orgasmic sensation from vaginal or cervical penetration. But those with good vagal tone also experience much more closeness with others, higher fertility rates, healthy testosterone levels, better heart health, better mental health, and better sleep. All of which makes me say: Sign. Me. Up. 

But before we get to how we can all improve our vagal tone (a process that is delightfully simple), let's go over nerve pathways and the orgasms they correspond to, just so we're all clear on why this matters for our sex lives:

Orgasms stem from four separate nerves:

The Pudendal Nerve: This nerve transmits from the clitoris for women, or the penis (and scrotum for men). 

The Pelvic Nerve: This nerve transmits from the vagina/lower cervical area as well as the rectum for both men and women.

The Hypogastric Nerve: One of the two nerves that transmits from the uterus and cervix for women and the prostate for men. 

The Vagus Nerve: This nerve is responsible for those mindbending cervical and deep vaginal orgasms. Interesting, the vagus nerve is also the reason many men like it when their belly buttons or abdomens are stimulated. 

Low vagal tone is sometimes genetic - though that doesn't mean you can't raise it to normal levels when you take the right steps - but it's also caused by high amounts of stress, nutrient deficiency, too little essential fatty acids in your diet, poor breathing habits, and little to no exercise. The methods for strengthening it are pretty easy and positively impactful to your health in a variety of other ways

Deep, slow breathing

This includes everything associated with, particularly yoga - as it stimulates the rest of your parasympathetic nervous system as well, and meditation. 

Deep, guttural noises

Chanting, singing, or moaning all count here. 


Think cold showers, cold face washes, and drinking cold water. 


Almost all kinds count, if you do them regularly! 

Massage and acupuncture

One of my personal favorites. 

Intermittent fasting 

This is because you're more stress responsive after you eat. Have you ever noticed anxiety can get worse after a meal if it spikes your blood sugar? 

Speaking of, avoiding blood sugar spikes

While some insulin is necessary for stimulating the vagus nerve, blood sugar spikes do the opposite. 


Many people have serotonin disorders or simply don't take the proper steps for making enough of this miracle neurotransmitter. Sunlight, exercise, omega 3s, and B vitamins are among the everyday steps you can take to up your serotonin - or, you can see your doctor for more serious meds if you have a disorder. (I do!) 

Sleeping on your right side

This one was a bummer. I sleep on my left. 


Fish oil and zinc are among the two most important for proper vagus nerve activity. Your gut is responsible for a great deal of your health (as well as your neurotransmitter production), making probiotics and maintaining a good microbiome crucial. 

Social connection and laughter

Remember, your vagus nerve is responsible for processing your positive emotions. The more you have fun and connect to the people around you, the better vagal tone you'll have.

And... stimulating your gag reflex 

Interestingly enough, recent research suggests that vagal tone is also responsible for ASMR, which isn't just a reaction to noises after all - it's just as much about perceived intimacy and connection.

And lest you think this is all hype, I have recent anecdotal evidence to back it up. A lifelong battle with anxiety means a lot of the aforementioned supplements and activities have recently made their way into my lifestyle. (I see an integrative doctor, who is brilliant at fusing the power of modern medicine and more holistic practices.) Up until recently, I didn't really feel much of anything besides fullness during penetrating - clitoral play was always where it was at for me, and I just assumed it was my anatomy or the pervasively unrealistic portrayal of female pleasure on TV to blame.

Lo and behold, once I started doing all of the above (and I do mean all of it, down to the serotonin-raising drugs), I started feeling things during sex I'd never felt before. It was amazing! After seeking out why this was so, I found two answers: 1) Less anxiety, duh and 2) Stronger vagal tone. I'm not saying that I have become a PIV Orgasm Machine yet, but I'm feeling optimistic that it's not as much as a "you have it or you don't" thing as we've been led to believe. It's also contributed to my overall health, which makes my libido and sexual response better in additional ways that have been wonderful. 

However - all this aside, I'm not a doctor, and some people have problematically overactive vagus nerves that cause their heart rates to drop or make them pass out or puke. Overstimulating it is not a good idea - but the good news is that most of the items on the vagal strengthening list are healthy activities that tons of people partake in every day. 

I'm just saying - when it comes to having great sex, I like to have all my neural pathways functioning at their peaks. 

Tagged in: behind closed doors , cervical orgasms , vaginal orgasms , vagus nerve ,