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Transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation improves the quality of sleep

Sleep disorders are on the rise. A group of researchers, including Marta Jackowska, Ph.D. / Assistant Professor from SWPS University’s Institute of Psychology carried out a short-term study to find out whether stimulation of transcutaneous vagal nerve can improve the quality of sleep. The results are promising.

#transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation #tVNS #sleep #sleep disorders #sleep quality

What we researched:

  • The study tested if a 2-week course of daily transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) improves sleep in community-dwelling adults.

How we did it:

  • A group of 68 men and women, aged 18-75 were randomized into four groups: early and sham tVNS and late and sham tVNS. Early groups underwent daily 4 h stimulation between Day 0 and 13, while late groups underwent daily 4 h stimulation between Day 14 and 28. tVNS was performed with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) on the left tragus, and sham tVNS (control conditions) was applied on the left earlobe. Sleep was measured with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.
  • Analysis revealed that revealed that for tVNS there were significant improvements in global sleep scores over time between Day 0 and Day 13 in the early stimulation phase and between Day 14 and Day 28 in the late phase. No such differences were found under sham tVNS (applied early or late). However, global sleep scores showed no significant improvement under tVNS when compared against control groups during both the early or late stimulation phase.

Why is it important:

  • The researchers showed that two weeks of tVNS improves global sleep scores, but the change in sleep was not significantly different to control groups. Further studies are warranted to test the utility of tVNS in alleviating sleep complains in community-dwelling adults.