This article will document the benefits of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, it’s functioning and its relationship with sexuality. And to begin we first need to know what these systems are and how they affect our organism.
What is the sympathetic nervous system?
The sympathetic nervous system is one of the divisions of the autonomic nervous system that is generally activated in activities that require an expenditure of energy, people who work eight hours, or even more, a day with short breaks but without enough horizontal rest, ie, the sympathetic nervous system is active almost all the time. Not even the animals in their natural habitat are active and standing as many hours as the human being, increasing to the maximum the levels of stress, other examples are punctual or prolonged physical exercises, situations of continuous stress, an accident or an unexpected surprise, etc. When the body becomes alert and ready to react to any threatening situation, the sympathetic system becomes active: increasing adrenaline and heart rate, bronchi and pupils dilate, digestion stops, sphincters contract, blood supply to muscles and brain increases and is removed from the genital area, adrenal glands and cortisol secretion are stimulated. With the continuous activation of this system, stress increases and therefore leads to an imbalance that can manifest itself in the individual through insomnia, chronic fatigue, lack of desire or sexual excitement, anxiety, high blood pressure and various physical and mental disorders. To understand the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system in relation to sexuality I will give you a simple example, at the time of sex where the nervous system is concentrated in the erection of the penis or clitoris, and suddenly something serious happened as an accident around, no doubt the erection will disappear suddenly. In other words, the sympathetic nervous system takes care of activities in which we are alert but inhibits satisfactory sexual arousal because a state of relaxation is necessary in this phase of the sexual response.
Whats is the Parasympathetic Nervous System?
The parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for storing and conserving the individual’s energy.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, the heart rate and muscles are relaxed, promotes digestion and absorption of nutrients. The vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that is in continuous communication with the viscera, is the heart of the parasympathetic nerve system, working as an anti-stress source. This system is located deeper and generally wakes up with an adequate relaxation, a more conscious breathing or with a meditation that cultivates qualities such as calmness or serenity. In order to obtain a satisfactory sexual excitement, it is essential to be in a state of relaxation ─ which is taken care of by the nervous system parasimpático─ so that blood can reach the genitals. For example, if we are tense or stressed before a sexual encounter, it is advisable to relax, breathe deeply and take the necessary time so that the parasympathetic nervous system can be activated again.
How the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System affect sexual experience?
In relation to sexual activity, both systems are necessary. One is responsible for the desire in the first phase of sexual response along with testosterone (sympathetic nervous system) and the other (parasympathetic nervous system) acts in the second phase, which is sexual arousal with the release of certain endorphins and nitric oxide which acts as a muscle relaxant by dilating the corpora cavernosa and blood vessels, and as a result, more blood enters the veins of the penis. In the case of excitement, the Pfizer industry developed the famous Viagra pill to increase sexual excitement in men. In the sexual response model of Masters and Johnson, the sympathetic nervous system is in action in the phase of sexual desire and the parasympathetic nervous system is acting in the phase of sexual arousal. It is therefore important to cultivate the balance between both systems.
How to find a balance between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System?
To find a balance between both nervous systems, first and foremost it is necessary to relax the sympathetic system, and one of the most effective ways to relax the sympathetic nervous system is by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
How to relax the sympathetic nervous system?
Simple, through exercises such as relaxation, meditation and more conscious breathing. On the contrary, to balance the parasympathetic nervous system is necessary to do exercises, stretching and appropriate physical activities that do not lead to stress such as, for example, yoga is an excellent combination that benefits both the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Above all:
- Traditional hatha yoga: is designed to balance these two nervous systems for multiple purposes: from relaxation and deep breathing and obtaining a strong and elastic body to gently awakening sexual energy in the human being. Traditional hatha yoga is a mixture between gentle stretching that activates the sympathetic nervous system and relaxing activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Tai chi which are exercises that relax the nervous system.
Neuroscience has discovered five different frequencies and some of them have positive factors for the human being, both cognitive and sexual.
For example, lowering the brain frequency to the alpha state through relaxation increases memory, learning, concentration, and imagination. In addition, this relaxation technique has the ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system with the consequence that more blood and oxygen flows to the genitals which, in turn, provides a more effective genital erection. Therefore, a daily relaxation is recommended at least ─antes or after comida─ when one feels tired or before starting a sexual relationship. In this way, sexual or intimate practices would be more productive and effective. Another fundamental point to emphasize is the sleep during the night, this rest is essential for our mind and body, especially for the nervous system in general.
Each person is unique and should sleep as many hours as the body asks.
The important thing is that the cerebral frequencies go down towards deeper states than alpha ─hacia theta or delta─ in which there would be a more complete regeneration for a healthier cognitive and physiological functioning of the human being. In addition, the quality of sleep during the night is a key area to prevent symptoms such as insomnia, depression, lack of desire or sexual arousal. Sometimes it is necessary to relearn how to sleep and rest during the night properly and therefore it would be necessary to relearn how to relax. Different studies have shown that people who do not sleep well or who wake up several times at night have a less satisfying sexuality. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published in 2002 that half of men who did not sleep well at night secrete very low levels of testosterone, which is the hormone of libido. There is no doubt that meditation is a very effective method to relieve stress and especially improve the parasympathetic nervous system, living a less stressed life with a fuller experience in the here now that favors the sexual encounter. Through the bioenergetic method, in devoting certain hours a day to regenerate the energy and vitality of the individual through certain exercises such as those mentioned above gaining greater self-esteem, a fuller sexuality and general health. Another technique that benefits the parasympathetic nervous system is deep breathing, for example, during times of anxiety or stress, heart rate and breathing increase rapidly, ie the sympathetic nervous system has come into action, prolonged deep breathing helps to convince the body that there is no immediate danger in their environment and can allow the parasympathetic nervous system to reawaken. In conclusion, the consequences of not resting adequately for the individual over the years can be symptoms of fatigue, psychosomatic illnesses, depression and also a lack of sexual desire and/or excitement.
In short, this article aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining a balance between these two systems and their benefits for a more satisfying sex life. This balance can be achieved through these practices just mentioned and with a certain continuity throughout life. It is about acquiring healthy habits that can be applied at any time, both in youth and maturity. In the beginning it would be necessary to have a professional support to apply this knowledge daily and with time, these activities will be part of a routine and a healthier life. In relation to sexuality, these practices encourage fuller and more pleasurable intimate encounters because they balance these two fundamental nervous systems for achieving full sexual desire and arousal.