Sensate Review: Does it Really Improve Sleep, Stress, and HRV?






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Have you ever slept? 

NO?! Well damn, that sucks. And that is awful for you. And quite frankly, downright shocking. You know you’re supposed to sleep at least 8 hours a night, right? How have you gone your entire life without SLEEPING?

It sounds like you might be stressed; think that could be it? Yeah, you know that tightness you feel in your chest (apparently ALL the time)?

Or maybe you get that thing where at 2am, you lie down and think about all the embarrassing things you’ve done in your entire life? Yeah, we call that anxiety. 

Well I’ve got some good news for you. Nowadays, there are some pretty promising tech products being developed that aim to help people sleep better and feel less stressed. I’ve been using one for a while now, Cove, and it’s been pretty freakin’ great. You can read my Cove review here, but while I have you… why don’t we talk about an even newer one: the Sensate pebble.

The Sensate is a little wearable device that looks kinda like a – yeah, you guessed it – pebble. It uses this technique called sonic resonance therapy to help reduce stress and lower your heart rate. It’s been used since ancient times, but unless you’re particularly interested in getting into Bulgarian throat singing or chanting with Mongolian monks, it may be easier to just check out the Sensate.

While it’s no miracle solution, scientific studies have shown promising results that point to the Sensate’s efficacy. We’ll get into all that and more. 

Table of Contents

What is the Sensate pebble?

a photo of the sensate pebble

At first glance, the Sensate looks like a rounded pebble with the profile of an Easter egg. However, what you might not expect is that it can reduce stress and anxiety by emitting sound vibrations throughout the body. 

The makers claim that it is the world’s first wearable device capable of decelerating stress in real-time.

To use the Sensate, all you need to do is lie down and place the device on your chest. The vibrations go through the body, creating a relaxed feeling. The Sensate team suggests you combine this with a soundtrack that is provided on the app and wear an eye mask. Taken together, these three elements can offer a truly immersive experience.

The hardware connects easily to a user-friendly app. This software controls the length of the session and provides the soundscapes that you use for your sonic journey. Users have now completed over 16 million Sensate Minutes and report consistent and exceptional benefits.

How do sonic resonance therapy and the Sensate work?

The Sensate is a super user-friendly product, which is good because it’s supposed to reduce stress – not add to it.

To feel the benefits, users need to rest the Sensate against their breastplate and put on a set of headphones. From here, two things happen.

First, the device uses infrasound resonance (low frequency waves) to send vibrations throughout the body via the breastplate. This bone conduction conveys resonance deep into the tissues and cells of the body, creating thoracic amplification and spreading throughout the body.

Second, the device plays calming soundscapes. These soundscapes use a mix of alpha waves and other frequencies to help relax the brain. Alpha waves have been linked to meditative states, stress reduction, and relief from anxiety and are used by a lot of people to relax.

The two inputs (bone conduction and music) build a sensory experience that Sensate claims can reduce your heart rate and stress, calm your nerves, and help you sleep. Additionally, they say their product will help you build resilience against stress.

Sensate sessions can take place for as few as 10, 20, or 30 mins. The length of each session is based on how you tell the app you are feeling.

a woman using the sensate pebble on her chest as she scrolls through the sensate app

The studies: is the science behind Sensate legit?

The Sensate founder, Stefan Chemik, has about 30 years of clinical experience in London’s prestigious Harley Street Clinic. He invented his patented infrasound resonance technology to help people by targeting the nervous system and, in particular, the vagus nerve.

This cranial nerve —  referred to by Sensate as the “gut-brain superhighway” — is how the major organs communicate with each other.

Sensate states that the vagus nerve is responsible for our nervous system response, alongside playing a key role in digestion, breathing, and heart rate. Essentially, this nerve is responsible for the fight-or-flight nervous system and our “rest and digest” state. 

The idea here is that we want to train our bodies to spend more time in the “rest and digest” stage because it helps our bodies heal. Too much time in fight or flight mode is detrimental to our health.

Sensate says that they can tone the vagus nerve with three natural mechanisms.

  1. Infrasonic resonance: The Sensate uses bone conduction (via the breastbone) to signal the vagus nerve to relax
  2. Soundscapes: The app provides soundscapes that use frequencies that lead to the relaxation of the mind
  3. Comforting hum: The Sensate provides a soothing hum that they claim taps into “ancient instincts of safety and relaxation.”

Let’s explore each of the Sensate claims.

an infographic showing the benefits of using the sensate pebble
The health benefits of using the Sensate pebble, per Sensate.

The link between relaxation and infrasound resonance technology

Good research shows that using soundscapes can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). PNS activation can lower our heart rate and slow down our breathing. This study used skin conductance levels (SCL) as a measure to show when the parasympathetic nervous system was activated, while heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) were used to measure sympathetic activation. The study found that while heart rate and heart rate variability showed no significant changes when exposed to auditory journeys, skin conductance levels changed at a highly significant rate.

Depression and infrasound resonance technology

A low HRV has been linked with depression and poor stress management. Clinical depression has been shown to increase the chance of mortality in patients that have recently experienced a myocardial infarction. Reduced heart rate variability (HRV) has been suggested as an explanation for this correlation between the two. This study set out to determine if depression is associated with reduced HRV in patients with a recent MI. 424 MI patients without MI were recruited and went through 24-hour electrocardiographic monitoring, where it was determined that HRV levels were significantly lower in patients with depression than those without depression. 

Better stress management

Low HRV has been linked to increased cumulative stress — from both chronic and life events. 157 people participated in a Cumulative Stress/Adversity Interview which consisted of a 140-item questionnaire measuring their cumulative adversity from major life events, life trauma, recent life events, and chronic stressors. The participants underwent 24-hour ambulatory ECG monitoring. The study found that total cumulative stress and chronic stress were associated with decreased cardiac autonomic function.

Improved blood pressure

Dysautonomia, which is a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), is linked to several health conditions, including high blood pressure. Stimulating the vagus nerve is shown to promote cardiac relaxation, resulting in lower blood pressure.

Improved HRV (heart rate variability)

Whoop and Oura Ring users rejoice! 

Research suggests that music therapy can help people improve heart rate variability (HRV). 

This single-person study followed a healthy person through 10 music therapy sessions that either started with resonance frequency breathing or a control breathing technique. This study found that the music therapy sessions that began with RFB were sessions where more negative emotions were expressed, improving the test subject’s HRV.

Another study from 2015 showed the link between vagus nerve stimulation and increased HRV.

I’m also personally using the Sensate everyday to see if there’s an observable improvement on my HRV and Recovery score. And while I don’t have quite enough data yet, I did stumble across this post on Reddit the other day that shares promising results:

oura and whoop data showing the effects of the sensate on HRV
Daily use of the Sensate for one month improved HRV by 5 points for this subject (credit u/swordstool)

As you can see, there is good backing for the connection between all these conditions and the vagus nerve stimulation. 

The Sensate claims to tone the vagus nerve and, by extension, improve HRV, reduce stress, and help users feel immediately relaxed when using the device.

The science is legit — but does the Sensate allow users to unlock these benefits?

What’s it like using Sensate?

Using Sensate is a breeze. 

To set up the device, you turn it on and link it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The device with both Android and Apple devices.

Once you’ve established the connection, you can navigate around the app. The interface is uncluttered and very intuitive. 

sensate app and sensate device

The app comes preloaded with music. To get your relaxation session started, all you need to do is:

  • select a track 
  • tell the app how you feel so it can choose an appropriate vibration intensity
  • press Go, and then put on the eye mask.

The idea here is that by reducing your visual stimulus, playing music, and sending vibrations through your body, you will tune out external stressors and start thinking about being rather than doing.

Who is Sensate a good fit for?

Sensate is an excellent fit for anyone who has a lot of stress and anxiety in their lives. But there is a subset of people inside this group who may benefit the most from Sensate: people who would like to meditate but suck at it. Or, as I like to call them, people like me.

Meditation is great. It has a whole load of benefits for the mind and the spirit. We all know people who meditate, and quite often, we are envious of their calm, Zen-like state. 

But the problem is that meditation is hard, especially for people who are already swimming in anxiety. It’s not easy to sit still and relax when you’re feeling stressed and your mind is racing. 

Meditation takes a lot of practice and discipline. While Sensate won’t instantly turn you into the reincarnation of Buddha, it can help you on your way to calm your mind. 

While the Sensate is beneficial for those who need some help meditating, the device could also be a help to others. Biohackers, people who use technology or other scientific approaches to improve their body functions, can benefit from a device that tones the vagus nerve. Additionally, some athletes could benefit from stress reduction, particularly the HRV benefits.

Sensate vs Cove vs Apollo Neuro

Of course, the Sensate isn’t the only option on the market. There are a few other similar devices that promise to help with stress relief and management. Two of the best known are Cove and Apollo Neuro.

While these devices offer similar benefits, there are some notable differences. First, the Sensate comes in at a lower price. Second, the Cove is worn on the back of the neck, while the Apollo is strapped to the head. For some users, the Sensate will be the most comfortable option because it just sits on the chest.

Sensate logo 240x60 Cove logo apollo neuro logo 240x60

Feature Comparison: Sensate vs Cove vs Apollo Neuro

Sensate

Cove

Apollo Neuro

Starting Price$249$349$349
Monthy Subscription$379 for 12 months
Improves HRVN/A
Stress Reduction
Improves Sleep
Improves Focus and MemoryN/A
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Biometric Feedback
Money-back Guarantee40-days30-days60-days
Website
    

Is Sensate worth it?

an photo of unboxing the sensate pebble
Sensate unboxing shot

If you’re somebody who is affected by stress and anxiety, a product that helps address these issues could be worth exploring.

The Sensate isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s more affordable than some of its alternatives. The science checks out, and the product is well-liked by its community of users. 

Let’s explore a few of the pros and cons of the device.

PROS:

  • Sensate was designed as a consumer product, which means you don’t need a prescription to access it
  • Sensate is very safe and non-invasive, using only broad-spectrum sound without electrical or magnetic stimulation
  • The experience is very enjoyable, produces a profound state of deep relaxation and is recognized by the nervous system as the resonance of a safe signal to relax
  • Easy to use
  • Looks and feels like a robust, premium product
  • Solid battery life of around one week per full charge
  • The device is small and portable, so you can take it with you wherever you want to go
  • Unlike its competitors, the Sensate operates on your chest
  • Cheaper than the Cove and Apollo Neuro 
  • It’s an alternative for someone who has a lot of stress and anxiety but doesn’t want to take medication to treat it

CONS:

  • It uses Micro-USB charging, which feels a bit too slow these days. Maybe I’m just a spoiled tech nerd, but I feel like USB-C is the standard across high-quality products. I’d like to see Sensate improve this in the future. 
  • The app is fairly basic
  • I’d like to see a larger library of sounds
  • While it is more affordable than its competitors, $249 is still a pretty steep price

Sensate Reviews: What are other customers on Reddit and online saying?

The Sensate has been around for a while, but it’s built up a significant audience base in that time. Most customer reviews of the product are positive, but it wouldn’t be a tech product if there weren’t some negative reviews out there, too.

The negative Sensate reviews mostly talk about the process just downright not working for them. It’s tough to say whether that’s on them or the Sensate, but it’s worth noting, of course. Some other negative reviewers say it costs too much and cite some tech issues.

On the bright side, Sensate’s customer service is quick to send replacements or refunds when customers are unhappy.

Can we expect the Sensate to work for 100% of people? No, lol. But judging from the reviews, it’s effective for the majority of people. And as with cases like the one we saw on Reddit, the positive benefits can be pretty stellar.

tl;dr – Is the Sensate pebble worth trying for improving sleep, stress, and HRV?

Stress and anxiety affect a ton of people. Any product that claims to relieve stress and improve will inevitably be able to find a hungry audience.

But is the Sensate right for you?

Well, we know it does work (at least for the majority of folks). But we’d be silly to not consider other factors, like price.

At $250, the Sensate isn’t exactly cheap. Buuuut it is a well-made, effective device that should last you several years. And unlike Cove, picking up a Sensate is a one-and-done purchase.

The user experience is also super simple and pleasant with an easy setup and straightforward, barebones, app. For a device that’s used alongside meditation, I see this as a nice touch.

If you’re into biohacking, athletic training, or just want a device that may help you reduce anxiety and stress, the Sensate is a surprisingly great option – especially at the price point. It’s like a meditation device for people struggling to get into the state independently. If it works for you, it’s well worth the price.