I’ve tried and tested, well, just about everything in the name of stress relief and improved sleep. As someone who deals with both anxiety and insomnia, hearing about a small device that could quickly calm my nerves and bring me back down to a state of chill immediately piqued my interest. Enter: the Apollo Neuro, a newer gadget on the market that aims to improve your body’s resilience to stress, and in turn, help you recover faster, sleep better, and improve your overall health.
So…how does it work…and is it even legit? Ahead, all of the details on the Apollo to help determine if it’s worth the investment for you.
The little gadget gently vibrates on your skin when you activate it with the side button. (It doesn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable whatsoever—and you can turn the intensity up or down.) The purpose, at its simplest, is to help your body be able to more consistently and efficiently enter a state of calm via vibration and touch therapy. (More on that soon!)
Design-wise, the Apollo resembles a fitness tracker but with no screen. (I’d compare it to the size of a Garmin or Apple Watch Ultra, which have slightly larger faces than other smartwatches.) While it’s not the chicest bracelet out there, the look of it didn’t bother me. (Apollo provided me with the pink and white color combo.) I primarily wore mine while working from home or in bed and barely noticed it on. It was even more out of sight, out of mind when I wore it on the inside of my ankle instead of the wrist (either spot works, per the instructions). It’s also lighter than other wearables.
You control the device via an app. In it, you can select a “mode”—such as Energy and Wake Up, Relax and Unwind, or Rebuild and Recover—which will turn on a pre-programmed session that doles out periodic vibrations for an allotted time. The vibration patterns are meant to signal to your nervous system to relax.
The Apollo retails for $399.
It’s ultimately up to you when and how often you use it, but the website and app stress that consistency is key. I put mine on in the morning and wore it into the afternoon, took a break early evening, then put it back on post-shower and before bed as I would unwind and get ready to sleep. I typically needed to charge every couple of days, which wasn’t burdensome.
Depending on the time of day, I would select the mode that I needed in the moment (if I was suddenly overwhelmed with work, for example, I would choose the 60-minute Clear and Focused session and let it vibrate while I worked at my computer). I also programmed a schedule in the app so that certain modes would automatically start at specific times of day (think: Meditation and Mindfulness at 9:30 p.m.).
For the most part, though, I tried to use the Apollo away from my computer and phone (save for using my phone to get to the app). I would sit on the couch or even lay on the floor and close my eyes and take deep breaths in sync with the vibrations. By doing so, the wearable acted as a physical reminder and guide for mindfulness.
I *never* took purposeful pauses in this manner throughout hectic days before using the Apollo. Doing so made me feel happier, more in control, and more motivated to keep up the healthy habit. There was something so rewarding about being intentional about taking 15 minutes here and there to recharge—and, for those reasons, I loved using the Apollo (and still am!).
That being said, I am the first to admit some of the positive vibes I felt more regularly could totally be due to a placebo effect. I also wear two other fitness and sleep trackers daily and checked my data (heart rate, sleep scores, HRV) daily to see if I noticed and significant changes over the month-long testing period and did not spot any meaningful new patterns.
The big-picture concept behind the Apollo has merit to it. Touch and vibration therapy have been shown to be effective in reducing stress, promoting relaxation, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, and causing a decrease in cortisol levels, says David Nazarian, MD, a board-certified clinician with MyConciergeMD and Sleep Study Clinic, Los Angeles.
Humans are social, physical creatures, Dr. Nazarian notes. “Touch is an essential part of human desire, and studies have found that human touch calms our nervous center, slows down our heartbeat and, in turn, can lower stress.” Now, get ready for the but.
Hugging and other forms of touching are believed to cause the brain to release oxytocin (often referred to as the cuddle or love hormone). But it remains unclear whether a special device can offer equivalent benefits, Dr. Nazarian says. “Throughout the years, developers have tried to make devices that produce vibration and touch in the hope of recreating those results,” he says, adding that it remains unclear if any of them are as valuable as (or better than) a good old-fashioned hug or act of touch.
On the Apollo website, the company cites research on the device’s efficacy, but the small sample sizes are small, and the results are pretty insignificant. For instance, one of their studies looked at 582 participants’ sleep tracker data while using the Apollo for an extended period and showed an average 19 percent increase in deep sleep, 14 percent average increase in REM sleep, 6 percent average increase in total sleep time, 4 percent average decrease in resting heart rate, 11 percent average decrease in hear rate variability. While that’s not nothing, it by no means suggests the wearable is meant to be a panacea. More research is needed to prove the physiological perks.
It’s possible that touch therapy, be it via the Apollo or something else, releases endorphins and, in turn, help decrease pain and boost your mood. But Dr. Nazarian suggests taking any lofty claims attached to this particular wearable (or any for that matter!) with a grain of salt. “When my patients come to me stressed, I always advise them to practice deep breathing exercises throughout the day, meditate, and exercise—all of which have shown to be beneficial in stress management and overall health,” Dr. Nazarian says. All things that can be done free of charge, BTW!
Something else to consider is whether you want to use a stress-relief wearable that does involve tech and smartphone usage. One might argue that it’s better to disconnect from tech altogether in those meditative moments. For me, the phone usage seemed pretty minimal, and the enjoyment I got from my Apollo outweighed the negative in that regard.
Instead, I took the device for exactly what it is: a wearable reminder to step away from the computer, close my eyes, and take some deep breaths. Whether my body experienced change on a physiological level, I can’t be certain. But, placebo or not, I have come to love using on the bracelet to serve me gentle nudges (literally) to disconnect and be mindful for a moment—and it’s no doubt helped me become intentional in my self-care and helped me create a real nighttime routine.
Bottom line: The Apollo Neuro helped me get consistent with a mindfulness routine (finally!), and I am still using mine. While it is safe to try and may function as a reminder to take time for self-care, more science is needed to back up the claims.
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