After a surprisingly positive experience with Sensate, I was more than happy to be contacted by Apollo Neuro with a request to trial their portable version of this wearable wellness tech. Instead of simply measuring your biometrics, Sensate and Apollo use touch therapy to train your nervous system to bounce back faster: reducing feelings of anxiety, boosting heart rate variability (HRV), increasing focus, and promoting higher quality sleep.
While the Sensate is a pebble-shaped device that sits on your sternum, the Apollo is a wearable ankle-strap or wrist-band that uses timed vibrations to improve nervous system regulation in a similar way. As opposed to being competitors, both brands harness a positive synergy in their approach to scientific studies and consumer education within an emerging space.
Originating from research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, Apollo Neuro’s stress-relieving technology has been tested across thousands of users in the clinic and the real world through six complete clinical trials, with nine more currently underway. A holistic approach to managing the symptoms of stress (chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system), devices such as the Apollo may not be able to fix the root causes, but they can make navigating such a process more amenable.
Practices such as meditation and breath-work are designed to help you ‘get high on your own supply’ by activating parasympathetic processes and restoring balance to the autonomic nervous system. Devices such as these are designed to make those techniques more effective, engaging, measurable and customisable.
Whereas the Sensate delivers a strong, centralised dose straight to the vagus nerve, the Apollo compliments an active daily routine spent on the go, delivering softer but more frequent doses to peripheral pulse points. Dr Rabin is the face and founder of the brand, ‘leading the evolution of medicine, mental health and consciousness’.
Having studied resilience and the impact of chronic stress on our lives for over 15 years, Dr. Dave Rabin and his team collaborate with clients at the Apollo Clinic, empowering them to take control of their mental and physical health, by tapping into our abilities to adapt and to heal ourselves.
In addition to focusing on integration therapy, plant and natural medicines, couples therapy, and medicine-assisted psychotherapy, Dr. Rabin specialises in treatment-resistant mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosomatic disorders, personality disorders, chronic pain disorders, insomnia, and substance-use disorders, using minimal and non-invasive treatment strategies.
What are the benefits of the Apollo compared to practices such as meditation and mindfulness?
Working with patients over the years, I’ve found that deep breathing and meditation are very effective techniques for managing stress and improving overall wellbeing – when practiced consistently. It is also commonly known that these techniques are even more difficult to do when we’re already stressed out.
Apollo is a wearable presentness tool that doesn’t replace meditation and mindfulness, it just makes these important skills more fun. Apollo makes meditation a heck of a lot easier by tuning our bodies into a state that is ready to meditate and restoring our control over our attention; it’s the same way that music works, but in a wearable.
Many of the most seasoned monks and yogis state that the practice of sitting meditation is important, but the truest form of meditation is to do it on the go, in every moment of every day. Apollo is the first wearable that allows us to effortlessly take the benefits of meditation with us wherever we are.
Many members of our community have found pairing the Apollo™ wearable with the “Meditation and Mindfulness” mode on the Apollo Neuro app to be helpful in deepening their practice. According to a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, for individuals new to meditation, consistent use of the Apollo wearable improves access to meditative states of mind. In addition, pairing your Apollo wearable with music or a guided meditation can be of benefit, particularly for those without a lot of meditation experience.
What else can be done to help us adapt to the effects of exponential rates of environmental and technological change on our autonomic nervous systems?
Our bodies are giant sensory organs and modern day society is overstimulating for us. There is way too much incoming information including news, responsibilities, leaf blowers, smartphones, and our own thoughts – to name a few.
Most of us were never taught the critical thinking techniques to navigate everyone and everything trying to nab our attention at all times. If we’re not careful, this results in us quickly feeling overwhelmed and out of control, which is actually the source of most anxiety and restlessness for people.
Techniques like intentional breathing, gratitude practice (thanking ourselves), intentional movement, listening, and touch are all incredibly effective and free ways to help us adapt to stress and whatever challenges life throws at us. That said, it is also well known that it is extremely challenging to employ these techniques while under stress, let alone when you’re struggling with an illness at the same time.
Interestingly, I noticed that touch is often overlooked in stress management, despite its incredible ability to signal safety to the body and reduce stress. Many Americans report experiencing or exhibit signs of touch hunger, which has worsened with social distancing over the last few years.
Soothing touch has a way of calming our bodies and clearing our minds almost immediately and it doesn’t require much if any effort. Understanding the evidence behind the importance of our sense of touch and our literal need for it on a regular basis to stay happy and healthy, led me to discover that certain waves of vibration can rapidly restore balance to our bodies and minds by activating our touch receptors using a wearable.
This wearable became the Apollo Neuro that launched in January 2020. The Apollo vibrations, originally discovered in our laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, have been scientifically validated in over a half-dozen clinical trials and were found to significantly improve heart rate variability (HRV), a critical measure of the effects of recovery and resilience.
Apollo is currently the first wearable that helps us access calm and meditative states more easily and that improves sleep, focus, and HRV just by putting it on. For those of us who never learned meditation or breathing when we were young like me, the Apollo is an incredible help!
Do you believe that the singularity or current technological revolution is instigating more positive progress than challenging changes overall?
The Singularity is an interesting concept. I think we are much further off from it than we think at this point. The current phase of neuroscience is really just now starting to piece together how our brains do what they do. We’ve only just begun that journey and there is a long way to go with near infinite complexities along the way.
Ultimately, there are two important things to keep in mind about what role technology can play in our lives moving forward. Either technology can work for us and make our lives much easier and better and give us back time, or we can work for it and it can take time from us and make us dependent on it. Only one of these two options is compatible with the continued survival of humanity on this planet.
Could you give us some brief insights into the clinical trial data?
Apollo’s clinical and in-field research findings can be found here.
- 6 total clinical trials complete
- 9 ongoing clinical trials
Across our research, Apollo users experienced, on average:
- 40% less stress and feelings of anxiety
- 19% more time in deep sleep
- 11% increase in HRV
- Up to 25% more focus and concentration
- 10% faster physical recovery
- 50% faster access to meditative states
What motivates you?
I am most motivated by the idea that our potential as human beings has yet to be fully discovered. We have built and discovered incredible things together over the last several thousand years. And yet, despite all of those tremendous discoveries and conveniences, many of us are still unhappy, not sleeping, or worse yet, sick.
The next phase of discovery for us as a species is to discover what lies within each of us. It all starts with asking ourselves one simple question: Is it possible that what I was taught I could do and be is not the full story? That leads into other questions like what am I actually capable of? How much can I learn? Am I actually bad at math or was I just never taught to do it the right way? How much better can I be? How much joy can I invite into my life?
Starting with asking these questions, we open up a world of possibilities for ourselves that help us see a much brighter sparklier side of life. And this incredible ability to recognise and unlock our capacity or potential we all have access to for free. Now that’s something to be grateful for!
Do you have an opinion on plant medicines such as psilocybin or cannabis, as tools for treating conditions such as PTSD?
I have always been fascinated by consciousness and our inherent ability to heal ourselves from injury and illness. Because of this, I have specifically focused my research on the clinical translation of non-invasive therapies for patients with treatment-resistant illnesses like PTSD and substance use disorders.
This includes tools like wearables, lifestyle medicine, plant medicines, and psychedelic-assisted therapies. At this time, the evidence from a number of very rigorous scientific trials strongly suggests that psychedelic-assisted therapy, including cannabis therapy, could be our first glimpse at being able to use the word “cure” in our conversation about mental illness, particularly with respect to PTSD, which we have never been able to do before.
I just presented on this subject at the G20 Global Summit 2022 in Bali, Indonesia as one of the American Delegates, which was very well-received by the developing world.
What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality is a very personal thing for all of us. My philosophy on it is sort of an amalgamation of Eastern, Western, and Tribal beliefs. I believe that we all have our own personal connection to spirituality just by nature of being born.
Accessing that spirituality requires including ourselves in that spirituality; as in, our idea of ‘spirit’ or ‘God’ cannot exclude us, it’s not just outside of us; it is only complete when it is inclusive of us. If we disrespect ourselves or treat ourselves badly, then we are disrespecting our ‘spirit’ or ‘God’.
By treating ourselves well, we show that we are grateful to ourselves and this life that we are currently in, which begins to open up our connection to our spirituality. Once we understand this fundamental principle, which is echoed in many Eastern, Tribal, and Judeo-Christian religions, we can freely unlock our connection to spirituality with our breath.
By breathing intentionally in any moment, we draw air, our most fundamentally essential and nourishing source of life, into our bodies. While we all know our bodies do the breathing for us in the background most of the time, the simple act of drawing our attention to our breath and breathing by choice nearly immediately restores our sense of control over our feelings and attention in any moment, which allows us to draw our attention to our intuition, which in a Tribal or Eastern Medicine framework, is like learning how to listen to the voice of our spirit.
Like working out in the gym, as we strengthen our listening muscles by directing them to our intuition, or inner voice, over time, we are able to build trust with ourselves. Nourishing this trusting relationship with ourselves opens up our personal connection to the divine or ‘spirit’, which improves our sense of wellbeing, connection, and overall quality of life.
My Experience With The Apollo Neuro
While popular releases such as the Oura ring serve to track your health, the Apollo wearable is proven to actively improve it – and without a monthly subscription fee. Like a workout for your nervous system, consistency is key. The more you use it, the better it works.
It’s easy to wear and seamlessly flows from use throughout the day to night. The bands and clips give you the flexibility to try the Apollo in different places and experiment with what works best for you. For me its best when worn as a band around the ankle at night, and clipped to clothing on a shirt collar, bra strap, or waistband during the day.
The vibration strength can be set to be noticeable and comfortable, but not distracting. You can also schedule your calm with the new Scheduling feature, allowing you to create a customised schedule that automatically plays throughout the day, so you can get into healthy routines more easily.
Its reassuring to see that there is data behind the device, demonstrating that the more frequently the Apollo is used, the better the biometric improvements are (particularly when consistently used to get the day started, and before bed for better sleep). The brand recommend using the Apollo wearable 3+ hours a day, 5+ days a week, during the day and night to yield the best results.
I found Dr Rabin’s research on touch particularly interesting, and while such devices are by no means a replacement for the power of human touch, trust, and personal or spiritual connection, or for changes at the root cause of chronically stressful lifestyles, they can provide a bridge towards inspiring incremental improvements – where chips create chunks.