Harvard Health Ad Watch: Can a wearable device reduce stress?

Photo of sticky note on wall that says 'reduce stress'

Relating to your well being and high quality of life, stress issues. Being unable to dial down stress ranges can have an effect on sleep, temper, and urge for food. And the long-term results of persistent stress have been linked to heart problems, weight problems, and Alzheimer’s illness, amongst different well being points.

In fact, defining stress is hard. Conditions which might be hectic for some are exhilarating or barely ruffle feathers for others: as one instance, public talking could also be energizing for one particular person and trigger paralyzing nervousness in one other.

In recent times, wearable merchandise have promised a bunch of well being advantages, together with stress administration. One product caught my eye, partially due to the way it’s promoted:

A wearable hug, in your not-so-nervous system… silent, soothing vibrations converse to your nervous system, telling you that you simply’re protected and in management.

Sounds nice, proper? Okay, I’m undecided what a ‘wearable hug’ is or if that’s one thing I might need. However the concept that an individual can strap a band onto their wrist or ankle and reverse the results of stress on their lives is intriguing. I wanted to study extra.

The product

When you strap Apollo Neuro onto your wrist or ankle, this watch-like gadget supplies vibrations to the pores and skin. The depth and frequency of the vibrations fluctuate, relying on the mode chosen by the person. These modes embrace “vitality and get up,” “social and open,” “clear and centered,” and 4 others. You don’t put on this machine on a regular basis. The directions recommend intervals of quarter-hour (for meditation and mindfulness) to 2 hours (for sleep and renew).

The claims

Ah, the place to start? The record of the way the Apollo Neuro is meant to enhance your life is lengthy and diverse. Right here’s a pattern of the claims made by its makers:

  • “…delivers a novel contact remedy, felt as light waves of vibration [that] restore steadiness to the physique.”
  • “…retrains your nervous system to handle stress extra successfully by yourself. Over time you’ll sleep higher, enhance your focus, and really feel extra balanced.”
  • “…your physique learns to get well from stress extra shortly, so you’ll be able to chill out, sleep higher, and discover deep, significant focus — anytime and wherever.”

Need extra? Apollo Neuro additionally claims to strengthen and rebalance your autonomic nervous system and enhance coronary heart price variability. The corporate says this builds your resilience to hectic conditions “so that you spend much less time in fight-or-flight mode and get extra time to relaxation and digest.” Phrases like renew, rebalance, and rebuild are peppered all through the pitch.

The rationale

Why would vibrations utilized to your pores and skin assist you to handle stress? The reason given is convoluted and, in my view, unconvincing. Sure frequencies of vibration are imagined to damp down the energizing fight-or-flight response to emphasize mounted by the sympathetic nervous system and activate “relaxation and digest” directions issued by the parasympathetic nervous system. Coronary heart price variability (HRV) — the conventional slowing down and dashing up of the guts — provides a solution to not directly highlight which a part of the nervous system is energetic. HRV tends to be decrease amongst individuals who have an nervousness dysfunction or bother sleeping, and people who really feel confused. It tends to be greater in people who find themselves calm and centered. It’s price noting, although, that drugs and coronary heart rhythm problems also can have an effect on HRV.

Okay, are you continue to with me? The vibrations delivered by Apollo Neuro are meant to counter the results of persistent stress by activating the calming parasympathetic nervous system. And primarily based on HRV knowledge collected by Apollo Neuro, their machine helps hold the nervous system in a more healthy state and, in consequence, reduces the dangerous results of persistent stress. As I stated, the reason is convoluted.

The proof

To its credit score, the web site for Apollo Neuro supplies greater than 50 revealed articles on persistent stress, coronary heart price variability, the affect of vibration on the human physique, and different subjects. Notably, nevertheless, none of those research is concerning the Apollo Neuro. In truth, it seems that no rigorous, large-scale research of this machine have been revealed.

Three small research described on the web site describe optimistic results for practically each research topic inside minutes of carrying the Apollo Neuro:

  • In a research of 38 wholesome topics (age not offered), these utilizing the vibration therapy reported feeling calmer, had improved accuracy on cognitive duties, and elevated coronary heart price variability.
  • In a pediatric trial, 15 kids, ages 7 to 17, with psychological well being and impulse management issues, autism, and ADHD used the machine. Primarily based solely on observations from clinicians, dad and mom, and the sufferers, enhancements had been famous in “temper, conduct, engagement, and stress discount inside minutes in all contributors.”
  • For 11 nurses utilizing the Apollo Neuro, common stress scores fell by greater than 40% inside two weeks, and sleep, vitality, temper, focus, and stress improved.

Different preliminary research reportedly present that customers achieved deeper states of meditation, enhancements in PTSD signs, and decreased use of narcotics and sleeping capsules.

If the Apollo Neuro was a drug reasonably than a tool, not one of the proof introduced can be enough for FDA approval. These research don’t seem to have been carried out by impartial researchers, little element is offered on research topics or strategies, and findings are usually not revealed in peer-reviewed medical journals.

The underside line

Some ways to cut back stress in your life don’t require shopping for a high-tech machine. And whereas it might be nice if such a gadget might safely scale back signs and problems of persistent stress, with out strong proof it’s not possible to know whether or not any of the claims made by the makers of Apollo Neuro are true. In my opinion, this gadget is like many different healthcare merchandise out there for buy: the advertising and marketing has gotten means forward of the science.

Observe me on Twitter @RobShmerling

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