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Does the Apollo wearable actually work?

Does the Apollo wearable actually work?
- Sep 27, 2022

Born from clinical research, the Apollo™ wearable is a new technology proven to improve sleep, focus, and stress resilience by balancing the nervous system through our sense of touch.

Like meditation or deep breathing, the Apollo wearable trains the body to bounce back faster and more effectively after stress. We've shown in multiple clinical trials that the Apollo wearable improves focus, sleep quality, heart rate variability (HRV), access to meditative states, and more.

But how does the Apollo wearable work? And just as importantly, why would you use a stress relief wearable when you could meditate or practice breathwork? Read on for an in-depth review of the Apollo wearable’s mechanism of action, the research behind it, and how to get the most out of the device based on your unique needs. 

A background on the Apollo wearable

The Apollo wearable is like music for the skin. Just as music shifts our state in ways that depend on its pace, rhythm, and tone, the Apollo's modes deliver vibration patterns that selectively influence the nervous system depending on your goals.

Dr. Dave Rabin, M.D., Ph.D., and Dr. Greg Siegle, Ph.D. developed the Apollo Neuro technology through their research at the Affective Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Based on studies into biofeedback, meditation, and touch, they hypothesized that gentle vibration patterns could improve  parasympathetic activity under stress. 

The large body of research into the stress-relieving properties of touch has demonstrated that specific types of touch improve mood and emotional regulation. These subjective changes correspond with improved heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart and breathing rate, and other physical markers of stress resilience [1].

The Apollo wearable’s vibrations are mathematical translations of patterns proven to increase or decrease parasympathetic or sympathetic activity. Every mode, whether it’s designed to improve focus or help you fall asleep, restores balance to the nervous system. Like breath work, meditation, or stretching, the Apollo vibrations signal safety to your body. But unlike those practices, which require effort on your part, your body automatically responds to the Apollo vibrations without you having to do anything. 

The body automatically recognizes the Apollo vibrations because they match an oscillation pattern between the heart and lungs created by deep breathing. Because the body automatically recognizes the vibrations as safety cues, the Apollo wearable trains your body to recover from stress more robustly on its own, meaning that you can't withdraw from the Apollo wearable or use it too much. 

Does the Apollo Neuro Work?

The Apollo wearable is clinically proven to improve HRV, focus, athletic recovery, access to meditative states, and more. In reviews for the Apollo, some users report noticing Apollo’s effects within minutes, but it can take up to 30 days of regular use to notice consistent shifts in the way you feel. 

We've documented its success within six clinical trials, and nine more are currently in progress. 

Across our completed trials, on average, our users had:

  • 40% less stress and feelings of anxiety
  • 11% increase in HRV
  • Up to 25% more focus and concentration
  • 10% faster recovery

Apollo Neuro and cognitive performance under stress

Study goal: In our double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over clinical trial, published in Biological Psychiatry, we studied whether the Apollo wearable could improve HRV and cognitive performance under stress.

Design and methods: 38 healthy subjects took the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT), which measures how stress influences cognitive function and information processing. One study group received the Apollo Neuro vibrations while taking the test, two groups had placebo vibrations, and one had no vibrations. We blinded both the participants and researchers: none of the participants understood the purpose of the vibrations, and the researchers didn't know which group received the Apollo Neuro vibrations. 

Results: The placebo and no-vibration groups' accuracy on the test decreased over time, and they reported feeling stressed. Their HRV either did not change or decreased. Conversely, the Apollo Neuro vibration group reported feeling calmer, completing the task more accurately and efficiently. Their HRV went up by 2-3X their average within three minutes [2]. 

Since HRV usually decreases in response to stress, improvements in participants' HRV indicated that the Apollo wearable was supporting their recovery from stress in real time. These findings suggested that the Apollo wearable can improve performance and focus under stress by supporting mental and physical recovery in the moment. 

Apollo Neuro and access to meditative states

Study goal: We launched a clinical trial at the University of Pittsburgh to investigate whether the Apollo wearable could accelerate users' access to meditative brain states. 

Design and methods: We recruited 50 healthy adults: 25 experienced meditators and 25 without meditation experience. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), we evaluated brain wave changes as participants listened to guided mindfulness meditation recordings with and without the Apollo wearable. 

Results: Without the Apollo wearable, the new meditators couldn't reach the same brain wave states as experienced meditators. But with the Apollo Neuro vibrations, new meditators had EEG signatures resembling those of the experienced meditators within 12 minutes [3]. 

Experienced meditators had brain waves consistent with meditative states after 12 minutes, with or without the Apollo wearable. However, their brainwave shifts happened more rapidly when they used the device. Both groups reported reaching deeper states faster than they did without the Apollo wearable.

This study showed how the Apollo wearable gave both new and experienced meditators access to significantly deeper meditative states. On average, non-meditators had 50% faster access to meditative states. 

Apollo Neuro for improved sleep quality

Study goal: In an ongoing, remote observational trial, the Apollo Neuro research term evaluated the impact of the Apollo Neuro vibrations on users' cardiovascular metrics and sleep quality as measured by the sleep and activity tracker, the Oura Ring.

Design and subjects: The first study cohort included over 500 Apollo wearable users who also used Oura Rings. The participants used Oura Ring without Apollo Neuro for five months to clarify their biometric baselines before the intervention. We followed their combined use of Apollo wearable and the Oura Ring for three to 15 months, recorded their biometric averages, and compared them to the average baselines before using the Apollo wearable. 

Results: Those who used the Apollo wearable work at least three hours a day and for at least five days a week had the most significant improvements in their deep sleep, REM sleep, total sleep, resting heart rate, and HRV [4].

The study participants experienced (on average):

  • 19% average increase in deep sleep
  • 14% average increase in REM sleep
  • 6% average increase in total sleep time
  • 11% average increase in HRV
  • 4% average decrease in resting heart rate

For more information about our ongoing and completed clinical trials, check out our Studies Roundup.

How does the Apollo wearable work? 

The Apollo Neuro vibrations soothe the nervous system by improving heart rate variability (HRV), the variation in our heartbeats over time. HRV is one of the most reliable biomarkers for stress resilience [5]. It indicates how robustly our nervous systems adapt to the demands of the environment.

A low HRV signals the body is struggling to adapt to stress. People with consistently low HRV are at greater risk for cardiovascular health issues, anxiety-related disorders, injuries, and other problems [5]. Chronic stress can cause or amplify low HRV: for example, if you’re stressed and struggling to sleep, your lack of sleep may exacerbate the cycle of stress and exhaustion, making your HRV worse. 

Conversely, people with high HRV are more resilient and able to recover quickly from stress. As a result, they have higher pain tolerance, better focus, and higher-level athletic and mental performance [5]. Elite meditators and athletes typically have very high HRVs because they’ve trained their bodies to respond robustly to challenges.

Apollo Neuro's vibrations improve HRV because they train the nervous system just like meditation, breath work, and similar practices: they stimulate the vagus nerve, the main nerve pathway in the parasympathetic nervous system [6]. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, we enter recovery mode, finding easier access to deep concentration, restful sleep, and more. 

Like exercise or meditation, the Apollo wearable's benefits increase the more you use it. Its benefits are cumulative for two reasons: by stimulating the parasympathetic system, the device equips the body to more quickly enter a balanced state after or during stress. Over time, our ability to bounce back rapidly from stress makes us less susceptible to entering fight-or-flight in the first place. 

So why use a wearable stress relief device when you can meditate or deep breathe? 

Meditation, breath work, and other practices are profoundly useful tools. But the lurking paradox is that they’re often hardest to do when you most need them. 

Unless you’re a meditation master, you'll have a physiologically tougher time calming down from the practice when you’re stressed. Thanks to the very nature of stress, your body will be delivering signals that you need to escape or defend yourself against danger, making it much harder to focus on your breath or mindfully note your thoughts. 

By training the body to respond to stress from a place of safety, the Apollo wearable is a change agent that supplies you with the same benefits of meditation and similar practices. The difference is that these benefits come without decades of consistent practice. 

Deciding how you feel: A brief guide to Apollo Neuro's modes 

The purpose of the modes is to help you align your actions with your goals. Just like opening your curtains in the early morning supports the intention to wake up with the sun, the modes help you transition into physiological states compatible with your various intentions throughout the day.

Apollo Neuro's modes are on a spectrum from most energizing to most relaxing, including:

Energy and Wake Up: For a jolt of wakefulness in the morning or during an afternoon slump.

Social and Open: A social flow state that promotes calm openness to help with presentations, video conferencing, creative work, or socializing when you're tired.

Clear and Focused: Ideal for tasks requiring deep and sustained concentration, particularly if they're boring or frustrating, like household chores or challenging work tasks.

Rebuild and Recover: An even and balanced mode that helps the body wind down after mental, physical, or emotional stressors.

Meditation and Mindfulness: Helps you access deeper meditative states whether you're a beginner or long-term practitioner.

Relax and Unwind: For easing your mind and promoting relaxation before bed.

Sleep and Renew: Fall asleep quickly or return to sleep after waking in the middle of the night.

Our research has shown that the modes work the way we've described below for about 95 to 99 percent of people, but there are always exceptions. As you experiment with the modes, think of them as guideposts rather than exact maps.

Tips for getting the most out of the Apollo wearable 

Mode intensity: The best way to wear the Apollo wearable is right at the sensory threshold, or the point where you just notice it, but it's too mild to be distracting. Intuitively, you might assume the more you feel it, the better it's working. But actually, the more it's working as intended, the less you'll notice it because you'll be immersed in whatever you're doing. Keeping the intensity low will also save battery life. 

Where to wear it: The wrist, ankle, or as a clip attached to your clothing are the most common places to wear the Apollo device. Keep in mind that denser bones are more responsive to low-frequency vibrations. Wearing the device on your ankle or another dense bone can allow the vibrations to feel more evenly distributed throughout the body. Using our new Apollo Clip, you could also wear it near the chest bone, hip bone, and other locations.

Scheduling modes: With the Apollo scheduling feature, you can customize the sequence of your modes to align with different points in your day. A mode schedule that plays automatically helps you create new habits: the modes become like behavioral nudges that encourage you to follow through on intentions you had while setting your schedule. For more on the scheduling feature, read our article: How the Apollo Neuro Team Uses Scheduling.

Consistency is key: We've found that those who enjoy the most benefit from the Apollo wearable use it for at least three hours per day, five days a week. Using the Apollo wearable is like exercise: the more you invest in it, the more significantly your body responds, and the more results you see. 

Apollo Neuro reviews: Community success stories and how to steal their results 

Anyone who wants to improve their stress resilience can benefit from the Apollo device. But the Apollo Neuro's 2021 and 2022 reviews focus on using Apollo wearable to help with performance under pressure, sleep quality, and anxiety resilience. 

Our users write: 

Doug S.: "I have been consistently productive every single day since I got Apollo, and productivity was one of the issues I struggled with daily. That's huge and life-changing."

Brittany B.: "As a CEO and owner of companies I found myself experiencing burnout. For the first time in my life, my nervous system became very out of balance. I tried many therapies to get back to my usual empowered self again, and it wasn’t until using Apollo that I began to recover quickly. It has helped me tremendously. I have recommended it to friends and they say the same. I am a believer in neuroscience and am so impressed by the results thus far of this product!"

Ash A.: "I got the device to help me manage my stress better and sleep well at night. I've been a chronic insomniac for years due to anxiety, but since using the Apollo, I knock out at night and stay asleep. I've also been tracking my HRV at night using the Oura Ring and have seen major improvements in my overall recovery scores since I started using the Apollo."

Here are some guidelines for using Apollo to find focus, navigate stress, and improve your sleep.

Apollo for focus

If you're struggling to focus because of work-related stress or burnout, you may be tempted to choose a mode on the relaxing side of the spectrum. But because focusing on tasks requires a certain level of attention and stimulation, the higher-energy modes are typically better for the daytime. An energizing mode, such as Clear and Focused, will indirectly relieve your stress by improving your ability to focus (rather than soothing you so much you'd rather lay down). 

For work that requires sustained concentration and problem-solving, use Clear and Focused to minimize distraction and settle tension. If you're doing creative work and/or want an even more stimulating mode (or simply a change of pace), many users find that Social and Open can also be great for work tasks because it elicits flow states and soothes nerves.

Apollo for sleep

The Apollo wearable is a direct and indirect supporter of sleep. You can use its focus modes to replace coffee, so you can stay present and focused for exercise or work. It can also serve as an alternative to putting a stimulant into your body in the late afternoon or close to bedtime. 

The device also helps you directly prepare for and fall asleep more quickly. During your pre-bedtime routine, use Relax and Unwind to calm your body and mind for rest. As you get into bed, Sleep and Renew issues slow and gentle waves that lure you into sleep faster. If you wake up during the middle of the night, there's no need to flash your phone in your eyes to restart the device. Just press both buttons simultaneously, and your last-played mode will restart.

Apollo for stress

If you're stressed and in need of more balance during your work day, we'd recommend using Rebuild and Recover. This mode can be re-balancing after mental or physical stress, but it's also the most energizing of the recovery modes, so it shouldn't interfere with your attention or energy levels.

Meditation and Mindfulness can also be excellent for relieving stress. It not only helps with meditation but brings relief from burnout and body aches and pains. Users have also reported its benefits for easing tension during dental or other medical procedures. 

You can’t avoid stress, but you can train your resilience to it 

One of the biggest obstacles preventing people from overcoming stress is the struggle to recognize it. As a culture, we tend to view the early signs of stress—like trouble waking up early or focusing on work—as signs of laziness, lac of fulfillment, or some other personal problem. 

We then reach for coffee, sleep aids, or other substances that temporarily shift our mood or energy levels. These often only work in the short term or amplify the problem they’re meant to solve.

The Apollo wearable addresses the root cause of chronic stress: nervous system imbalance. When you use the Apollo device consistently, you train your body to recognize you’re safe much more often than you’re in danger. By training your natural resilience to stress, you can navigate the inevitable stressors of life from a place of clarity and flexibility, not fear or overwhelm. 

Sources:
1] Field, T. Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: A review. Developmental Review. 2010. 30(4): 367-83. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2011.01.001. 
2] Rabin, D., Siegle, G. Toward emotion prosthetics: Emotion Regulation through wearable vibroacoustic stimulation  2018. I83(9): S380-S381. doi: https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(18)31080-1/fulltext
3] Rabin, D., Siegle, G. Emotion Prosthetics for augmentation of mindfulness: Statistical plan. (2018)  https://clinicaltrials.gov/ProvidedDocs/81/NCT03529981/SAP_002.pdf
4] Apollo Neuroscience, Inc. Apollo remote observational sleep study. Jan. 18, 2022 - Oct. 1, 2025. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05260489
5] Lehrer P.M., Gevirtz R. Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work? Front Psychol. 2014; 5: 756. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00756. 
6] Waxenbaum, J, Reddy, V, Varacallo, M. Anatomy, autonomic nervous system. StatPearls. [Updated 2021 Jul 29]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539845/