The Sensate ‘pebble’ is marketed as a wearable stress relief and anti anxiety device that can make a difference after using for just 10 minutes per day. But does it really work?
My Sensate review explains the key features of this stress relief gadget, the science behind it, how it works and my experience using it as a meditation device with the goal of relieving everyday stress and general relaxation, better sleep and wellbeing.
EDIT Jan 3rd 2024: It’s now January 2024 and I’m still really enjoying the calming meditative effects of using the Pebble 2 before bed, since first publishing this review in November 2022.
What Is Sensate?
If you haven’t heard of Sensate before then you’re probably curious about the device, how it works and how it could benefit you.
The Sensate 2 meditation device is a palm-sized, pebble shaped wearable stress relief and anti anxiety gadget.
It works by you turning it on and placing on your chest. You then use the phone app to choose from a variety of meditation playlists lasting from 10 to 30 minutes each.
Once you’ve selected the track you want, put your headphones in, tap play, lie back and relax while the gadget takes you on a spiritual journey of sorts.
It’s non-invasive and non-medicinal, which is partly what drew us to the product because we like to keep things as clean as possible when it comes to improving our health.
What does Sensate 2 do?
Sensate’s list of benefits is pretty compelling.
Firstly, it is designed to improve your Heart Rate Variability, or HRV.
So, you’re probably wondering what HRV is, and why this matters.
Well, as explained on their website, HRV is a key marker of overall health, including main body functions and longevity.
“By using Sensate, you can tone your vagus nerve which will help regulate your nervous system. You can measure the function of your vagus nerve by measuring your heart rate variability (HRV). A good HRV result assumes good vagal tone, so your nervous system will be more flexible and return to equilibrium faster after stress.”
This is not the first time I’ve reviewed a device designed to work on your HRV – I’ve previously reviewed Apollo Neuro, which is a stress relief wearable device that you wear on your wrist or ankle.
Related to the goal of improving your HRV, Sensate can help calm your nerves by increasing your stress resilience, which can also help you feel more focused and productive.
It also reduces the effects of stress by calming your fight, flight or freeze response that may be in overdrive and causing stress or contributing towards anxious feelings.
If it can do all of the above, it makes sense then, that Sensate can also help you achieve better sleep and feel more ready to deal with whatever life throws at you as a result of that improved focus and stress resilience.
By now you’re probably thinking, ok, but how does the Sensate vibrating pebble do this… and wondering if it actually works. Let’s talk about that now.
How does Sensate work?
Essentially, the Sensate 2 works in a couple of ways. My take on it is below – and for the official Sensate descriptions of how the device works, visit this science explainer page on Sensate website.
Firstly the anxiety device is designed to use infrasonic resonance – basically, bone conduction, to channel a frequency that signals your vagus nerve to relax.
You may already be familiar with bone conduction wearables if you already use bone conduction headphones for running, for example.
The vagus nerve (also known as the vagal nerve) is responsible for the way your body reacts to stress.
If your body is feeling ongoing levels of stress (even low level, everyday stress) then it’s basically putting you constantly in that more highly-strung, ‘fight or flight’ state.
That constant level of tension then starts to take its toll on your body – and can be a major reason for developing anxiety or physical symptoms like difficulty sleeping.
For more information on this topic, there’s a great explanation of the impact of ongoing, compounding, low level stress in the modern world and why it matters on Sensate’s website.
You feel the resonance as a range of vibrations, taps and hums. It’s a bit like having a cat sitting on your chest, purring, combined with sitting in a meditation temple filled with the pleasing hum of the ‘Ommmmm’ chant.
As well as the haptic tactile vibes and chest resonance, a key part of the meditation aspect of Sensate is what they call ‘soundscapes‘ – WHICH ARE AWESOME.
Sensate’s soundscapes are audio tracks between 10 and 30 minutes in length, made using mixed engineered frequency harmonics and auditory stimuli.
How good is Sensate?
Sensate undertook an efficacy research study in 2022, which reported that over 65% of participants with anxiety disorder and over 50% with a depressive disorder reported an improvement in their condition while using Senate for emotion-based coping.
It also reported that 55% of those with a history of depression reported an improvement in their depressive disorder.
As with all such devices, it would be great to see more studies with larger groups of participants, however these results seem pretty compelling.
At a time where so many people are experiencing elevated levels of stress and anxiety (whether formally diagnosed or just how you feel you’re currently coping with life’s challenges), it seems like we need all the help we can get to maintain calm, focus and headspace to be able to think clearly and get enough restful sleep.
If a little pebble wearable can help with that, it’s surely worth a shot. Given that Sensate offers a 40-day, no questions return policy, you can order one, try it, and return it if you don’t feel like it’s working for you.
My experience using the Sensate meditation device
The Sensate anxiety device comes with a storage pouch, a bean-bag eye mask and a mini-USB cable for charging.
Setting up the Sensate 2
It’s simple to turn on – just press and hold the one button until it turns blue. It’s best to charge it before you use it for the first time.
Download the Sensate app onto your phone.
The app will ask you to connect with the Sensate device, which it does by Bluetooth. You don’t even need to go into your settings to pair it, which is nice.
Then, you can use the app to choose from a selection of audio tracks ranging from 10 to 30 minutes long.
Each soundscape audio track is inspired by a theme, such as nature. They’re an important part of the experience so you need to select a Sensate track rather than use your own music with the device.
Once you’ve chosen an audio track, put your headphones on and find a relaxing place to lie down, such as on your bed or a sofa.
It’s best to lie back so that firstly, you’re in a relaxed position, and secondly, so the meditation device can sit on your chest in the right place without sliding off.
You can put it directly on your chest, or over the top of your clothes.
Using Sensate for the first time
Once you’ve tapped the ‘Start Session’ button on your phone, the wearable starts to work through a series of tapping, humming, vibrating and other types of haptics.
You can dial the sound volume as well as the intensity of the vibrations up or down depending on your mood and preference. I like to have the intensity at around 75% of the way up.
The vibrations and hums are pleasing and you can see what they mean when Sensate describes what they mean by bioresonance – the vibrations do seem to run through your body from that point on your chest.
The coordination of the sounds with the sensations really helps accentuate the experience. The sounds make the haptics make sense.
Like a purring cat on your chest, the effect of the Sensate is unavoidably calming.
If you haven’t done much, or any meditation before, then this is a great way to start. To meditate, you need to focus and not allow yourself to get distracted.
Taking ten, 20, or 30 minutes out of your day to lie back, close your eyes, put your headphones in and focus on the anxiety device’s vibrations is a great shortcut to getting your mind and body into that calmer, more focused state.
Do I feel less stressed after using Sensate?
During, and immediately after using it, definitely yes.
I am someone that likes to be thinking about ‘stuff I need to do’, continuously, and using the Sensate does help me tune out and get away from my to-do list and stream of thoughts for a period of time, which is a nice feeling – until I need to dive back into it.
I can definitely see how long-term use of this anxiety wearable could help relieve stress and reduce your anxiety levels.
At the very least, this is a quick and easily accessible way to transition into a more relaxed, meditative state, requiring a very short portion of your day to accomplish.
It’s obviously not a magic ‘fix’ for stress or anxiety. It’s designed to help you get into that calmer, meditative state, and do so on a regular basis to help relieve the tension and feelings you may be experiencing.
Sensate suggests you will want to use it once a day, even if only for 10 minutes. Just before you go to bed is a good time of day to use the device, because it should help you get into a more relaxed state before going to sleep.
Personally, I’ve found that 10 minutes is not enough because the track ends just as I’m really starting to relax, so I generally aim to use the Sensate on its 20 minute tracks.
Cost and where to buy a Sensate device
Sensate currently costs $299 and is available from Sensate’s website. The app is free to download and use and there’s no subscription needed.
If you believe you could benefit from using a Sensate to help with meditation and calming every day, then in my opinion, it’s worth the money.
As mentioned above, there’s a 40-day no-questions return policy, so you can try it out and return it if you don’t feel enough of the potential benefits.