Apollo Neuroscience is the first wearable that uses low-frequency inaudible sound waves (vibrations) to help reduce stress, speed up recovery, and positively influence your nervous system by changing your heart rate variability (HRV).
Apollo was developed by neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh, and over the past few weeks I had the chance to use the device and learn how it works.
What Is the Purpose of Apollo Neuroscience?
- Clinically validated to improve HRV, energy and sleep
- Comfortable to use
- Provides effective stress relief within minutes
- Battery life
- Lack of integration with other platforms (HealthKit, WHOOP, etc.)
The purpose of the Apollo wearable is to help you manage stress, improve your energy levels, stay calm and focused, sleep better, and recover quicker from sickness or strenuous physical activities.
The sympathetic branch of the nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response and the parasympathetic branch controls your rest-and-digest and feed-and-breed behaviors.
What you might not know is that your nervous system is one of the major factors in controlling all of the above. Consequently, Apollo uses scientifically-validated vibration patterns that can up-regulate or down-regulate either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system, depending on what you’re trying to achieve (i.e., to relax and unwind or to be more energetic).
Stress and sleep aren’t the only factor that influences our health and wellbeing. Learn more about all five factors you need to pay attention to.
What Is HRV and Why Does It Matter?
If you’ve read my review of WHOOP or watched my YouTube video, you already know that heart rate variability (the difference in time between heartbeats) is a key metric of health and an indirect indication of how your nervous system is performing.
Specifically, it can tell us if one branch of the nervous system is in overdrive. A low HRV is usually an indication that the sympathetic branch of the nervous system — the one that triggers the fight-or-flight response — has taken over.
While a low HRV is normal when you’re sick or after a tough workout, a consistently low HRV can be a sign of an underlying problem.
Some of the most common culprits of a consistently low HRV include:
- Chronic stress (if not well managed)
- Low-quality or insufficient sleep
- Disease or sickness
- Other lifestyle factors, such as an unhealthy diet
The problem with a consistently low HRV is that it can dramatically increase your risk of injuries, cardiovascular illness, anxiety-related disorders and depression, and can lead to insomnia and chronic pain.
On the flip side, a high HRV is an indication that your body is more resilient and can quickly bounce back from emotional and physical stress.
So the goal of Apollo is to help you better manage stress, help you focus, improve your sleep and support physical recovery. The by-product of that is an overall increase in heart rate variability.
See also: 10 hacks for improving your HRV.
How Does Apollo Work?
The Apollo device creates gentle waves of vibration that you can’t hear but feel. The basic principle is that those inaudible sound waves can change how you feel by stimulating your sense of touch.
More specifically, certain frequencies and vibrations can increase the parasympathetic tone (a measurement of activity), while others can increase your heart rate and activate other parameters of sympathetic activity.
So the research team behind Apollo has designed various vibration modes (i.e., programs) that can influence your nervous system in a certain way, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
As of this writing, the following modes are available:
- Energy and Wake Up: If you’re in a boring meeting or feel like you need a cup of coffee, you can use this mode to feel more energetic.
- Social and Open: Perfect for meetings, get-togethers, networking events, parties or date nights.
- Clear and Focused: Use this mode before athletic competitions, during presentations or to improve your productivity.
- Rebuild and Recover: Perfect for after mental and physical stress, or when you feel run down or sick. You can also use it while traveling or when suffering from jetlag.
- Meditation and Mindfulness: To get into your flow state, or when you’re feeling tense or in need of meditation.
- Relax and Unwind: Unwind before bedtime, relax while traveling, or to calm down after intense stress.
- Sleep and Renew: Use before and during sleep, to fall (back) asleep quicker, and to reduce the occurrence of bad dreams.
You can probably guess what each of the modes does based on their names, but I’ll explain in more detail how I use them on a daily basis. It’s also worth noting that there appears to be some overlap between these programs, which means you may be able to use some of them interchangeably.
What’s the Scientific Evidence Behind Apollo?
There is a surprisingly large body of research behind the underlying technology of Apollo and the device itself. I encourage you to check out the science section on apolloneuro.com if you’d like to take a deep-dive.
In a nutshell, the science behind Apollo appears to be sound as demonstrated in multiple studies. One of the first double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover trials of 38 subjects with Apollo was conducted by Dr. David Rabin and Dr. Greg Siegle (the co-founders of Apollo) at the University of Pittsburgh.
In another study of 40 college athletes conducted by the University of Minnesota, Apollo improved the HRV of all 40 athletes.
Interestingly, the athletes who had the lowest baseline HRV saw the most significant improvements.
The bottom line is that Apollo works and has the clinical trials to prove it.
Apollo Hardware and Mobile App
The Apollo experience consists of the hardware and a mobile app that’s available for iOS and Android.
After I received my review unit, the first thing I had to do was pair the hardware with my iPhone. This step took only a few seconds and, once completed, I was ready to use Apollo.
The platform’s companion app is fairly simple to use, mostly because it only has four features.
- Display the current battery level
- Select a mode/program
- Manage your favorite modes
- View usage metrics and account information
Choosing a mode is as simple as tapping on one of the seven tiles and pressing the play button. You can also choose how long the program should run and your desired level of intensity (strength of vibration).
Apollo recommends starting with the pre-set intensity levels for each program. Once you get used to the vibrations, you can increase the intensity based on your preferences.
I followed that recommendation when starting out with the device. But over time, I increased the intensity of some of the modes — in particular, the “Energy and Wake Up” and “Clear and Focused” modes.
The app also offers you an option to mark some of the modes as favorites, as indicated by a heart icon. However, considering that there are only seven modes to choose from, I don’t see how picking a mode from your favorites is any faster than making your selection from the home screen (which shows all seven tiles).
If I was in charge of the app’s design, I’d just make the mode tiles a bit smaller so they’d all fit on one screen, eliminating the need to scroll vertically or pick favorites. Alternatively, I would offer an option to make the “favorites” the start screen, so you can select one of your favorites right after launching the app.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like being tethered to your phone, you’ll appreciate that the device has physical playback controls in the form of buttons that are located on the side. If you press both buttons simultaneously, you can start or stop playback of the most recently run program. You can also use the two buttons individually to increase or decrease the intensity in 5% increments.
However, what you can’t do using the hardware buttons is select a new mode. But that wouldn’t be practical anyway, unless you can tell by the vibration pattern which program is currently running.
Apollo was originally available in just three dark-toned color schemes (silver, stealth and twilight). In late 2021, the company introduced three new light color schemes (glacier, marine and rose).
You can see the full collection here*.
How I Have Been Using Apollo
When I first heard about this gadget and its ability to improve my HRV, I got super excited because I’m also a WHOOP user and HRV is a core aspect of the WHOOP platform.
WHOOP is a fitness and sleep tracker that relies heavily on HRV to calculate a daily recovery score (see my in-depth review here).
So, I figured I could use Apollo to improve my recovery score in WHOOP. However, when I received the device, I realized that Apollo is much more than a hack to score a quick win on the WHOOP platform.
In fact, once I better understood how to integrate Apollo into my routine, I began using it throughout the day, starting with the “Energy and Wake Up” program in the morning (right after getting out of bed).
I wear an Apple Watch on my left wrist and a WHOOP strap on my right wrist, so I decided to wear Apollo around my ankle by leveraging the extra strap that comes with the device. The only downside to wearing a device like Apollo on the ankle is that I look like I’m under court-ordered house arrest. Nobody has mentioned anything yet, but I noticed that a few people glanced at my ankle when I dropped off my four-year-old son at school the other day.
On most days, I do CrossFit in the morning. As soon as I return from the gym, I do a double session of the “Rebuild and Recovery” program, followed by a round of “Clear and Focused” in the afternoon.
As we get the kids ready for bed, I usually treat myself to a round of “Relax and Unwind,” followed by two hours of the sleep program as I turn in for the night.
As of this writing, I’ve used Apollo for over 80 hours and I feel great about it.
After publishing this review, I loaned Apollo to my good friend Jessica, who has been trying to improve how she handles stress.
This is what she had to say after using Apollo for a few days:
Apollo has been amazing! It has definitely reduced my stress and helped me get rid of a few stress headaches. I’ve also found it very helpful at night to relax and fall asleep. Highly recommend!!
Jessica M.Busy Mom & CrossFitter
How I Use Apollo to Improve my Meditation Sessions
I started wearing Apollo while meditating using Muse S (the brain-sensing headband I recently reviewed) and I’ve been getting fascinating results.
Muse S keeps tabs on my brainwaves during meditation to visualize how calm or distracted I am. Each time my mind is completely calm and free of thoughts, the Muse app shows a little bird on the meditation timeline.
What I’ve noticed is that I stay much calmer and less distracted during my sessions when I use Apollo. The image above is a side-by-side comparison of a session with and without using Apollo. As you can see, the differences are remarkable and serve as validation of the fact that I feel much calmer when using Apollo.
What I Have Learned
In a nutshell, wearing Apollo and feeling the gentle vibrations has made me feel better.
From a raw data perspective, I’ve tried to figure out ways that would allow me to measure the impact of Apollo on my HRV. But I ultimately decided that conducting a one-man study based on an infinite number of variables that I can’t easily control for is futile and wouldn’t result in anything other than anecdotal evidence.
So instead of making the “evidence” look more scientific than it is, I decided to just share what I’ve been feeling while using Apollo (paired with a few interesting data points). I also encourage you to check out some of the more scientific studies that others conducted in better-controlled environments.
As I mentioned above, I felt calmer and more relaxed while wearing Apollo, but not necessarily during times when I didn’t wear the device. In other words, I haven’t noticed that Apollo would reduce my levels of stress and anxiety permanently (see the FAQ below on how long the effects of Apollo last).
I’ve also noticed that my physical recovery (as reported by WHOOP) has improved about one week into using Apollo, despite strain levels that had led to recovery scores of 30-60% in the past (before I was using the device).
Additionally, I’ve noticed an increase in deep sleep (according to WHOOP) by seven minutes, and slightly higher sleep efficiency (which has increased by 2%).
The bottom line is that based on the scientific evidence I’ve seen, as well as my personal experience with the device, I believe that Apollo is working and I’ll continue using it.
Note: A little while after writing this review, I had the chance to test TouchPoints, another wearable stress-reduction device. As was the case with Apollo, I found that the device had a positive impact on my stress perception.
What I Would Improve
For example, Apollo could use the data my Apple Watch stores in HealthKit to detect when I worked out and then suggest the use of recovery mode. Or it could report on long-term changes to my HRV (as Apple Watch also records HRV throughout the day).
As far as WHOOP is concerned, I’d love it if WHOOP offered a journal entry that would correlate the use of Apollo with changes to HRV, RHR and sleep and recovery, depending on how much or how often I’ve used the device. That would provide incredibly useful insights and “proof” of Apollo’s impact.
Additionally, I’d love for a future hardware iteration of Apollo to include an optical HR sensor that could record changes to my HRV (as I’m using the device) in real-time. I can do that right now by enabling HR broadcast in WHOOP and then using a third-party app like Elite HRV. However, it’s clunky and not something I would want to do on a regular basis.
The Apollo app could also provide a simple questionnaire after each session, similar to the WHOOP Journal, that asks how I’m feeling. That way, the app could offer simple weekly or monthly reports to prove that using the device has changed how I feel. Of course, none of that has any scientific relevance — but it would help motivate people to keep using the device and help change their behavior and lifestyle choices.
How Much is Apollo?
Apollo Neuroscience retails for $349.00, but the company offers a payment plan that can split the total amount into three, six or twelve monthly payments. The three-month plan is interest-free but for a longer payment schedule you’ll have to pay around 10% interest (APR).
Of course, the $349 question is whether Apollo’s technology is worth the price tag, especially considering that there are “free” methods that can help reduce stress, improve focus and increase your energy levels.
My take on this question is pretty simple. You should definitely exploit every method at your disposal to better manage stress, reduce your anxiety, improve the quality of your sleep and speed up mental and physical recovery. I’ve talked about many methods for doing so on this blog, including nose breathing, following a ketogenic diet, paying attention to your sleep hygiene, regular exercise and more.
However, everything else being equal, Apollo delivers better and quicker results. Plus, I haven’t met anyone who wouldn’t benefit from being calmer, more focused and better at managing stress.
So I think Apollo is worth the price tag and I’d recommend it to friends and family. You should also consider the fact that many people might find it easier to slap on a wearable and turn it on for an hour rather than taking a break to meditate during a busy day at the office.
If you’d like to give Apollo a try, you can use the above affiliate link and get a 15% discount.
Frequently Asked Questions
Based on Apollo’s FAQ and some of the studies I referenced throughout the article, you can feel and measure the effects of Apollo within two to three minutes.
No, you don’t. While I mentioned above that I felt the effects of Apollo while wearing it, you can expect Apollo to work for up to two hours after using the device.
The good news is that your body doesn’t get used to Apollo the more often you wear it. In other words, Apollo doesn’t become less effective over time (nor does it become addictive). In fact, the company claims that “routine use of Apollo also increases the body’s sensitivity to [the device], with the result being it takes less time to feel the effect.”
Apollo has a Bluetooth radio and antenna built-in. As a result, the device generates an electromagnetic field and emits electromagnetic radiation.
You can easily turn off the Bluetooth radio by switching Apollo into airplane mode. But even with BT enabled, the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) technology used in Apollo emits only 1.9mW of power, which is far below the mandated exposure limits of any country.
At the same time, there’s no real consensus about what constitutes “safe” levels of EMF exposure. I’ve started taking precautions to limit my family’s EMF exposure, which you can read about in my article on how electromagnetic fields impact your health.
Apollo is only water-resistant, not waterproof. As a result, I wouldn’t wear the device in the shower or during strenuous exercise.
That’s a difficult question to answer because it depends on how long and at what intensity you use the device. The higher the intensity, the harder Apollo’s vibration motor has to work and the quicker the battery runs out. The same principle applies to the run time.
I’ve noticed that when I use Apollo for two hours at night at 80% intensity, and for 15 minutes in the morning at 60% intensity, the battery drains to 85%.
With additional use throughout the day, I typically end up charging Apollo (using the provided micro-USB cable) once a day.
Overall, I wish that the battery would last a bit longer so I wouldn’t have to charge Apollo so frequently.
No. Apollo is a wellness device and doesn’t require FDA approval.
Poorly managed stress and poor sleep are major contributors to weakening your immune system. If your immune system isn’t working optimally, you have a higher risk of infection — regardless of what pathogen you’re up against. So anything you can do to support your immune system might give your body a better chance at fighting an infection.
According to the company, there are no known problems concerning the use of Apollo by pregnant women. They say that there have never been adverse reactions to these frequencies documented or reported, and that they’ve had several pregnant beta testers enjoy relief from morning sickness, headaches and poor sleep.
Conclusion: Apollo Neuroscience Review
Apollo is one of a small handful of fascinating stress relief gadgets that has been scientifically proven to strengthen the body’s resilience and to help the body beat stress without any side effects.
I’ve used Apollo for over 5,000 minutes as of this writing, and I like how I feel while using it.
As a result, I’ll continue using Apollo for better sleep and to help manage stress during the day. I’ll also reach out to my contacts at Apollo and WHOOP to see if I can get them to work on some sort of integration that could correlate how Apollo impacts my recovery and sleep and to make that correlation visible in the monthly and annual performance assessments that WHOOP provides.
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
On this blog, I share in-depth product reviews, actionable information and solutions to complex problems in plain and easy-to-understand language.