Review: Apollo Neuro want you to stress less – and feel better

Taking the name of the Greek God of healing and medicine, this product has Olympian shoes (or sandals) to fill.

Longevity.Technology scored APOLLO NEURO at 19/25
User experience
User interface and user experience: How positive or negative is the experience when using the product?
Value for money
How does it stack-up with competitors or similar products or services?
Proven claims/science
How well has the company conducted or utilised scientific research and studies to validate its product/service?
Longevity specific
How applicable is it to the longevity marketplace and the daily life of a longevity enthusiast?
How easy it is for a layperson to use the product/service and its associated benefits in the context of longevity?

  • Simple and comfortable design
  • Some connectivity issues and battery life
  • Easy to use and intuitive application
  • Pricey
  • Clinical studies in process and completed suggest an improvement in HRV, energy and sleep
  • Lacks integration with other wearables, such as WHOOP

I spent the last month using the Apollo device “religiously”, “sacrificing” my usual routine in order to incorporate this novel touch therapy, felt as gentle waves of vibration, into my daily life [1].

Apollo states their device “stimulates your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous response and restores balance to the body.” Explaining that “when used consistently, Apollo retrains your nervous system to manage stress more effectively on your own. Over time you’ll sleep better, improve your focus, and feel more balanced [2].”

What I found:

At the beginning of my review period, I set out to compare the raw data using my WHOOP. I had planned to test my HRV over a month period and compare the results (inc. SD), however, I think it unscientific to do such given the limited ability to control variables affecting HRV – such as psychological stress, diet, TST, WASO, SOL, gad7 or stress similar, phq9, infection status, use of other HRV boosting interventions, blue light exposure, total calories, meal timings.

As such, my review will look at the science behind the Apollo device and my experience using the device.

Apollo analytics. Source: Apollo Neuro

Getting started with the Apollo device

From unboxing to use, the Apollo device was intuitive, easy to use and required little faffing.

The device is well designed to fit the curvature of your inner ankle or inner wrist, has an elastic strap and connects via Bluetooth. It is light and comfortable enough to wear all day, although you might not want to wear it on your inner ankle whilst out in public, in case passers-by mistake it for a punitive tracking device!

In the box you will receive a card recommending your daily usage of the device, including duration and intensity (%) – I followed this to the letter, which soon become habit.

Apollo’s science

Apollo aims to increase heart rate variability (HRV). Many studies use HRV measurements as an indirect way to evaluate the autonomic nervous system [3,4,5]. Our autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious body function, can be divided into two sections: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic innervation is responsible for preparing the body for the “fight or flight” response. Parasympathetic innervation asserts the opposite effect and is responsible for the conservation of energy, reducing the heart rate and force of contraction of the heart, dropping blood pressure, and increasing blood flow to the digestive tract. A high HRV is indicative that the sympathetic branch is reacting to stressful stimuli, increasing heart-rate in response, but that the parasympathetic branch is also working effectively, lowering the heart-rate to recover when the stressful stimuli have been removed.

The inability to effectively activate the parasympathetic branch results in chronic stress and a low HRV. Chronic stress increases the risk of insomnia, anxiety-disorders and depression as it is physiologically harder to focus, meditate, relax, sleep or exercise when our bodies are signalling to our minds that we are under threat and need to escape danger. Chronic stress is associated with accelerated aging and premature morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, time-domain studies have shown that HRV decreases with increasing age, the decline generally being attributed to age-related reduction in parasympathetic activity [6].

The Apollo device. Source: Apollo Neuro

Apollo uses certain combinations of low frequency inaudible sound waves to change the balance of the nervous systems through sense of touch. Research demonstrates that at slower oscillations of vibrations parasympathetic activity can be significantly increased [7]. Starting from this research, Apollo have spent a further 5 years developing and testing oscillation patterns to find the perfect combination to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

The Apollo frequencies’ ability to increase HRV has been assessed in a double-blind, placebo controlled, clinical study undertaken by Dr Rabin and the University of Pittsburgh. 38 healthy subjects (age not stated) were asked to perform the paced auditory serial addition test, a well-validated assessment of cognitive function which should also cause participants to feel stressed, as the task mimics the effects of boredom and frustration on focus and accuracy. Each participant completed the test under two placebo vibration conditions, two Apollo vibration conditions and one no vibration condition. Importantly, the participants and researchers did not know which condition the participant had received. Under placebo, HRV either did not change or decreased during the test. With Apollo vibration patterns, HRV went up by 2-3 times their average within 3 minutes under stress, suggesting the vibration patterns helped to improve the balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic systems under acute stress [8].

The age of Apollo trial participants is not stated. The question remains whether there is an effect on HRV in an older population – would the vibration patterns still cause activation of the parasympathetic nervous system as it has shown it can do in healthy individuals (age unknown) under acute stress.

Apollo does not sell itself as a Longevity device, but instead as one which can activate the parasympathetic nervous system to increase HRV and reduce the impact of chronic stress. After the initial years of research and development it is now taking the next steps validating itself through clinical studies. Its initial study has shown that in times of acute stress the vibrations can increase HRV and there is clearly a lot of exciting research still to come out from the Apollo device regarding its impact on chronic stress. When these results are published there will be a better indication to whether it has long term benefits that could in turn impact aging.

The Apollo device designs. Source: Apollo Neuro

Using my Apollo

I have used the Apollo device daily for just over a month now; at first, I found the device a little distracting. Not one to wear anklets, having a strap around my ankle was a slight annoyance, however, as with all these things, it didn’t take long before I no longer noticed its presence.

Throughout the review, I did have intermittent connectivity issues; from time to time the device wouldn’t connect with the app, requiring lots of opening and closing of the app. Whilst this was a slight irritant, it didn’t stop me!

An insight into my usage: I use the “energy and wake up” setting at 50% for 30 minutes when waking up, I then do my morning workout, have a shower (charging the device whilst I do so), followed by 60 minutes of “rebuild and recover” at 60% whilst eating my breakfast and walking.

I then switch to the “meditation and mindfulness” mode for 15 minutes at 58% whilst meditating with my Muse device (review to come). My next “dose” doesn’t come until c.2pm when I use the “clear and focused” mode for 60 minutes at 70% to give me a boost in focus and energy during that late afternoon slump.

Once work is done, I use the “social and open” mode for 120 minutes at 20% intensity, followed by 60 minutes of “relax and unwind” at 62% two hours before bed (whilst reading or watching television).

Finally, I switch on the “sleep and renew” function for 120 minutes at 100% intensity just before my head hits the pillow.

Your intrepid Apollo tester says

Once I overcame the initial connectivity issues, my experience with the Apollo device has been excellent. I have now used the device for over 10,000 minutes and can confidently say that I will continue to use the device hereafter.

Whilst unverifiable by my own data, I feel that my daytime stress levels have decreased and I am sleeping better/feel well rested after daily use of the device.

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[2] Ibid

Images courtesy of Apollo Neuro
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