This review of Sensate 2 contains gifted products and affiliate links.
As someone who has lived with anxiety for much of my adult life, I’m always on the look-out for new tools to add to my mental health toolkit. From mindfulness to CBT, changing my diet to forcing myself into the odd cold shower, I thought I’d tried it all when it came to managing anxiety, stress and panic attacks.
Until I stumbled across an Instagram advert for the intriguing Sensate 2, however.
Now, I must admit that I initially thought this small, pebble-shaped device was something altogether different (if you catch my drift). Briefly scanning the advert and spotting the words ‘vibration’ and ‘discrete’, I raised an eyebrow before realising this was actually a device to help quell anxiety.
Marketing itself as anti-anxiety and stress-reliving tool, I was immediately intrigued. I’ve never come across a gadget that claims to directly treat anxiety. In fact, any tools I’ve used so far tend to be focused on the ‘mind’, such as talking therapy or meditation; things that are more nebulous, rather than product-based.
To have something I could tangibly hold to stop my panic attacks, or quieten my intrusive thoughts, was therefore both exciting and incredibly appealing.
Having recently finished a year on antidepressants due to postnatal depression, I’ve been keen to do whatever it takes to keep my mental health in a good place. Alongside my usual routine of exercise and CBT therapy, it seemed a good idea to perhaps add the Sensate 2 to the mix; a reassuringly tactile tool I could turn to when I was feeling overwhelmed.
After getting in touch with the Sensate team to find out more – and being kindly gifted the Sensate 2 as a result – I’ve now been using this smart little product for over two months. Tiny, but incredibly effective, I wanted to share with you my honest review of this panic busting device.
This includes what I think works, alongside areas for possible improvement.
What is the Sensate 2?
Let’s start this review of Sensate 2 by addressing what this mystery device actually is.
Promoted as a revolutionary tool and an ‘innovation in stress management’, the Sensate 2 is a simple, yet incredibly effective, gadget.
Developed by a host of doctors and renowned acupuncturist Stefan Chmelik, the Sensate 2 is a cordless pebble-shaped device that uses infrasonic therapy to stimulate the vagus nerve. In turn, this calms and reassures your nervous system (specifically, your ‘flight or fight’ system) and builds longer term resilience to things like anxiety and stress.
The Sensate 2 works in the same way that a gentle hum, used in meditation, helps to emit low frequency vibrations that calm you. Emitting relaxing vibrations at varying frequencies, the Sensate 2 is designed to sit on your chest (between your breasts), while its accompanying app plays a host of ‘sessions’ – music designed to provide a hypnotic, meditative experience. These sessions vary in lengths, from 10 minutes to longer, deeper 30 minute sessions – to help you sleep.
The vibrations you feel are in sync with the rise and fall of the music you hear – creating an incredibly immersive and calming journey.
Does the Sensate 2 Work?
According to the Sensate team, this device and the powerfully relaxing state it brings about absolutely works; particularly for those looking to manage their anxiety, stop panic attacks and reduce stress.
In 2022, the Sensate device underwent rigorous testing, as adults both with and without anxiety and depression were invited to trial the Sensate 2. Having used the product for just over 3 months and 5 days a week, over 70% of the participants scored in the low, mild or normal stress classifications.
Importantly (and impressively), over 65% of participants with anxiety and over 50% with depression, reported that their condition had improved and their resilience had strengthened. Given that this was achieved without medication – the usual route for those suffering with their mental health (myself included) – I thought these results were incredibly exciting.
How Much Does the Sensate 2 Cost?
Promising ‘instant calm for an anxious mind’, the Sensate 2 appears to offer a magic bullet for those struggling with their mental health. As such, it’s not a particularly cheap device.
One Sensate 2 device (which also comes with a charging cord, weighted eye mask and a lanyard so that you can use it hands free) will set you back £299.
However, given that my own therapy sessions are £125 per session (fortnightly), and considering the instant calm I get from using the Sensate 2, I do think that whilst the upfront cost is high, the return on investment is more than worth it.
How Does the Sensate 2 Work?
An enormous amount of science and research has gone into the Sensate 2 and as such, it can be a little overwhelming attempting to understand how it works (or at least I was overwhelmed, when initially researching it). To save you time and prevent you feeling too frazzled, below is a simplified round-up of how the Sensate 2 works.
1. It’s All About the Vagus Nerve
Before coming across the Sensate 2, I hadn’t heard much about the vagus nerve. However, given that so much of the science behind this device is based on it, I decided to find out a little more.
So, what is the vagus nerve and how does it effect our anxiety and stress levels?
In short, the vagus nerve is a ‘wandering’ cranial nerve that extends from your brain down to your gut – passing through your chest along the way. Allowing your main organs to communicate with your brain, the vagus nerve is also responsible for everything from inflammation to your metabolism – including, crucially, your body’s response to stress.
Indeed, the vagus nerve is a key-player in regulating our stress response and at the centre of our sympathetic (and parasympathetic) nervous systems.
It’s from these two systems that our ‘cave man’ reactions of flight or fight (or freeze) originate; affecting how we react when faced with stress, fear or sadness. You know when you feel a knot of anxiety in your stomach? That’s the result of your vagus nerve prompting your organs to react; a by-product of a triggered sympathetic nervous system.
On the flip side, your vagus nerve is also able to help calm your nervous system, in charge of your parasympathetic nervous system, too. As the Sensate team describe – this powerful nerve is a little like a brake peddle that can be used to slow and ease our body’s response to stress – lowering our anxiety and improving our mental health.
To help us practice harnessing the vagus nerve for our benefit (enabling us to tap faster into our parasympathetic response), scientists have suggested the activity of ‘vagal toning’ – something that the Sensate 2 is instrumental in doing.
2. What is Vagal Toning?
The Sensate 2 is designed to tone, rather than stimulate, your vagus nerve. Like a muscle, the more the vagus nerve is used to calm and relax, the easier it will be for us to harness in the future (this is effectively what ‘toning’ means).
Although vagus nerve stimulation can be calming, it can also cause overstimulation – leaving you feeling like you’ve had a little too much caffeine. The aim of the Sensate 2 is to therefore gently tone and soothe, rather than excite.
The idea is that the more you use the Sensate 2, the better toned and primed the vagus nerve is to trigger those wonderful feelings of relaxation and calm. In turn, this helps you to build emotional resilience and the ability to switch between your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems faster.
In short, high vagal tone means a fast, robust response to stress. However (and I suspect I’ve long-had this issue), when you have low vagal tone, your vagus nerve is lacking the resource to combat stress – thus forever keeping us in a state of panicked flight or fight.
3. Infrasonic Resonance
So, how does the Sensate 2 tone the vegas nerve? It all comes down to infrasonic resonance.
This tiny devise emits subtle, yet powerful, vibrations (or infrasonic resonance) and vibrates in the range of 20 to 140Hz, just like our furry cat friends. The Sensate 2 is designed to be placed on your sternum/chest bone, where the vagus nerve is most exposed (also known as your solar plexus).
From experience, I’d say that the sensation it generates is incredibly relaxing, a little like having a purring cat sitting on your chest.
4. Frequency Harmonics
Alongside emitting these vibrations, the Sensate 2 is used alongside the Sensate app (free to download and use). Linking the device to your phone via Bluetooth, you can then select from a choice of powerful ‘soundscapes’ that you listen to while using the device.
This adds a layer of what the team call ‘frequency harmonics’ to your experience – creating a deeply immersive and meditative journey.
5. Slip Into Deep Relaxation
With the deep vibrations of the Sensate 2 gently calming your vagus nerve, and the hypnotic soundscapes lulling your brain into a more meditative state, the only thing left to do is to let yourself drift into a deep state of relaxation.
My Experience of Using the Sensate 2
How Often Should You Use the Sensate 2?
When it comes to how to use the Sensate 2 and how often, most people seem to use it daily – as part of a ‘power nap’ (e.g. around lunch time).
However, how you use it is entirely up to you. Of course, using it daily would be the ideal scenario – with Sensate suggesting you use it in the morning to wake up and focus, at midday to ‘refresh’ and then once in bed, to ensure that the Sensate 2 helps you to sleep better.
Living with a toddler who I have to get out the door by 7.30am, using it 3 times a day wasn’t particularly viable. Instead, I tend to just use the Sensate 2 at night – in bed. After busy and stressful days, I genuinely look forward to this time and (with no exaggeration), within minutes of placing the device on my breastbone, I am fast asleep.
Furthermore, this is a deep and uninterrupted sleep (unless, of course, my child wakes me). I put this down to my nervous system feeling completely relaxed and at ease – and therefore able to shut down completely.
The only problem I’ve found with using it at night is that I often wake up with my AirPods still in – and the Sensate sat uncomfortably around my neck.
How Long Should You Use the Sensate 2 For?
The ‘sessions’ that you’ll find on the Sensate app range from 10 to 30 minutes, dependent on what you need in that moment.
I’ve found that sometimes, if I feel a panic attack coming on, a quick 10 minute session is more than enough to tap into my parasympathetic response and calm me down (almost immediately).
If I have more time, and especially if I’m in bed, I’ll tend to go for a longer session – around 30 minutes.
Complimenting this is the type of soundscapes you opt for. When I’m hoping to find some energy and focus, I tend to choose their ‘nature’ themed sessions (think rainforests and the sound of tropical rain). However, at night, I opt for their ‘Big Sleep’ session, for obvious reasons.
One thing I wanted to touch upon in this honest review of Sensate 2 is their app. I do think it’s a little sparse and basic, although I do think it’ll improve as the product becomes more popular.
How Does Sensate Make You Feel?
After getting the Sensate 2 into optimum position (activating bone conduction through your sternum), I immediately felt a lovely, fuzzy feeling – emanating from head to toe.
Essentially, it feels like the nice buzzy feeling you get when you hum, or when a cat is purring on your lap. I also noticed that as my Sensate 2 changed frequencies, I felt waves of relaxation flowing through my body. On reflection, this was likely my parasympathetic nervous system being activated – flooding me with calming hormones and dopamine.
When using it, especially in the day, its this blend of music and vibrations that helps me reach that much coveted ‘hypnagogic’ state – drifting weightlessly between sleep and wakefulness. It’s not a state I’ve been able to reach before, but I find incredibly easy to now, thanks to the Sensate 2.
However stressful my day is – or entrenched my worries are – being able to reach this level of relaxation has had a massive impact on how I feel. After my session is complete, the anxiety I was experiencing ten minutes ago is markedly reduced and my mind is much clearer.
Sensate discount code: TP10 for £10 off at checkout
Review of Sensate 2: FAQs
1. Does Sensate 2 Help Heart Rate Variability?
As well as toning the vagus nerve and improving stress resilience, the Sensate 2 is also designed to improve your heart rate variability. This is the marker to show how healthy your vagus nerve is.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is the gap between your heartbeats. The lower the gap, the more at risk you are from disease or, gulp, death. I must admit, the research surrounding Sensate 2 and HRV is a little over my head – and I haven’t yet checked my Apple Watch to see if it’s improved.
2. Does Sensate 2 Help With Sleep and Insomnia?
As a busy mum, quality sleep is always high on my agenda. I haven’t, however, always been the best with my sleep hygiene – frantically ordering the supermarket shop at 10pm, rather than switching off and relaxing.
By introducing the Sensate 2 into my nighttime routine, however, I’ve seen a huge difference in how quickly I fall asleep at night. I usually opt for the 30 minute Sensate soundscape, but I’m rarely awake by the end of the session.
Tip: I think the app is best used with headphones to provide a truly immersive experience.
3. How Long Does the Sensate 2 Battery Last?
As this clever device is very busy buzzing during its sessions, it does need charging about once a week (if you use it every day). However, I was still impressed by its battery life and despite using it on two flights, and 3 nights while away on a recent trip to Iceland, it didn’t need charging until I was home.
4. Is Sensate 2 Better Than Meditating?
When I replaced my evening meditation with a Sensate 2 session, I was worried that I was replacing it with something less effective. I felt like I was almost ‘cheating’ my mental health; a little like trying to replace exercise with a fad diet.
After nearly two months using the Sensate 2, however, I would firmly conclude that this device is far more effective for my lifestyle. Not only does it encourage me to pause each night, taking time to unwind, but it seems to rapidly interact and calm my nervous system.
5. Can Sensate Help with a Fear of Flying?
As someone who finds take-off particularly stressful, I put the Sensate 2 on before the plane left the tarmac, popping the lanyard under my clothes and adding my AirPods to create a sense of calm. Although I couldn’t lie down, I was able to hold the Sensate against my skin and found the session hugely powerful in keeping my anxiety at bay (it also adds an element of distraction, which I think is important).
If you have a fear of flying, I would highly recommend the Sensate 2 as a tool for keeping calm during a flight.
6. Can You Wear the Sensate 2 On Top of Your Clothes?
According to the Sensate user guide, you can use the Sensate 2 on top of your clothes, but I’ve found it far more effective when touching my skin. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it in public (i.e. on a flight), however, you just need to pop the lanyard under your top.
My Honest Review of Sensate 2: Does it Really Help With Anxiety and Stress?
Blending ancient sound healing, modern technology and the powerful experience of music, I genuinely believe that the Sensate 2 is a groundbreaking device.
It’s certainly changed how I manage my own anxiety and has renewed my dedication to improving my emotional resilience and ability to better ‘tap into’ my parasympathetic nervous system.
Easy to use, it’s become part of my bedtime routine and I cannot imagine life without it.
What Could Be Improved
While there’s no doubt that the Sensate 2 has had an incredibly powerful impact on my mental health, there are perhaps a few things that could be improved.
1. Sensate app
The app itself, whilst free, is fairly limited. All that users can do is link to their Sensate 2 device and pick a session. Likewise, these ‘sessions’ are fairly finite in terms of variety – with four main categories (‘breathe’, ‘sacred spaces’, space & time’ and ‘nature)’ and within them are around 3 or 4 tracks. A greater variety of music would therefore definitely be welcome.
It would also be useful if you could sync your own health monitoring with the app, for further insights. For example, linking your Apple watch with the app, to see if your heart rate variability is improving.
Finally, the current app sessions do mention that they are ‘free’, so I imagine there’s a plan to bring in a paid-for element.
A review of Sensate 2 would not be an honest one without addressing the price of this product.
Indeed, the cost is a little divisive – and for many, will simply be out of budget. I do hope that the Sensate team consider making a ‘mini’ or ‘simplified’ device that can be marketed at a cheaper price; ensuring more people can benefit from the transformative experience that it offers.