Sensate Relaxation Device Review for Stress, Anxiety and Better Sleep


Victoria Woodhall has always had trouble sleeping. Power naps were something other people had. But the new Sensate relaxation device changed everything

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Are you one of those people who can fall asleep in the blink of an eye? Can you take a power nap whenever you feel like it? Until a few weeks ago, I would have said we could never be friends. I’ve been a chronic troubled sleeper since my teens and have tried everything from CBD sleep drops to magnesium baths to melatonin and even prescription medications. I hated (envyed) powernappers with a passion.

Now, however, I’m joining the club thanks to an awesome new gadget I call the ‘Energy Nap Pebble’. The Sensate is a wireless wearable that emits a low sonic vibration, much like a sonic toothbrush or a subwoofer. It’s a very clever nervous system hack that turns bedtime into deep rest. You place it on your sternum, pair it with the Sensate app, select a program of relaxing music – 10 to 30 minutes – and step back while the pebble pulsates and vibrates to the beat of the chosen track. It’s so soothing that I almost instantly drift into that elusive but delightful “hypnagogic” state between sleep and wakefulness.

Energy napping is a life skill and is recommended by just about every sleep expert. “The optimal nap is 20 minutes,” says Dr. Guy Meadows, co-founder of The Sleep School app. get up easy and get back to work right away,” he tells me. Waves of sleep, in a groggy state and even drowsier than before.

By the way, if you want a longer nap during the day, you should give yourself 90 minutes to go through a full sleep cycle, he advises. This is more appropriate if you want to pay off your sleep debt from a bad night.

Pre-Sensate, it would have taken me a whole 20 minutes just to stop fidgeting and ruminating; naps were always reserved for “other” boring people who probably slept well at night too. Gah!

I am not the only one who knows the secrecy of the Senate. Columnist and podcaster Nicola Bonn told me it helps her with anxiety and panic attacks. Get The Gloss co-founder Sarah Vine also bought one after borrowing mine. As a yoga teacher, I also use it on my students to deepen their final relaxation (savasana) at the end of class. They adore him.

How does Sensate work?

I first saw the device four years ago when it was in the prototype stage. Its inventor, acupuncturist Stefan Chmelik, who worked with Elle Macpherson in his Harley Street practice, explained that it works by toning the vagus nerve. This has the effect of calming the nervous system. The Sensat had replaced his 45-year-old meditation practice, he said. Like any busy person, he was not opposed to a shortcut.

What is the vagus nerve?

At the time, the vagus nerve was little known outside of medical circles. Now it’s being talked about more broadly in the context of stress management. You might hear it mentioned in breathing classes – deep breathing is another powerful way to soothe the vagus nerve.

It is the longest nerve in the body (vagus is related to the word wanderer, which means wanderer) and runs from the brainstem to the abdomen, branching out to all major organs sending signals between them and the brain. It’s a key player in regulating our stress response, says Dr. Magdalena Bak Maier, neuroscientist and mind-body connection coach.

“When the vagus nerve is activated and working well, it dampens the stress response, which is soothing. High vagal tone means a fast and robust stress response,” she explains. It’s kind of like having toned muscles.”When we have low vagal tone, on the other hand, our vagus nerve has little anti-stress power, so we remain in a state of fear or anxiety,” she says.

I think my Sensate goes to the vagus “gym” – not just for instant stress relief, but to increase my stress resilience over time.

There are other activities that tone the vagus nerve apart from sound vibrations and slow breathing. Singing – especially in a choir, where you’re also bathed in other people’s sound, or singing and gargling also do the trick. Yogic ujjayi breathing (making an ocean or “Darth Vader” sound in the back of the throat) and humming bee breath are also vagal tonics. Why? Not only because they involve slowing down the breath but because, like the Senate, they also make it vibrate. The vagus nerve runs at the back of the throat and is therefore easily accessible by vocal vibrations.

Chmelik told me that he has been using vagal toning in his clinic for five years, alongside other therapies such as psychotherapy, nutritional therapy, and physiotherapy, to treat all kinds of conditions with a mind-body connection – migraines, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even obesity. It is widely used in Scandinavia, where it is called vibroacoustic therapy.

“The results have been so good that we now use it on all our patients. This has allowed us to speed up the recovery process for people with complex chronic conditions such as stress and anxiety, some of whom had previously failed to respond to treatment.


Doctors have explained to me over the years that insomnia is never just a symptom, not a condition in and of itself. My inability to sleep or nap is actually an inability to let go of this heightened state of alertness. It’s anxiety. I most likely have what Dr. Bak Maier describes as low vagal tone.

Now if I need to catch up after a bad night’s sleep or just need a boost of energy to get through the afternoon, I lay down with the pebble on my sternum and a eye mask or weighted eye pillow. It pulsates, hums and vibrates to the beat of the music and the sound seems to flow like liquid through my chest. This immersive experience crosses my thoughts. Afterwards, I’m relaxed and alert, like I’ve plugged into a power bank. That foggy fatigue hangover is completely gone. I’m starting to break the pattern of not being able to let go. I noticed that my sleep at night was improving too.

Does it really work or am I imagining it? I recently spent three days hooked up to another laptop, a heart rate variability monitor. It’s an adhesive device that measures minute-by-minute stress levels and can tell which branch of my nervous system has been activated – the sympathetic “fight or flight” response or the parasympathetic “rest and recover” mode. This showed unequivocally that during my pebble time, I had gone into relaxation mode.

What I love about Sensate as a relaxation tool is that it’s non-verbal. Not everyone finds meditation apps helpful that tell you to count your breath or watch your thoughts pass like clouds. In fact, they can make you more anxious. But it’s easy, discreet, and combines the best of ancient sound healing and modern technology.

We appreciate more now how recovery is an essential part of life. If rest eludes you, the Sensate is definitely worth the investment.

The Sensat costs £227. Buy now


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