Stress is a growing health risk, and it affects us all to some degree. It's why this area of health is getting more attention from wearable tech, whether it be through guided breathing exercises features on the Fitbit Charge 2 and Bellabeat Leaf Urban, or monitoring brainwaves a la the Smith Lowdown Focus.
Thync is a company specialising in killing stress and anxiety. A little over a year ago we got to try its first-generation device, designed to either calm or energise the wearer depending on their need. Thync discovered that it was the calming bit its users liked most, and later in the year we had a demo with a prototype for its next wearable, which focused entirely on stress relief - and thankfully made us feel a little less like a cyborg while wearing it.
Now, after a bit of a design evolution and some tweaking, it's a finished product called the Thync Relax Pro. The device, a small 'pod' that attaches to the back of your neck (not the forehead, like the first) uses neurostimulation via tiny electrodes to relax you, combating stress and helping you to sleep better.
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It is also, however, not for everyone. Thync says this is for people who suffer the negative effects of stress regularly, and those struggle to sleep because of it. "This is for people who are often stressed or anxious, and people who sleep less than five hours on average - people who really have a need," says co-founder Isy Goldwasser. "This is not recreational fun."
The Relax Pro has two programs, one for de-stressing and another specifically for sleep; both are meant to relax you, but the latter is specifically working to help you drift off faster and improve the quality of your sleep.
Thync recommends a schedule of three to five sessions a week, depending on your situation, each lasting at least 10 minutes. The programs are also made to be customisable: the first time you use the Pro the app will ask you a series of questions about your general wellbeing, which helps it create a personalized routine that you can further tweak.
This is a product with four years of research to its name, and Thync insists the science is solid. "There's no doubt we've proven ourselves scientifically," says Goldwasser. "We've clearly shown that this works."
The Thync Relax Pro costs $149 for the pod, and then $29 per month for replacement pads and access to the neurostimulation programs. Subscription-based services aren't for everyone, but again, neither is this. It's for people suffering stress, anxiety and poor sleep who - if it works - will probably be more inclined to keep paying for the benefits it brings.
"Really it's a sort of off button," says Goldwasser. "We're just triggering the body's own natural mechanisms to relax - that's why it's much better than a drink or a pill."
Thync sees people using its device in the evenings after work, and just before bed to help them unwind for more quality rest. "There are probably about 20 million people in the US who have a hard time sleeping because they can't turn their brains off and shut down," says Goldwasser. "So for people who really have stress-induced sleep problems and have overactive brains, this settles you down before bed."
Goldwasser notes that some major league baseball players are currently trying Thync's latest product to alleviate performance and travel anxiety.
"We believe technology is going to disrupt this area of emotional and mental wellbeing, just like it disrupted many other industries," he tells us. Thync reckons this type of technology is going to do something that, for many people, only drugs and drink have thus far been able to answer. Instead of having to become a master of meditation or invest hundreds of hours into mindfulness techniques, technology like this could give people a new type of access to their bodies.
"There's a segment of people in the medical community that really don't want to rely on pills as their only solution for people. They'd love to have a chemical-free way to reduce stress and anxious thoughts and nervousness, because that's a common symptom for so many people."
"We're here to establish a next step in this market".
Performance-enhancing wearables are incredibly compelling. As our reporter Husain recently wrote, smart clothing will become more attractive as it improves us as human beings, but it won't just be in clothing. Aside from Thync, another project we're keeping our eye on is the Safilo X brain-sensing smartglasses platform which aims to calm and focus the wearer.
We'll have to wait and see if Thync's new device is the magic bullet for stress and better sleep, but you can be sure we'll be testing it out at the first opportunity.
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