I'm stressed. You're stressed. We're all stressed. And the Thync Relax Pro wants to help. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, including cancer and heart disease. It can do a lot of bad things to the body, raising blood pressure, messing with hormones and potentially causing some serious harm if you don't get ontop of it.
Which is why it's important to manage stress on a daily basis. For some people, that's doing a few minutes of guided breathing or a session of yoga. For others, it's eating a balanced diet and getting out for some daily exercise. For some people, it's a spot of wakeboarding. Hey, nobody's judging.
Read this: Stress beating tech to keep you sane
The Thync Relax Pro is a neurostimulation wearable which iterates on last year's Thync, and looks quite similar. It aims to relieve stress and help people who struggle with sleep, but it now attaches to the back of the neck rather than the head. It also works on a subscription basis, whereby you pay $149 upfront for the pod and then $29 a month for access to the programs and replacement sticky pads (which keep it fastened to your neck).
But does it do the job it promises? We've been using it for a couple of weeks to find out.
Thync Relax Pro: Design
The Relax Pro looks like a tiny spaceship with an extended bit of plastic to help keep it attached to the neck. Placing it here instead of the forehead, like the first version, makes it a bit more discreet. It's still going to look a little strange to anyone who's not seen one before, and one time while using it an airport I suddenly became very aware I had turned part-cyborg, but it's not as ridiculous as putting Google Glass on your face (sorry to still be verbally beating you in 2017, Glass).
There's one button on the side for turning it on and off, and a long white light in the middle will ignite to let you know it's alive. With everything else controlled from the app, it's a simple device in itself - the tricky bit is getting the sticky pads on and off. To affix the Pro onto your next, you'll need to attach two sticky pads. You'll get a bunch of these in the pack, but each is only designed to work an estimated five times before it loses its cling and you'll need to replace with another. As part of the subscription service, Thync will send you new pads each month.
They're a little fiddly to get on, mostly because their syrupy texture clings to everything for dear life, including your fingers, but that also means they do a good job of sticking to your neck. If a pad is starting to lose its grip though, you run the risk of it slipping and the programming stopping. I had that happen a couple of times.
Overall it's simple to attach and what I like most is that its size allows it to be very transportable. Good if you're travelling a lot and need something to help you unwind.
Thync Relax Pro: Features and effectiveness
The Thync Relax Pro runs two programs, one called Deep Relax that's targeted at reducing stress and anxiety, and one called Deep Sleep that's meant to put you in a more peaceful, relaxed state at bedtime. The former should run for at least 10 minutes, and the latter 15 minutes.
Thync told me that this Relax Pro is going to be most effective for people who suffer from chronic stress and sleep problems, but I'm not one of them, so how much difference did it make for me? Well, I can tell you I definitely noticed an effect. The Relax Pro works by stimulating the nerves at the base of the neck, tapping into the pathways to the brain which control stress; it feels like a light tingling sensation. You can raise and lower the intensity, which defaults to 50% each session, and after a few minutes I tended to find myself knocking it up just a bit as I desensitized ever so slightly.
Thync backs its research with science (as you'd hope), which you can read about in this paper. That's from 2015, when Thync was stimulating from the temple, but when I spoke to co-founder Isy Goldwasser he said the same neural manipulation is being achieved from the back of the neck.
Depending on your stress levels, the Relax Pro app will recommend the number of times you should use it each week, although I bumped this up by a couple of extra days as there seemed to be no harm in doing so. I tried to use Thync at points in the day where I felt particularly stressed, and after a few minutes of it doing its thing, I definitely felt more "relaxed". It can be hard to know how much of this is psychological, but the gentle stimulation seemed to soothe my nerves. When it was over, the feeling was much like that after having a relaxing massage.
That said, there were times using it where I wasn't entirely sure it had made a world of difference. But after a couple of weeks the net gain was positive, with more notable improvements. I also tried using it before sleep. If you read my sleep diary last year, you'll know that I've been trying to overcome some bad sleep habits, but I'm not someone who's particularly "bad" at falling asleep.
Still, using the Relax Pro before bed definitely helped me slip into a more relaxed state, which is obviously a good thing. For people with chronic sleep conditions, I can't guarantee it's the answer, but there's a 30-day money back policy, so you could try it out for a little while.
Thync Relax Pro: App
The app is your control center for the Relax Pro. The first time you start up a program it will ask you how stressed you generally feel and which aspects of your life you think it's most impacting. It will then prescribe a suggested program of days and times to use the device, although of course there's nothing stopping you from starting a session any time you like. It's purely just for guidance purposes.
I like how simple the app is to use and how easily it pairs with the Relax Pro. There's also a short video guide to help you correctly place the Pro on your neck, and a few other pointers. But overall, there's not a lot to it. There doesn't really need to be.
What most lets the Thync Relax Pro down in my opinion is the subscription model, especially when you still have to cough up $149 for the pod. It makes sense for replacement pads perhaps, but for access to the software it feels a bit stingy. But then I'm not someone who suffers from chronic stress or sleep problems. I feel plenty of stress, sure, and the Thync made a notable difference in those situations, but as the company itself says, this is best for the people who need it most. For them, Thync could be a digital pill worth swallowing, but I'd recommend taking it for a test drive first.
- Helps reduce stress
- Easy to work
- Now more discreet
- Requires subscription
- Placement process is a bit fiddly
- Sticky pads must be replaced