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Cove Wearable: Can it Really Reduce Stress and Anxiety?

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Cove is one of the many wearables which promise to improve your sleep. You put it on your head for 20 minutes and it sends gentle vibrations behind your ears. This should activate a brain region – the posterior insular cortex – that connects your sense of touch to the sense of wellbeing. Based on our testing, we determined that is does a great job at reducing stress and anxiety when used on a daily basis.

Basically, Cove is a plastic piece of technology that is supposed to relax you by “hugging” you if you don’t already have a real human being to give you a sense of being loved and safe. It doesn’t guide you through meditation as many other headbands or wearables do. Speaking of how it actually works, it’s more similar to the Apollo Neuro bracelet than, say, the Muse S head wearable.

When we tried Cove, we noticed that it does an excellent job at treating stress and anxiety and made it easier for us to relax and fall asleep at night. The wearable was incredibly easy to set up and use, and the smartphone app was intuitive and user-friendly. The only downsides are the high price and the fact that it doesn’t offer any tracking capabilities (you’ll need to buy a separate sleep tracker for that). After trying it out for several weeks, we recommend that you give Cove a try if you’re suffering from severe stress and need help with falling asleep. It’s a high-quality product that is well-worth spending your hard-earned money on. In this review we’ll give you more information about how Cove works and what you can expect from it.


Cove pros and cons

Pros

  • Adjustable headband
  • Long battery life
  • Great for stress and anxiety relief
  • Helps reduce insomnia

Cons

  • It doesn’t measure anything
  • High price
Cove wearable headset

Interoception? What’s that?

In short, interoception is the awareness of what happens inside your body. Thanks to this mechanism, you know that your stomach is empty and that you’re hungry, for example.

Our interoceptive pathway collects information from our internal organs and sends it to the brain. This information tells us whether our “internal affairs” well balanced or not.

The interoceptive pathway can also be activated by a soothing human touch.

The comfort you feel when someone you love hugs or caresses you is called the affective touch response. It is a powerful stress-relieving feeling, and it comes from a brain region called the insular cortex (insula). The insula also exchanges the information coming from your skin (a touch or a hug) and parts of the brain that process emotion.

It has an important role in how your brain manages emotions and regulates anxiety. These deep feelings can be altered by human touch. If you have someone to hug, you’re more likely to be more resilient to stressful events.

Your brain on Cove

The team at Cove says that affective touch response can be achieved with vibrations of a small wearable device that is supposed to change the activity of your insula. Your skin interprets the vibrations as affective touch, which humans and all social mammals are wired for at birth. The company confirmed that the device activates the interoceptive pathway after conducting several EEG studies.

The idea is that activating the interoceptive pathway could potentially retrain your neural pathways and modulate the activity of the insula in a way that creates new connections between the nerves, manages emotions, and leads to reduced stress. Science has already proven time and time again that when people feel less stress, they tend to relax easier at night, fall asleep faster, and have a better sleep quality. The opposite is true as well – more stress and anxiety cause poor sleep/low amount of deep sleep.

Cove isn’t intended to replace the entire complexity of human warmth and loving, soothing touch with behind-the-ear vibrations. Instead, the company says that improving interoception can not only improve stress and sleep, but can actually make you feel more socially connected to others. Cove isn’t a substitute for human relationships but may actually enhance them.

Similar ideas from others – Apollo Neuro vs Cove

Cove is not the only company trying to do that – the Apollo Neuro aims to retrain your nervous system using the vibrations on a bracelet that can be worn on your arm or leg. They also say that as the device silently vibrates and stimulates your nerve endings, you’re learning to take that as a cue to “cancel stress”. Both companies have interesting ideas but their products are very expensive and both operate in domains that are still new to everybody. We’ll probably see a lot of development in this field in the coming years.


How it works – Cove wearable review

The Cove is a plastic headband device that you put on your head, on top of your ears. The expandable connecting band goes over the back of the user’s head. If you’re wearing glasses, you’ll probably have to take them off in order for the Cove to fit snugly. Once you’ve adjusted the band, you can also adjust the vibrating pads by adjusting hinges.

This wearable piece of tech shouldn’t bother you since it weighs only 50 g (50 oz).

There are buttons on each pad – the left one has two buttons (+ and -) for vibration intensity adjustment. The strength goes from 0 to 10. The right pad has the on/off button, a tiny LED light (which shows when it’s on, connecting, charging, etc.), and a micro USB connector for charging. To start a session, press the on button and then press it once again.

You have to pair your Cove device to your phone via Bluetooth. The Cove app will show you a tutorial before your first session. After that, you don’t have to be connected to the app for any of the later sessions. Just make sure to sync the device with the app afterward.

The device has two sensors – a PPG Heart Rate Sensor and a 3D Accelerometer. These two don’t do much for you (for now), but in the future, Feelmore Labs will add the option to report stress measurements.

Cove sessions

Once you start the 20-minute session, you’ll feel how Cove works – the light vibrations behind the ears. If you don’t feel anything, increase the intensity by a bit. Depending on your sensitivity, you may feel noticeably more relaxed and your stress and anxiety may really be reduced after one session.

The effects may start right away or some time into the session. After the session, you should feel relaxed for a few hours. So if you have a session in the evening, ideally you’ll still be relaxed at your bedtime and able to fall asleep quickly. When you fall asleep properly relaxed, you can expect improved sleep quality.

Of course, all of your life problems won’t be solved instantly, but Cove aims to help you build up stress-coping mechanisms over time. They say that their research shows resilience to stress (managing stress) improves gradually if you continue to use the device.

What surprised us is the battery life – if you use Cove once a day, you’ll have to charge it only every fourth or fifth day.

Here’s something we hadn’t actually expected from Cove (but it makes perfect sense). When we were conducting consumer research, we noticed that some users became desensitized to Cove after several weeks of consistent daily use. The really faint vibration was sporadically causing them to feel relaxed, but then it just stopped having any effect. If you stop feeling the benefits of such an expensive product after such a short time, you might as well just pay for several relaxing massages instead and cancel stress this way.

At Cove, the story is different – they say that not only you won’t stop feeling the benefits, but that they’ll grow with time. This device is supposed to help your brain cells connect in a way that allows better stress response in general, even when you’re not wearing Cove. Sounds like an easy way to manage stress and ultimately fix those sleep issues. But, like most solutions out there, the effect varies from person to person.

Cove isn’t all-powerful

Cove is not a medical device and as such is highly unlikely to be covered by any insurance. If you’re someone who feels chronically anxious, you may want to see a doctor. Also, the root of your stress and anxiety may lie in much deeper and complex issues in your life that you may have to address rather than just relying on a gadget that goes behind the ears. Relationships, proper sleep, exercise and other wellness habits, job choice – all of these are important factors in life. If you haven’t figured them out, you can wear Cove all day long, but it isn’t going to solve problems for you or create a completely stress-free life. It does, however, have the ability to give you a fine improvement in stress management.

The gentle vibration of the Cove may be too faint if you’re doing something around the house, having afternoon walks, or just eating or talking to someone (vibrations should be kept at the lowest possible level, as instructed by Cove). You may forget it’s even there, and on top of that, the very things you do can also cause stress (for example, when you watch TV/news), so don’t expect the vibrational sensation alone to do the job for you. If you turn it on when you’re already sitting still and chilling (or before you go to sleep), Cove can reduce stress better.

The Cove app adds some value

We had to download an app before using Cove for the first time.

The app can do the same things you can do by pressing the buttons on the device – turn it on/off, and change the intensity. On top of that, the app also shows the precise battery level, how many days you’ve used it in a streak, the total number of sessions, and the entire history of your sessions. When a session starts, the middle of the screen will count the time passed in the session, so you’ll know how much is left.

If you don’t want to forget to use Cove after a busy day, you can schedule sessions in advance. You’re actually just scheduling a notification on your phone reminding you to do a Cove session – something you can also do in your phone alarm options.

We like the fact that you don’t actually need to be connected to the app for every session. Cove allowed using the device separately, which comes in handy if you’re having connectivity issues. Just do your session and you can upload it afterward.


Cove wearable accessories

Is the Cove device supported by science?

On their website, Cove boasts numerous studies, some of which were conducted in Harvard Medical School and Brown University. We checked both websites but couldn’t find any published studies on the topic. We wish Cove linked at least one of their own (or any third-party) studies on their website so that any user can check the results.

However, when you go to the Feelmore Labs website, you’ll see that their team includes world-class neuroscientists from both of the abovementioned universities.

Since there are no clinical studies to look at, or scientific evidence showing that Cove really works, we’ll just have to take their word for it when they claim that:

  • they’ve conducted studies over a period of four years
  • 90% of participants who wore Cove stressed less and slept better
  • their stress levels dropped by 41% and sleep improved by 50%
  • 77% of participants fell asleep faster and 61% had longer sleep

In our experience, some testers did feel somewhat relaxed and fell asleep faster, but they didn’t really find that Cove can improve sleep by much (as measured by the Oura ring, which showed the same sleep patterns and quality as prior to Cove use).

Cove seems to be completely safe to use in one’s daily life. It causes no side effects.


Here’s what comes in the box

You get one Cove wearable, a stylish white travel box, and a micro USB charging cable.


Cove unboxed

Price, shipping, and returns

Cove comes at a high price of $490. Luckily, the return window is 45 days, which should be more than enough for you to know whether or not you want to keep the product. You’ll get a full refund for returns within the 45-day period.

Shipping is free within the continental United States.

All repairs and defects are covered in the 1-year warranty.


About Feelmore Labs

Cove is a product by Feelmore Labs, a private NY-based biotech company founded in 2016. Francois Kress is a Co-Founder, Board Member & Chief Executive Officer. They have teams of scientists, university professors, as well as business and tech executives.

Feelmore Labs is supported by big firms like True Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, and M13.

Contact information


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