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After Muse 2, which gained considerable popularity among those who practice (or are beginners in) meditation, InteraXon released Muse S at the beginning of this year – a soft headband with a small detachable centerpiece (pod) that binds the band together with an app that’s available for iOS and Android.
It is primarily advertised and used for meditation, but the reason we’re reviewing it here is that Muse S has a fantastic new feature – Go-To-Sleep Journeys and Soundscapes. You can now use voice guidance combined with biofeedback to help you relax and finally reach deep, restorative sleep. Alternatively, you can use a soothing soundscape to help you drift off.
Muse S is not intended to track your sleep – just to help users learn how to properly relax by keeping their mind in place, without wandering.
The company sells the headband as one product and the digital library of guided meditations as another – the price for Muse S and a one-year subscription to guided meditation is $326.31 at the moment.
We’ll start with the main pros and cons of the new Muse S.
|– Comfortable, washable headband|
– Motivating, “game-like” experience
– Long-lasting battery
– Lovely, relaxing sounds in sleep soundscapes
– Great biofeedback
|– The phone screen has to stay unlocked while using Muse S|
– Guided meditations cost extra
– Users need their own speakers, no built-in audio output
– Sensor issues are common
Buy: Muse S Brain Sensing Headband, $326.31 from Amazon
Review: What Is Muse S and What Does It Do?
Muse S is a device – a wearable headband accompanied by an app (works on IOS and Android). The headband is made of a soft fabric that is comfy enough to sleep with it on. There are two sensors that come just above the ears and five on the forehead. Finally, the detachable device binds all sensors together with the app which performs the guidance.
Muse S collects the readings of your body – EEG (brainwaves), heart rate, body movement, and breathing. It uses the readings to see if you are making progress and calming yourself down, getting into a balanced state, or not. It can send you sound cues to keep your mind focused or play certain sounds as you reach calmer states. You can choose a teacher for voice-guided meditation.
If you’re feeling anxious, the app picks that up and plays the sounds of stormy weather. As you get calmer, the rain will become slower or stop completely and you’ll hear sounds of nicer weather. If you become very calm, you’ll hear birds chirping.
The latest features are Go-to-Sleep Journeys and Go-to-Sleep Soundscapes that help users relax and fall asleep quickly, with a calm mind free of burdening thoughts.
Muse S Go-to-Sleep Journeys
Go-to-Sleep Journeys offer voice guidance and biofeedback. You’ll hear the soothing voice of your preferred teacher who’ll be guiding you through scenery such as “Enchanted Forest”, “Underwater World”, or other places – there are many to choose from.
And to understand the biofeedback part better, you can imagine having a mirror that reflects your inner state through sounds. If you, say, suddenly remember that you need to go to work and face a difficult colleague, Muse will detect your brain activity and signal it in a soothing way, via sounds. When your heart starts beating faster, you’ll hear the sound representation of that so your attention will naturally shift towards the heartbeat as you try to calm down. If your breathing gets faster, you’ll hear a sound that corresponds to faster breathing, and this will point your attention to breathing. Finally, you’ll learn that you are in control of all the factors which keep you awake – from mental – thoughts and memories, to physical – breathing and heart rate.
Finally, you’ll be able to fall asleep with a low heart rate and blood pressure.
Muse S Go-to-Sleep Soundscapes
Soundscapes are just sounds or “sound environments” as the company calls them, composed of your biofeedback. Soundscapes exist in Journeys only as a background to the voice guidance. Soundscapes option is for all of those who are not big fans of hearing someone’s voice, regardless of how soothing it is.
Here you’ll just be able to focus your attention and try to reach perfect calmness without being guided through any imaginary scenes.
This audio environment is composed in real time, while you are lying in bed. Every night the tune will be different depending on how you feel that day.
How Effective Muse S Really Is
As long as you’re not experiencing any technical difficulties (which will be discussed below), Muse S is quite effective for restful sleep. It also has a good reputation for meditation itself (not related to sleep), but it seems that more people are happy with how well it helps them fall asleep.
The power of this device lies in that it helps those who struggle with stress and anxiety (in today’s world, that’s the majority of people) and defend from the very things that are probably their biggest enemies, which prevent them from having restful sleep.
Why wouldn’t you be able to fall asleep if you’re tired, lying in your bed at sleep time, in a comfortable environment? If the answer is – “because of what’s going through my head”, then training your mind is what you really need. Muse S does this in a gentle manner, using audio tracks that are soothing and comfortable for most people.
Can Muse S help you get deep sleep?
Meditative practices are positively correlated with better and more restorative sleep. This is because deep sleep (stages 3 and 4 of non-REM) is quite sensitive and we can’t reach it if we are stressed out during the day – it’s as if our mind and body expect us to be in danger, so they keep us in lighter sleep stages. It’s easier to wake up and “fight or flight”.
With a relaxing evening routine you soothe your nerves and help the level of stress chemicals in your body decrease and that of relaxing, sleep-promoting ones increase. When you fall asleep in such a blissful state; your body can easily take you through all the necessary sleep stages and restore your mind, muscles, tissues, and, well – the whole of you.
Muse S can be very helpful in this sense because a lot of us are unable to keep our minds off of nasty topics that just keep rolling. However, this product is not the only solution available out there. You can always practice mindfulness and relaxation on your own without any aids.
Who Is Muse S Meant For?
You should try Muse S if:
- You’re tech-savvy
- You want to try mindfulness but don’t know how to start
- You can’t relax in the evenings
- You struggle with racing thoughts at bedtime
Or if you have other sleep problems and both you and your doctor think that this kind of meditative practice would be very helpful. Some doctors actually recommend Muse products to their patients.
Buy: Muse S Brain Sensing Headband, $326.31 from Amazon
Common Problems With The Muse S
After reading lots and lots of reviews, we found several problems that seem to appear quite often among those who actually complained about Muse S. These are common issues users had with it.
Incorrect data. Some users reported wearing the Muse S while reading emails or doing some other type of work on their computers, during which they would hear birds chirping and after which the app would tell them that the session was successful. How could it be successful when those people were engaging in non-relaxing activities unless the collected data wasn’t incorrect?
Sensors losing contact. The sensors that are problematic aren’t the ones on the forehead, but the two that come above the ears. They tend to lose contact if placed incorrectly (even if they are only slightly off) and then the meditator will get a loud warning that the session is interrupted (which can totally throw you off into annoyance). People with long hair were the most likely to report this problem. The company advises such people to put the band over the neck first, then pull it up, and stop as soon as they come over the ears. This way all hair should be out of the way. They also advise dabbing a tiny bit of water on sensors to help the dry skin make contact.
Slow support. We can’t really blame them for this because most companies had quite a slow-responding customer support in 2020 due to Covid. It may take them several days, but they do eventually respond. Some customers who bought the product and had questions or problems setting it up, a buggy app, or something like that, had a really hard time having to wait so long for an answer and not being able to use their new, expensive product – which is completely understandable.
Headband width. This was a problem of those who described their heads as “very big”. Why these people had the problem is a bit unclear because the band isn’t made of a single piece of stretchy fabric only – it’s also adjustable at the back, so there should be plenty of room for everyone’s head. Anyway, those who complained about the size said that they would wake up with marks on the forehead indicating that they had been wearing the headband.
The screen stays on. This one is bad. You can’t lock your screen while the app is on, which also means your screen will be on while you’re trying to sleep. It also makes you keep the phone next to your bed (which we generally don’t recommend). When the session is over, the app assumes you’re sleeping, so it just turns off, and your screen will soon follow (if it’s set up to lock automatically).
The band is not so durable. When consumers pay over $300 for a product, they expect it to last for a long time. The band is soft, you can bend it and wash it by hand, but the sensors above ears may soon show signs of tearing or cracking. They will still work… until they stop. You should bear in mind that this is sophisticated technology and that the engineers had to work really hard to place it in such a comfortable headband. Unfortunately, the very fact that it is placed in a piece of fabric makes it prone to showing signs of wear and tear so make sure to use it with extra care.
No sleep tracking. The existence of EEG, and heart rate and breathing monitor made quite a few people (even some bloggers) assume this meditation guidance gadget is also a sleep tracker. It is not. Muse S only guides you to sleep and monitors your brain activity until you fall asleep, that is, until the end of the session.
No built-in speakers. This is another area that needs improvement. The app sends the sound over the phone or over the user’s own Bluetooth earbuds. Those who complained about this said that it was hard to fall asleep with those things in their ears and they wished there were built-in speakers.
What You Get In A Muse Package
Muse S comes in two long boxes – one contains a hard case with a headband and a pod and the other only has a USB cable (no actual charger). There is a piece of paper with minimal instructions and a link to the InteraXon website if you have any questions.
You get to download the app with limited Soundscapes and guided meditation sessions. If you also pay a subscription to their library, you can find hundreds of additional sessions.
Muse S – Maintenance and Care
You should Keep Muse S in its hard case and make sure you’re not overstretching the band – you can adjust it to avoid overstretching because it can damage the electronic components. Don’t fold it too much for no particular reason. Be gentle with the band at all times. Be light on any skincare products and make sure your skin is clean and dry before placing the band on your head.
If the band gets dirty, make sure to detach the pod before washing the band. Use a mild detergent and wash it by hand. You can dry it by dabbing it with a towel and letting it air dry. Make sure it’s completely dry, so give it a whole day. You cannot put it in a washing machine or a dryer because it will damage the components.
Buy: Muse S Brain Sensing Headband, $326.31 from Amazon
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