Meet Sensate – A Device That Calms Your Fight or Flight Response: Interview Exclusive
A quick way to soothe your nerves sounds too good to be true. There are many methods and techniques used for achieving this “calm” that include breath work, visualization, meditation, and other individualized activities. However, what intrigued us was that there is a device on the market, the developers of which claim is be able to achieve this effect in as little as ten minutes.
After trying it out for a few weeks, we can confirm – the Sensate device works remarkably well, at least in our limited experience. Let’s talk science, though. How does it actually work?
In the last couple of years, there’s been an increase in the number of heart monitoring devices – many of these measure “heart rate variability” (HRV). HRV is the variance in time between heartbeats, and has been used as a metric for well-being, resilience, and behavioral flexibility. It’s a measurement that provides indirect insight into the autonomic nervous system (ANS) – which includes the parasympathetic nervous system – and helps regulate unconscious or involuntary physiological processes, including heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion, and sexual arousal. Since the ANS also plays a role in the glands and smooth muscles of the internal organs, it’s also called the visceral nervous system. This is why HRV can help provide a metric for the body’s capacity to weather stress and facilitate recovery.
The vagus nerve is an important part of the ANS, and when it’s out of whack, dysautonomia can result. As expected, the symptoms are broad and could include irregular heartbeats, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, excessive fatigue, and non-mentally induced anxiety or panic. In other words, it’s your ANS that is often responding to a lot of the unconscious stressors in your life.
Inventor Stefan Chmelik has developed Sensate to help calm the ANS and counter the harmful effects of an unmanaged or chronic stress response. Sensate uses a mix of infrasonic frequencies and sound therapy to send calming signals throughout the body. Toning the vagus nerve involves utilizing the phenomenon of bone conduction, using the chest to resonate relaxing sound frequencies. Special soundscapes have also been developed by mixing engineered frequency harmonics with auditory stimuli. These technologies result in Sensate relieving your stress and relaxing you via a comforting hum that tells your body it is safe and can relax.
We had the privilege of interviewing Stefan Chmelik and Anna Gudmundson about their new sensory device.
Alice Ferng, Medgadget: Tell us about your background and what led you to inventing this device
Stefan Chmelik, CSO & Co-Founder of BioSelf Technology / Sensate Inc.: Stefan Chmelik is a life-long meditator and a driven entrepreneur fully focussed on his mission to enable people globally to improve their relaxation and stress management skills. The Sensate technology is the culmination of a life-long journey through meditation and breathing into medicine and healthcare. As founder of New Medicine Group in London’s world-famous Harley Street, he created a world-class team with 300 years of combined clinical excellence, specialising in complex stress and mental health issues. As gatekeeper at New Medicine Group, he is one Europe’s most experienced physicians with an expert level understanding of what intervention is most effective for which health issue.
Medgadget: What were some of the challenges you encountered when you were first creating this device? Were there any surprises (good or bad)?
Mr. Chmelik: The initial challenges were primarily technical, in terms of engineering and software, but also acoustic and music theory. The Sensate system includes a number of complexities around both the infrasonic frequencies, how they are transmitted, the audible aspect and also the synchronization between the two. We had many challenges along the way and a lot of work and time has gone into the development. In a way, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that it was possible to use the body’s anatomy and get the same results as with the bigger kit I had been using in the clinic! It was when we reallized that the prototype really worked for people that I understood we had a big decision to make, to focus on the prestigious clinic I was running, or focusing on getting this product out to the many people who need it. I chose the path of maximum positive global impact and that’s what I and the team are devoted to.
Medgadget: Tell us more about HRV and the magic behind what makes this device effective.
Mr. Chmelik: HRV (Heart rate Variability) is an expression of the innate flexibility and adaptability of our bodies and I regard it as one of biomarkers that can be used to try and assess the deeper functionality of the Autonomic Nervous system (ANS), of which our Vagus nerve is the largest component. HRV is the tiny beat-to-beat intervals of the heartbeat, as seen on ECG. The greater the level of variability, the more the resilience and adaptability, because the heart is not a metronome and that which cannot bend breaks.
Sensate is developed to make use of the body’s own capacity to regulate the ANS from the inside out. Tapping into this primal part of the nervous system helps both relaxing in the moment, and with ongoing usage to increase stress resilience. The extension of a better toned vagus nerve is regulation of the organs, immune system and innate neurology.
Medgadget: What’s next? What’s in the works?
Mr. Chmelik: Our core mission is to continue to provide a reliable and accessible solution for anxiety and stress. We will continue to nuance the Sensate device and app to make the experience as effective as possible, and there is much more we are working on that supports our mission. This is all secret at this time of course.
Medgadget: Are there plans to allow a mode where you can use the device without needing to use a soundscape? Or plans to allow customized sounds?
Mr. Chmelik: There is plenty of scope for adding functions and features to the Sensate experience, and we are laser focused on providing things that build upon what is already a very effective system. My co-founder Anna Gudmundson is a very experienced technologist and acutely aware of the dangers of ‘feature creep’. We try very hard to only add things that increase the effectiveness of our mission.
Medgadget: What about stronger haptics and infrasonic waves? Are those necessary? Do people acclimate to the device over time and would the effectiveness therefore decrease with constant, prolonged use?
Mr. Chmelik: No haptics are involved, only sound, including very low frequency non-audible physical sensations. Some people like really strong sensation and others prefer a softer hum, but the body doesn’t acclimatize as such to the sensation, in fact there is a useful cumulative effect that builds with repeat use. As we are training the nervous system to create more robust neural networks, this effect is permanent and natural, rather than a transient pain killer.
Medgadget: Anything else you’d like to share with the Medgadget audience?
Mr. Chmelik: Based on my 30 years of medical experience and research (and something like 5 decades of meditation experience), I’m clear that building stress resilience is the best use of time for anyone interested in good mental health, stamina and longevity. From what our thousands of users tell us, and these people have run over a million sessions, Sensate is the most effective tool they have used. I’m very proud of that.
Medgadget: Tell our readers about your background and how you got involved with Sensate.
Anna Gudmundson, CEO & Co-Founder of Bioself Technology / Sensate Inc.: My background is in exponential technology, where I have spent my entire career. Prior to my tech industry background I have a Master’s Degree in Science of Information Technology. I’ve worked in large and small tech companies, I’ve been a turnaround CEO and on the board of a listed company; I’ve raised money, pivoted, scaled, failed, restructured and sold.
I have always gravitated towards solving massive problems and getting in front of macro trends. I have a huge passion for the human potential – which makes it very exciting for me to take Sensate to the world and scale the business.
Medgadget: Do you use this device yourself? What do you think? When or how has it been most effective for you?
Ms. Gudmundson: Of course, I use it! But I’m not really our target audience. I rarely suffer from anxiety and I also have regular meditation and breathwork practices. My preferred use case is the power break. When I have back-to-back meetings all day and I only have a short break, it’s not enough time to get into a meditative state for me, since my mind is still processing at high speed. If I do a Sensate session I get a lot more recharge out of that time than anything else I could do. My preferred sessions for this are Sunrise, Forest, and Avian, and I sometimes do it reclining back instead of lying down. My second use case is before sleeping. This is not to help me fall asleep, which I do anyway, but it improves my sleep quality. I have an Oura ring so I can both see and feel the difference. The same number of hours sleep, just more quality recharging during that time.
Medgadget: What’s in the works? What are some upcoming plans for this product?
Ms. Gudmundson: We have some exciting things on the app and sessions side coming out next quarter but we haven’t announced those yet. We’ll keep you posted! Something that we haven’t yet announced anywhere, is that we’ll do a crowdfunding campaign. We already have very passionate investors, and many of our users have asked if they could invest smaller amounts. We’re already a mission-driven company so it feels completely right that the people who are gaining the benefits from using the product should also be able to gain from our growth. If anyone is interested, they can sign up for our updates here.
Medgadget: Do you have other devices planned?
Ms. Gudmundson: There’s not too much we can share here, as I’m sure your readers will understand, but we will both continue to evolve our core Sensate infrasonic therapy, which is what’s already helping many thousands of people. We also want to offer wider support to our users around their conditions and support them in dealing with stress, anxiety, and related issues. This is something that Stefan (my co-founder and the innovator of the product) and the team have a lifetime of experience working with, so there’s a lot more we can offer around the core product.
Medgadget: Anything you’d like to share with the Medgadget audience
Ms. Gudmundson: We love to hear from people about the product! People can contact us with suggestions and feedback on firstname.lastname@example.org any time – we are here to listen and to support the community.
We are always excited to work with people just as passionate about physical and mental wellness as we are. Any interest in joining us as an affiliate, influencer, research partner, or other fascinating ideas – those people can contact us on email@example.com and let us know what they’re thinking.
Link: Sensate Product Website…
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