Cove leaves users wondering if it really has an effect on your health.
When I think about stress, I immediately think about how to avoid it. As much as we might want to, sometimes stress just sneaks up on us and occurs naturally from our day-to-day activities. Many people come up with natural ways to cope with stress like avoiding certain foods or getting proper exercise, but when you work from home, work stress sometimes creeps into your personal life more than you would like it to. For those times, it’s great to have an option that can assist you with stress relief while you are going about your normal activities. This is what Cove was designed to do.
Cove is a wearable device that is designed to help users reduce the amount of stress they feel and improve their sleeping habits. The hope is that with the reduction of those two mentally draining elements, the user’s brain can function at its highest level. The wearable is designed as a headband of sorts with a set of loops hooking over the back of the ears to hold it in place. Some of the highlights of the features include:
- Stress Reduction: In studies, 90% of daily Cove users experienced a significant drop in stress levels.
- Sleep Improvement: Research shows that Cove helps users fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
- Comfort and Convenience: Lightweight and beautifully designed, Cove can be worn anytime, anywhere.
- Empowering Insights: Using the Cove app, you can track your progress and view data from the device’s state-of-the-art sensors.
According to information provided on Cove’s website, 90% of subjects from trial studies reported reduced stress and improved sleep after using Cove. The device is designed to work by strengthening the interoceptive pathways through vibrations. The interoceptive pathway monitors what is happening inside your body and promotes feelings of relaxation. It can become compromised when you are ill, sleep-deprived, or stressed.
The concept behind the Cove wearable is that it helps to stimulate the pathway and unblock it. Feelmore Labs, the creator of Cove, conducted several clinical studies with 3,500 total participants. Approximately 41% reported decreased stress levels and 50% reported better sleep quality. You can read more about their studies and the science behind Cove on feelcove.com.
The wearable has a companion app that syncs to the device so that users can monitor their heart rate and motion data. The app also acts as a journal for the user’s perceived stress levels at the time of their session. Cove is rechargeable (built-in 85 mAh capacity battery) and comes with a travel case and charging cable. The wearable has a built-in PPG heart rate sensor and a 3D accelerometer. The device uses Bluetooth 4.2 to pair wirelessly to smartphones.
I want to start by stating that this is one of those products that lives in a gray area. Even though there is a clear scientific concept behind how it should be affecting a person’s body, there isn’t a clear test to prove that it is working for a specified individual. Even though heart rate, can be an indicator of stressful situations, it’s not 100% accurate.
So, while Cove uses that through the built-in PPG and the user’s participation journal of how they feel, as indicators, it’s still very subjective as far as results go. I will also state that I double-checked the PPG’s reading against what my Apple Watch recorded at the same time and it had the same reading.
Now that I have gotten that out on the table, let’s dig into the device itself. The Cove arrived in a classy black box and was stored inside a travel case. The travel case is quite substantial and I would think it could stand up to a great deal of abuse. The travel case is just a case and there is no option to connect a charging cable to the Cove while it’s being stored. I find this problematic because the Cove seems to lose power quite quickly when it’s not in use.
When it arrived, there was very little or no charge to the device. I plugged it into my laptop’s dock (USB port features 5V/1.5A power output) and let it charge for several hours before it had a full battery. You cannot use the Cove while it’s being charged – not even to set it up. I did attempt to set up the Cove with the smartphone app before it was done charging and experienced a lot of connectivity problems.
After it had a full charge, I set it up with the app, and I used it for a few minutes (the app kept disconnecting so I discontinued use during that session), I set the Cove aside until the next day. Since I had barely used the device the night before, I expected to see a mostly full battery in the app, but it was approximately 1/8 drained.
This brings me to one of the first issues I have with Cove – its battery life. The device does have a relatively small battery – only 85 mAh in capacity. To put that in perspective, the iPhone 13 Pro has a battery capacity of 3,095 mAh. The Cove has a total capacity that is only 2% of the current iPhone’s total capacity.
While that may not be a completely fair comparison because of the power behind the iPhone, let’s compare it to another wearable. The Series 6 Apple Watch either has a battery capacity of 273 mAh or 334 mAh depending on the body size of the device. This is still moderately larger than the Cove’s battery.
Because of the small capacity of its battery, my Cove’s battery was 1/4 drained after the first full session I completed. The specs do state that a user should be able to get through 4 sessions before needing to charge the device, but it would enhance the user’s experience if a larger battery capacity was utilized or if more/better-charging methods were employed.
As it is, there is no dock for it to sit on and as I previously mentioned the storage case doesn’t have a charging port or cut-out for the cable to slide through. So, you end up being left with a cable strewn across a desk to charge the Cove when it’s not in use. I’m also not a huge fan of the fact that Micro USB was the charger of choice for the device. It is becoming increasingly outdated as a connection method and it just doesn’t seem practical anymore.
My second issue with the Cove is that it wasn’t very comfortable for me to wear. I was never a big fan of the sport-style earbuds that had the wrap-around cuffs because they would cause my ears to ache. Well, that’s what the Cove felt like to me. It is lightweight, but for me, the band part of the device was constantly hitting my neck, which made me feel as though I needed to tilt my head a certain way to maintain a connection with the sensor.
The loops that hook around your ears are flexible but are still on the hard side and after just one 20 minute session, my ears hurt. They hurt to the point where for a long while after I removed the device, it felt as though I was still wearing it (even the next morning). Honestly, the entire device just felt like it was poorly suited to fit my head correctly. Because it was uncomfortable, that added to my personal anxiety and didn’t help with my stress level at all.
Once I had a full battery charge, the setup of the Cove with the app was an easy process. It’s just a Bluetooth connection between your phone and the device and then the app syncs data from the device into the app. It does seem that the only data it syncs is timing, heart rate, and motion. There is no sensor connection or vibration report to let you know how well the device performed during that time and since there are a lot of factors that can lead to stress or a wearable’s ability to collect information, it would be great if there was more information output from the Cove.
I did end up having connection issues with the Cove after its initial setup. I expected these types of issues to occur when the battery was low or the phone would go to sleep, but it seemed like every time I navigated away from the app the connection had to be reset between the device and the app. I don’t know if this is part of its design for a reason, but it was a minor inconvenience that did not help with the user experience.
I did not end up feeling many results after using the Cove. I did use it consistently and as directed for several sessions, but didn’t really reap the benefits. My sleep cycles remained the same according to our Sleep Number bed and my stress level has remained the same.
While I can appreciate what Cove is trying to provide users, I still remain skeptical about how it works and if it actually completes its mission. The fact that no two people and the circumstances around their stress levels and sleep quality vary make this an almost impossible device to test with any degree of certainty. In order to do a study that is fair, impartial, and objective, users would have to have the exact same environments to experience so that you could unequivocally state that Cove was what was making the difference.
It would be interesting to see how Cove operated with identical twins. That would be the closest scenario possible since identical twins have the exact same DNA and as close as possible physiological similarities that any two humans can have. One twin could wear the Cove as directed while the other does not wear it. Then the twins could be put through a series of stressful tasks. their biological reactions could be tested and monitored over time.
Even though the science behind Cove’s concept seems sound, I don’t know if it actually worked for me and there really is no finite way to tell. Cove has a standard retail price of $490, but at the time of publishing this article, there is a sale price of $349 that is valid until 3/31/22. I think it’s a hefty investment to make when you don’t know if it will work for you. Cove does, however, offer a 45-day money-back guarantee.