I've had numerous requests over the last 18 months to listen to NuCalm and give my verdict. Finally my trial package arrived, and now my NuCalm review is here.
With over a million users from CEOs to sports stars, the marketing is impressive. But does the reality live up to the hype?
I tested it for 4 weeks.
And, as always, I'll give you my humble opinion from my personal experience, which is based on many years experience using brainwave entrainment products and exploring all things neuro-hacking!
I've created a contents page below, so you can easily jump to the information you need. I advise reading all the way through, though, as I cover a lot of detail that you should digest before making a decision.
- What Is NuCalm?
- How Does NuCalm Work?
- What's the Science Behind the Biosignal Disks?
- How Does the Eye Mask Work?
- My Experience with NuCalm
- Falling Asleep to NuCalm
- Potential Side Effects
- Session Length
- In Summary
What Is NuCalm?
NuCalm is a relaxation program that purports to promote lower stress and anxiety levels, better sleep, mood, and performance.
It is distributed by Solace Lifesciences, a neuroscience company developing technology therapies designed to naturally restore the mind and body.
Developed by a neuroscientist – they don't say who? – the NuCalm approach was originally intended to treat patients suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, usually accompanied by drug abuse.
The system was later simplified and developed into a home-user product, which is what we arrive at today.
How Does NuCalm Work?
After some digging around, I found that the main technology behind NuCalm, aside from the bio signal discs, which we will get into in a minute, is actually binaural beats.
This is something I know a fair bit about!
It's funny the number of products I come across that use binaural beats as the main technology but don't openly advertise the fact, perhaps because they want to make out like they are using something newer and more innovative.
Anyway, buried in the blog somewhere I found the following line: “Traditional binaural beat music is linear and predictable; NuCalm tracks are scientifically designed to keep your brain engaged”.
Okay, so this might be true for some programs, or the rubbish you find on YouTube, but companies like BinauralBeatsMeditation make many non-linear tracks with multiple frequency points and layering, just saying…
I'm not saying they are lying, but bear in mind that it's a broad statement, true in part, but certainly not for all.
So now that we've established the tech of the app software and I've got that off my chest, let's move on, because it does get more interesting.
What's the Science Behind the Biosignal Disks?
The key component in the system is the NuCalm Disc. This for me is the most interesting aspect, and what you're really paying the extra for.
These are bio signal processing discs, designed to slow down adrenaline and begin the relaxation process. You place one on the inside of your left wrist, near the bottom of your forearm, before you start your session.
The disc then sends an electrical pulse signal to your brain to instruct it to relax. Kind of like an EEG machine.
Then you choose your session on the app on your phone, kick back and put the eye mask on, and drift away. It's pretty straightforward.
Each biosignal processing disc contains the frequency patterns of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain.
GABA counteracts the effects of cortisol and adrenaline (present in stress and anxiety), thus slowing and relaxing the brain.
Research has shown that GABA can boost mood and have a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system.
In short, the discs entrain the brain to chill :).
Are the Discs Reusable?
They aren't. That's what the subscription is for. You'll receive your discs in the post, either monthly or yearly, depending on your subscription.
You can, however, leave the disc on after your session, as there is said to be some residual benefits that will continue through the day.
Note: You should keep your discs sealed in the bag they come in to ensure they work at optimum performance.
How Does the Eye Mask Work?
Initially I thought the eye mask was an integral part of the system, but actually it's just a premium moulded eye mask.
I quite like it and I can use it to sleep, but know that it's not essential and you could just use any other eye mask.
After your NuCalm journey, you can expect to feel calm, relaxed, focused, energized, present, and patient, so you can own the day! Since NuCalm is priming your GABAergic system, you can also expect to sleep well the night following your NuCalm.
My Experience with NuCalm
First Session Thoughts
One might expect me to say I was skeptical going into my first session, but I wasn't. I've been using and testing products like these for decades, and I know that binaural beats technology, when done properly, works.
In short, I expected to feel relaxed.
Using the discs was new to me, though, so I really didn't know what to expect in this regard.
As noted previously, the discs work in a similar way to an EEG machine, in that it is sending electromagnetic signals to the brain. It does this through your Pericardium-6 acupuncture point, on your left wrist.
The software is really easy to use. You buy NuCalm on the website, then download the app to your phone.
You answer a few tick-box questions about what you want to achieve, as seen below:
You then select your session, as below. I highly recommend the Recharge session in the afternoon, as a power nap.
The app is very well designed and even the most technically challenged person could find their way around.
The music varies but is mostly what you'd expect, nondescript, calming sounds. Naturally you'll like some better than others, but mostly they just float by, which is actually what you want. The more neutral and pleasing to the ear the better. Distracting, high pitched sounds can be off-putting and would ruin the sessions.
The sound design isn't what's impacting your brain, though. It's the frequencies under the music. You probably won't notice how these differ between tracks, but your brain will respond to the vibrations accordingly.
I found the sound design similar to that of iAwake Technologies, in that it's experimental and a little abstract at times.
In terms of the system, I have no complaints. The only real issue for me was not being able to measure the impact of the discs. How do I know if the disc is working?
An EEG machine is hooked up to a computer via wiring, so you can see the readings of the brain, but in this case I'm still left unsure as to whether signals are being transmitted and what the impact is.
Of course, users swear by the technology, but I'd like to have some tangible readout on the app, or some measurement of the impact on my session. Because you have no way of knowing if it's just the relaxing music – underpinned by binaural beats – that is doing all the relaxing of the brain, or the discs too.
I couldn't find any test date or independent studies on this on the website.
I did find that the eye-mask enhanced the experience. Blocking out the natural light in the room helped turn my mind inwards and fall deeper into a meditative state. That was one key learning from this experience that I'll test with other products.