Muse S Review: A Brain-Sensing Band That Promises EEG-Powered Meditation and Sleep Support

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The Lowdown

Whether you are an experienced meditator or looking to start, have trouble falling to sleep, or simply want a comfortable way to monitor and track your sleep patterns with easy-to-understand data, the Muse S is for you.

Pros

  • Easy to use thanks to step-by-step instructions
  • Comfortable
  • Real-time biofeedback for mediation
  • Digital Sleeping Pills for falling asleep and real-time sleep monitoring
  • Presents data in a format that is easy to understand

Cons

  • Muse S “pod” can be knocked out of its cradle when adjusting the headband
  • Uses micro USB and Bluetooth 4.2
  • Needs to be recharged nightly
Muse S Review: A Brain-Sensing Band That Promises EEG-Powered Meditation and Sleep Support Listen to this article

I tried out the original Muse EEG-Powered Meditation headband; it looked like something out of Star Trek, but it worked as promised. I was amazed that a simple band could read my brain activity and, using biofeedback, help me meditate. The new Muse S brain-sensing band has a more refined design, and it now comes with Sleep Support technology. It promises to offer EEG-powered meditation and sleep support, but does it work?

Muse S retail box

An EEG, or an electroencephalogram, reads and monitors brainwaves. That’s key to meditation or sleep since brain activity ideally slows as you meditate. The Muse device is, among other things, able to “see” changes in brain activity and give feedback in real-time.

This, in turn, lets you maintain the focus that slows brain activity during meditation by letting you know when brain activity has slowed. It is an excellent use of biofeedback, and, as I’ll explain, it really works!

Muse says that their Muse S is a “comfortable to wear brain-sensing headband” that responds to your mind, heart, and breath to help you understand how well you focus, sleep, and recharge so you can focus during the day and recharge at night.

Inside the Muse S retail box

I was interested in reviewing the Muse S due to the addition of their new “Digital Sleeping Pills,” but before we dig into that, let’s take a quick look at the Muse S itself and its support for meditation. I should note that a rev 2 version of the Muse S is now available. I’m reviewing the original Muse S, but it has all the same features.

You get the Muse S sensor unit, a soft headband, a charging cable, and some literature inside the box. I was a bit bummed to find that the Muse S still uses a micro-USB port to charge; it’s ancient technology at this point, and I have to imagine they took this route to save a few pennies.

Considering the $399.99 price tag of the Muse S, I firmly believe they should have gone to USB-C and wished they had done so. It is a minor knock on the device but deserved.

Another shortcoming is the use of Bluetooth 4.2. We are well past that version of Bluetooth, so I’m not sure why they opted for it. While it seems to work just fine, I would have preferred to see the company use the best current technology instead of legacy technologies.

The unit can be recharged in three hours and should deliver up to ten hours of use per charge. That means you’ll want to keep it plugged in when not in use lest you get ready for a session only to find that the Muse has no charge left. (Trust me, I’ve had this happen twice already.)

The original Muse was a rigid band that hooked behind each ear. It worked well but looked rather odd. My bigger concern, however, was that the rigidity of the band made it uncomfortable to wear while lying down unless you were on your back.

The Muse S takes a different approach. The soft headband wraps around your head and can be adjusted for fit.

Inside the headband, there are some sensor pads but, other than that, it is just a headband.

Muse S Review: A Brain-Sensing Band That Promises EEG-Powered Meditation and Sleep Support

The brains of the operation are found in the separate module that snaps into anchors on the headband; they refer to it as a “pod.”

Muse S pod

I like the new approach for a few reasons. First, now that the headband wraps entirely around your head and is made from a soft material it can be worn laying in any position. In addition, because the pod can be removed, the same unit can be used by different people, so long as each person has their own headband. At $79.99, the headbands aren’t exactly inexpensive, but they are significantly less than the cost of buying multiple units.

There is, however, a downside to the new design. More than once, I have tried to adjust the headband while wearing it and accidentally knocked the pod out of position. Future iterations should include a mechanism to lock the pod in place.

The pod can monitor your mind via EEG, heart, PPG and Pulse Oximetry, body position via an accelerometer, and breath. That’s a lot of data to sift through but, luckily, the company made it easy for laypeople like me to understand.

To use the Muse S (or the original Muse), you’ll want to have a smartphone and earbuds. The Muse app, available for free in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, is the brains of the operation and, once paired with the Muse S, controls the meditative process while also recording and analyzing the experience.

Meditation Made Easy: Stop guessing if you are doing it right. Use real-time feedback to guide you and keep you motivated during your meditation practice.

To use the Muse S for meditation, you’ll want to size the headband for the right fit and then place it on your head with the pod sitting on your forehead between your eyes. Once you launch the Muse app, you will be asked to select a “session.” The app offers a wide range of programs and, if you subscribe to their premium service, you’ll get even more choices.

The subscription is $12.99 a month, but the app is currently offering me a one-year subscription for just $9.99. You can access more than 500 guided meditations with the subscription, with new meditations released each month. It also enables you to use Muse with other apps.

Once you select a session, you’ll be asked to wait a few seconds while the app checks to ensure the Muse headband is making proper contact and can read your brainwaves.

The number of medications available can be overwhelming. I tend to use the basic Mind Meditation; even there, the number of options is enormous. I can choose how long I want to meditate, the type of sounds I’ll hear (I tend to prefer their “Ambient Music.”), and whether I want instructions or simply to listen to the sounds.

The next step is to make sure your earphones are connected, and the audio from Muse is feeding into them. While you can use Muse without headphones, I’ve found the experience to be far more immersive when using my AirPods Pro.

Once the session begins, you’ll hear sounds from a forest. When Muse senses a state of relaxation, birds quietly start to sing. When Muse senses you have lost focus, the birds stop chirping and stronger forest sounds, or, if you prefer, rainstorms, play, prompting you to refocus. This way, you get real-time feedback on your meditative progress and, over time, gain control over the process.

Track & Measure Your Progress: Review your data, set goals, and build a rewarding meditation practice.

At the end of a session, the Muse apps present you with a summary of the session. There you can see how often the birds were chirping, how many times you lost focus, and for how long, as well as other data that may become more useful as you gain experience.

Meditation Features Include:

  • Mind: Real-time brainwave feedback (EEG) teaches you the art of focus.
  • Heart: Tune into your heart rate to optimize performance.
  • Body: Discover how your meditation posture can bring you physical relaxation.
  • Breath: Learn how to use your breath to find calm and fight stress.

I’ve been using the Muse S for quick, five-minute mid-day “mindfulness breaks.” I find these breaks helpful as I continue to be stressed while trying to navigate my community through this pandemic.

However, that is not the only reason I wanted to check out the Muse S.

Digital Sleeping Pills: “Imagine a bedtime story that helps you shut off your busy mind & cues your brain to sleep.”

 

A Muse Digital Sleeping Pill, or DSP, is a responsive new kind of sleep experience that is designed to put you to sleep and help you fall back asleep if you’ve woken up during the night.

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I have trouble sleeping; I have difficulty falling asleep, and I often have trouble staying asleep once I do. Add in the fact that I was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea that requires a CPAP machine, and I’m game to try anything that may help me get to sleep faster and, once I do, stay that way.

Muse app

 

Immediate Sleep Relief: Experience breakthrough intelligent sleep support with Digital Sleeping Pills combined with forget-it’s-there comfort to help you refocus during the day and recharge overnight.

The company claims their DSP can help you get to sleep faster and help you stay fall back asleep if you wake up during the night.

That claim was good enough for me, so I decided to give it a try.

When you fall asleep your brain activity changes. Muse can detect these changes and use them to gently modulate your sleep experience, cueing your brain that it’s time for sleep. If you wake in the night, we use the same technology to automatically guide you back to sleep again.

Getting set up to use the DSP aspect of Muse requires the same basic steps as you would take to meditate. The difference here is that instead of selecting the “Meditation” tab in the app, you’ll want to choose the “Sleep” tab.

Once you do, you will, once again, be presented with a wide range of options. These include guided sleep meditations and stories, a variety of music and nature sounds, and more. I tried the guided sleep stories and didn’t love them, so I opted to listen to a “Gentle River.”

Muse app

Once again, the Muse S went through the process of testing the connection and then prompted me to continue to the program. The sound didn’t initially strike me as anything special. It was pleasant, but that was about it.

Initially, I wondered why I would want the Muse S since I could easily get similar soundtracks to listen to while falling asleep. It was only later that I realized that the audio track adjusts itself in response to what the Muse is sensing.

When I paid closer attention, I noticed that the volume and intensity of the sound changes constantly. One audio track I listened to seemed to use the volume and intensity to gently “rock” me back and forth. The audio became louder and then gently pulled back. After a while, this “rhythm” slowed my mind down a bit. I’m not sure what happened after that since… I fell asleep.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the app also includes a fade function. As Muse senses you are falling asleep, it reduces to volume.

But the Muse DSP does even more.

Even after falling asleep, the Muse S continues tracking and recording information. In the morning, I can see a host of collected data. The app records when I turned the Muse S device on and off and how long I was in bed. It tells me how long I slept, but it also tells me how much time I spent in REM sleep, how much was “light,” and how much was “deep sleep.” It even provides a graph so I can actually see when I was in each of these stages.

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But there’s more.

It also tells me the “intensity” of my deep sleep and provides a score. That way, I can easily compare one night to another.

For example, if I had a lot of deep sleep one night but relatively little the next, I can explore what might have been different from one night to the next.

Did I eat later one night than the other? Did I drink? Having the data allows me to refine my bedtime preparation and, I hope, optimize it over time. And, thanks to a “Notes” field I can attach to each night’s data, I don’t have to remember one night to the next.

And there’s even more.

Thanks to the accelerometer built into the Muse S, the app also tells me what sleeping position I was in, how long, and when I was in that position. This piece of data actually surprised me. I always thought I slept on my stomach. However, according to the app, I spend most of my time – over 70% – lying on my right side while I sleep.

Interesting.

It also lets me know my heart rate throughout the night, what percentage of the night I was still, versus how much I tossed and turned.

It is a lot of data, and while most of it is simply “interesting,” some of it will be helpful in the coming weeks as I try to get into better sleep habits.

For example:

If I find that I consistently take longer to fall asleep when I have a snack before bed, I can stop having a snack before bed. The same goes with drinking before going to bed, when I try to go to bed, and more.

Having the data at hand and visually understanding what is happening at night lets me compare one night against another and make adjustments.

All of that is automatically captured and recorded by the Muse S and then available the next morning. And thanks to the new design, the headband is not only comfortable, but it stays in place throughout the night. In fact, I’m able to comfortably wear it even with my CPAP mask.

Muse S headband

DSP Features Include:

  • Digital Sleeping Pills: Immediate and intelligent sleep support to put you to sleep and help you fall back asleep if you’ve woken up during the night
  • Sleep Tracking: Get your best rest through overnight sleep tracking, deep sleep insights, position tracking, and a personalized sleep score
  • Insights: Gain insights into your sleep patterns and how they change from one night to the next

The original Muse was like something from a science-fiction movie. It not only looked the part, but it literally let me “see” inside my brain. The Muse S doesn’t look quite as futuristic, but the new DSP feature adds an entirely new dimension to what the device can do and the information and insights it provides.

I’ve used the Muse S for the past week or so; I’m convinced it is helping me get to sleep faster. At the same time, it also shows me just how poor the quality of my sleep is. So while Muse is doing its part, it’s now up to me to make changes based on the data from Muse, and I will!

EEG-Powered Meditation and Sleep: Muse is a brain-sensing headband that uses real-time biofeedback to help you refocus during the day and recover overnight.

Here’s a look at the Muse S that helps explain what it offers:

Whether you are an experienced meditator or looking to start, have trouble falling to sleep, or simply want a comfortable way to monitor and track your sleep patterns with easy-to-understand data, the Muse S is for you. If you don’t need the latest model and its DSP functionality, you can still get the Muse 2 for $249.99 rather than spending $399.99 on the Muse S. For me, though, the DSP functionality is what makes Muse S stand out.

The Muse S sells for $399.99; it is available directly from the manufacturer.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Easy to use thanks to step-by-step instructions: Comfortable; Real-time biofeedback for mediation; Digital Sleeping Pills for falling asleep and real-time sleep monitoring; Presents data in a format that is easy to understand

What Needs Improvement: Muse S “pod” can be knocked out of its cradle when adjusting the headband; Uses micro USB and Bluetooth 4.2; Needs to be recharged nightly

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.