Zeo Personal Sleep Coach
How long does it take you to fall asleep at night? How many times do you wake up (and does the neighbor’s dog barking really wake you up over and over again)? How much of the REM sleep – which is required to form memories - are you actually getting? The BodyMedia FIT Armband, Wakemate and Fitbit Tracker both give you some details about your sleep patterns; just calculating how many times you wake up based on how much you move around turns out to be surprisingly accurate. What the $199 Zeo system gives you is the full details of your sleep patterns, so that you can understand how that affects your mood, your ability to concentrate or how much energy you have – plus personalized email advice on how to improve your sleep. That’s only going to be as accurate as the information you give it about your night’s sleep – if you just choose the simple ‘marks out of five’ score it won’t help as much as ticking off details about the dog waking you, the light being brighter than usual or your partner’s snoring keeping you awake.
To measure your sleep you wear a soft headband on your forehead with three replaceable sensor pads that sends the measurements of electrical activity in the brain to the bedside monitor – which doubles as an alarm clock with a gentle but effective tone.
The headband is comfortable but takes a little getting used to. Because it’s sensing your sleep state, Zeo can adjust the alarm time so it wakes you when you’re transitioning in or out of REM – the brain is highly active so being woken up is less of a shock. We did find waking up was easier, but Zeo might also wake you up to half an hour before the alarm time you set.
In the morning you can see on the monitor how long you took to fall asleep, how many times you woke up and how much time you spent in light, deep and REM sleep (plus an aggregate ZQ score for sleep quality). You can scroll through the chart of your sleep pattern in detail but that’s easier to look at on the myZeo Website later, and give a quick score for how well you think you slept.
Oddly, although the sleep data is connected wirelessly, you have to take an SD card out of the side of the monitor and put it in your computer to upload. We like that you don’t need any software to use the myZeo site; you can do everything in your browser, although that means you have to navigate to the sleep file on the SD card and open it by hand.
The only other way to get such detailed information about your sleep habits would be to join a professional sleep study and spend the night in a clinic – unusual circumstances in an unfamiliar place with a different bed that may not reflect your normal sleeping habits (and won’t have noisy trains or restless pets or whatever else affects your sleep at home). If you sleep well already, you won’t see the point. If you know why you sleep badly and don’t want to (or can’t) make changes, there’s no point in shelling out for the Zeo system, either. But if you want to find out how well you really sleep and get the data to encourage you to make changes to improve your sleep, this is hands down the best way to do it. The customized alarm is a side benefit, but if it makes a difference to how easily you wake up it could be worth the price.