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Hands on With Zeo: Does Sleep Tracking Tech Work?

We try out Zeo, a fancy new sleep tracker, to see if tech can help us hack our sleep.
Hands on With Zeo: Does Sleep Tracking Tech Work?
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Lots of gizmos and gadgets promise to make you happier and healthier. Zeo’s sleep system is meant to make everything better by giving users deeper, more restorative sleep. Greatist tried out Zeo mobile (courtesy of Zeo) to give you the lowdown.

There are three parts to the Zeo system: the headband, the mobile app, and the website. The headband is meant to be worn through the night. It records and tracks the user’s sleep through a small sensor on the front of the band. This information is automatically beamed from the sensor to a phone or mobile dock via Bluetooth. The app, free to download, turns this data into easy-to-read charts showing when the wearer was in deep, light, or REM sleep, and how many times they woke in the night. On the website, users can keep a sleep journal, where they record external factors affecting sleep (such as diet or interruptions from pets or loved ones). This self-reporting helps Zeo send personalized advice to help users improve their “Sleep Score” (read: to help them sleep better).

The whole sell of Zeo is the sleep-tracking technology, which allows users to find out how well they slept the previous night. But most of the actual advice is based on the information about sleep habits that users give in their journals. The sensor and sleep charts act like a kind of barometer where users can cross-reference how well they think they slept.

The gadget also has a nifty — if not finicky — feature where Zeo will set off your phone’s alarm when you’re at your softest rest. I tried this feature for a couple of nights. but I usually woke up before the alarm could kick in or felt groggy when I woke up anyway.

How It Works

 

The Zeo headband uses three silverized conductive sensors to collect the tiny electrical signals naturally produced by the brain, muscle tone, and eye movement. These signals are then magnified by the device and separated into categories that allow Zeo to discern when the wearer is in different phases of sleep. For example, activity in the 11 to 14 Hz range indicates light sleep, while activity in the 2 to 4 Hz range indicates deep sleep. All that science gets smoothed out and charted in user-friendly graphs collected every night. But it’s basically impossible to verify that Zeo was right when it says that, at 5 a.m. on June 7, I was in a deep sleep. People will buy Zeo because they trust the product to get it right.

Downsides

Wearing the headband all night takes a little getting used to, since wearing it too lightly can mean it falls off your head and throws off a night’s worth of data. I tried tightening the band but started to feel my pulse in my forehead — not the most relaxing way to fall asleep.

Zeo also recommends getting a new band every couple months to keep the silver-coated sensors from wearing down. This isn’t cheap considering replacements are $19.95 a pop (the entire mobile system costs $99).

There are some health concerns about wearing a Bluetooth device on your forehead for 6+ hours every night, but Zeo claims the device is safe and far exceeds the safety standards set by the FCC.

Verdict

Zeo was a fun experiment in hacking my sleep and certainly gave me some insights I might not otherwise have known — like the fact that I usually don’t hit a deep sleep when daylight starts to break. But it’s disappointing that the technology (the headband sensor) didn’t play more of a role in improving my rest. Zeo will absolutely reward dedicated users who fill out the online journals, take advantage of the site’s sleeping guides, and dutifully wear the device. Casual users might be wondering where their $100 went.

Have you tried Zeo or another sleep-tracking device? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below.

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