Zeo Sleep Manager Review

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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Zeo Sleep Manager Review

Just about everyone claims at one time or another they don't get enough sleep. Spouses can even argue over who got the least amount of sleep and claim immunity from doing a household chore or offload the task to their spouse due to a lack of sleep. Well, now you can prove you had a bad night sleeping using the Zeo Sleep Manager, which uses a headband to record REM sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and awake times and gives you a ZQ score. Then you can say to your spouse, "See! I got only a ZQ score of 75! I can't possibly mow the lawn today. I need to take a nap!"

Ok, maybe that won't fly with your spouse, but the Zeo Sleep Manager sleep tracking can be used to improve your sleeping habits. For instance, medications, caffeine, stress level, and the time you go to bed can all impact your sleep. For instance, maybe you take some pain medicine to help you fall asleep, but you wake up groggy. The pain medicine could be preventing your from falling into REM or deep sleep. You may decide to try and go without your pain meds the following night and see if that impacts your ZQ score.

I tested the Zeo Sleep Manager (also called Zeo Mobile) over the past couple weeks. Interestingly, I saw this product had a prominent display right by the entrance at my local Best Buy when I was Christmas shopping. In any event, Zeo Mobile, uses a rechargeable headband with three silver oxide pads on the inside of the headband to make good conductivity with your skin to measure brain waves and determine what state of sleep you are in. The headband tracker than transmits this data wirelessly over Bluetooth to your smartphone - in my case my iPhone 4S, which runs the free Zeo application. Both iOS and Android app versions are available.

Most sleep measurement devices use an accelerometer to calculate REM sleep, assuming that you are dreaming as you are moving. Zeo's headband directly measures brain activity as you sleep and their website claims 75% accuracy. When you go to sleep, you put on the headband and launch the Zeo app on your mobile device and make sure it's connected/paired over BT. Then you simply start tracking. I thought wearing a headband would be uncomfortable, but you forget it's there after awhile. Of course, my wife doesn't let me forget. She mocked how "sexy" it was for a few nights. not-listeningHey, you married a gadget guy, accept it!

You have to leave your iPhone running (not sleep mode) in order for tracking to work. Thus, the iPhone's screen brightens the room a bit. The app does "dim" the display after a few seconds, but still too bright for me, so I just covered it up with a dark cloth.

In the morning when you wake up, you simply remove the headband and press the stop tracking button on the phone. You'll be able to see your ZQ score and view exact details as well. I put the charger next to my bed, so I could simply dock it when I woke up. It actually uses magnets to pull the headband into the dock, but even with the magnets, every once in awhile it wasn't aligned correctly, the headband didn't charge, and I could only partially track that night before the battery died. There is a green light that lights up when you are correctly charging, but it is very dim (on purpose I assume since most people like to sleep in dark rooms), so bright daylight easily washes out the green light unless you get really close to it.

Viewing the sleep history on the device is pretty cool (see Photo Gallery below). Unfortunately, when viewing details for a particular day, you cannot simply swipe left/right to instantly go to different days. You have to go back and pick another day. This made visually comparing chart details, such as when you most often fall into REM sleep a bit difficult. So I'd like to see a future version of the mobile app have this feature. I should mention that the app also automatically uploads your sleep data to Zeo's website, where you can view your sleep data.

That said, I liked the color-coded mobile app which made it easy to visualize your sleep patterns each night, using color-coded bars for deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep and times you were awake. Dark Green (deep sleep) is excellent, lighter green (REM) is good, grey (light sleep) is OK, and red (awake) is bad. My lowest sleep score was a 56 (due to sick kids keeping me up) and my highest score was 111. If you go to the website they break down ZQ scores by age and gender so you can compare your ZQ with other averages.

One interesting feature is something they call smart alarm. Simply choose a time you'd like to wake up, and give it a time window (20, 30 or 40 minutes). Zeo will monitor your brain waves to find the best time to "gently" wake you at the optimal point in your sleep cycle within this time window.

I discovered some interesting things about my sleep patterns. One, I already knew - it takes me a long time to fall asleep - 50 minutes on average. What I didn't know is that I skip right past "light sleep" (grey color) and jump right to REM sleep - every single time. There wasn't a single night when I went from 'wake' to 'light sleep' to 'REM' and eventually to 'deep sleep'. It always went from 'wake' to 'REM', which is a good thing, since REM is more restorative for the brain than light sleep. I always knew my brain was more efficient! dancing

Zeo also has an online coaching program that helps your analyze the sleep you are getting, though I haven't used the device long enough to see if that is useful or not.

Sleep studies are sometimes not covered by insurance, so for a mere $99 you can determine if you have a severe sleeping disorder and then act accordingly. But even if you only have mild sleeping issues, this gadget helps you track your sleep so you can make life changes (cut coffee, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, etc.) and see if that impacts your ZQ. Yes, you can subjectively "gauge" how you "feel" in the morning after an all night boozefest, but we can all convince ourselves that we slept just fine even if our brain cells are crying out for more rest. Having an objective benchmark helps keep us honest. All-in-all a useful and easy-to-use product. Anyone looking to improve their sleep should check it out.

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