Thursday, November 19, 2009

We All Have Sleep Cycles: Light, Deep, REM

Last night I started sleeping with a personal sleep coach to better understand how I sleep.

My wife is ok with it though since the coach is a Zeo which is made up of a headband and a bedside display.

You wear the headband when you go to sleep and the Zeo monitors and records your brain waves.

Very cool.

I was sent the Zeo on a trial basis and have not been compensated in any way for this review.

Here's what the Zeo looks like on my bedside table:


It's no iPod, that's for sure. All the controls along with their text descriptions are very intimidating. The button descriptions are on a plastic strip that can be removed.

Here are my first impressions after unpacking the Zeo, which I sent in to the company:
I read over the instructions and plugged it in, it's charging.

1st impression is that it's way too complicated.

2nd impression is that there's no information to tell you how to use it.

There needs to be a Step by Step guide to using the headband at night.

If it's in the box, I didn't see it.

One pamphlet tells you how to set up the base unit, another tells you how to wear the headband, and the third tells you how to log in and send data.

Where is the step by step nighttime instructions?


1. charge headband
2. put on headband
3. sleep
4. wake
5. place headband in base unit to transfer data

There isn't any explanation about how data gets captured nad transfered.

It might be obvious to the designers, but to me, I have no idea.

How would I know when the data gets transferred, much less saved?

As a user, I'd like to know that I'l be wearing the headband and capturing data.

Question: How does the headband know you are going to sleep.

Where is the start button?

My guess: There isn't one.

I sent in the email at 7:38 PM.

Zeo replied at 8:10 PM.

THAT is responsive. Most companies only work 9-5. I think it's great that I got a response after normal workign hours. It makes sense since people are going to be setting the Zeo up at night time.

Here's Zeo's response to my email:
LOVE the feedback. Definitely noted - and will certainly make sure to get it over to the Zeo team.

It only takes about 2 hours to charge - so depending on how late you head to bed tonight, you should be able to use it tonight.

Zeo starts working as soon as you take the headband off the dock. So that's the equivalent of the start button. :)

Hope this helps for when you are ready to head to bed:
1. Take the headband off the dock and put on your head, with the sensor pod touching your forehead.
2. Adjust the headband using the Velcro tabs on either side of the sensor pod.
3. As soon as you put it on your head, instead of the battery symbol on the Bedside Display an image of a dash with half circles on either side will appear. This means it's engaging.
4. You'll also see the graph at the bottom will start flashing a line up to the "W" marker. It's showing how it's tracking your sleep stage - you are in "wake".
5. Head to bed as soon as you put on the headband for the most accurate monitoring.

In the morning:
1. Wake up.
2. Put the headband on the dock.
3. Give it a second, and then it will show your ZQ score and your sleep graph at the bottom.
4. Use the ZQ button on top of the Bedside Display and the arrow keys to display your data.

FYI - up to 2 weeks are stored on the Bedside Display. But you can upload it to and it will be kept there for a long time.

Hope that clarifies some of your initial concerns. Sleep well!
Great email!

So I followed these steps and wore the headband to bed.

In the morning I saw these statistics on the Zeo:
Zeo: Wake, REM, Light, Deep

I took out the SD card on the ZEO and plugged it into my Mac and upload the night's data to myZEo. There it was graphed:

Zeo Sleep Graph

This got me interested in learning more about sleep cycles, which I'd never paid much attention to. Over on the Zeo site they have explanations:

Why REM is More Than a Rock Band:
A sleep cycle is a period during the night in which you go through each of the sleep phases, and perhaps some wakefulness. A typical sleep cycle involves: going into Light sleep, which deepens and can become Deep sleep, especially earlier in the night, then back into Light sleep which then transitions into REM sleep. It is very common to wake up either as you enter or exit REM sleep while transitioning out of or into Light sleep. This is the most natural time to wake up and can occur during any of the usual 3-6 sleep cycles over the course of a night. Notice that the body does not simply go into a sleep which just gets deeper and deeper over the course of the night until you wake up. Sleep deepens and lightens several times over the course of a night and waking up is often a normal part of this natural process.
The site also has you answer questions about your sleep habits and sleep environment. Each day you can enter "sleep stealers" to help determine how to get a better night's sleep.

All this info, that I'm entering, along with the sleep data, will result in personal recommendations. I'm interested in learning how this will all work.

The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach costs $249 and $399 and is available at They also have a limited trial offer where you can try the Zeo at home for 30 days for $19.95.


  1. Wouldn't it be interesting to compare your experience at age 3? with this gadget to me at 68 or your mom at 85.

    I'm particularly interested in what the difference would be in deep sleep which, according to the sleep teleconference I'm reporting on today, the researchers told us that deep sleep, needed for the secretion of growth hormone which the body needs to repair itself, drops off in late life.

    It's not known yet why deep sleep drops off or what the effect is on old people.

  2. I tried Zeo for a month. Loved the stats it gave me, but my issue was that I didnt understand what it meant to have a certain amount of deep/rem/light sleep. At my age (33), with my health (normal), what am I supposed to watch out for. That 'educational' aspect was not evident. So I gave up and returned it after 5 weeks.

    I'd be interested in knowing how it's going for you. If you could, please post a follow-up to your post, or leave a comment at Thanks.