My First Two Weeks (+/-) with the Zeo.

Post Published on February 17, 2011.
Last Updated on November 29, 2017 by davemackey.

Thinking of the Poor:

Observing the shabbath closing havdalah ritual
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not a fancy person in most areas. I try to save my money and spend it on things I think are worthwhile and valuable. For example, sponsoring a Compassion child. So, what am I doing spending $200 on a glorified alarm clock – the Zeo? I’m glad you asked. Individuals whose hearts for the poor and neglected like John Sherk and Rob Timlin may be especially interested…and, I’ll let them decide whether my thinking is valid or if I need to be lovingly taken to the woodshed. 🙂

What About My Sleep?

Let me provide a three word summary of my history with sleep: it wasn’t nice. But, most of my history of sleep is non-relevant to today’s discussion, so let’s focus in on a few relevant points:

  1. I can’t go to sleep before midnight or I wake up 2-4 hours later and then can’t sleep for the rest of the night (which is a real drag when you have to work the next day).
  2. I get inexplicably and overwhelmingly exhausted throughout the day – and without structure – will fall asleep…and usually remain asleep for 1-3 hours.
  3. No matter how hard I try, I repeatedly fail at getting up early in the morning so that I can have the time I want to have to get ready for my day…I end up pushing the snooze button and sleeping in, then  hopping out the door in  mad rush.

Now, sleep is apparently important to our health. We don’t understand all the underlying magic – just that bad things like insanity and death happen if we don’t get it. It does all sorts of great things for restoring our health, cementing our memories, and so on. Perhaps God created sleep b/c He knew we’d be so bad at take Sabbath’s otherwise?

I Want a Zeo!

So…I’ve wanted a Zeo forever (okay, okay, maybe its been like two years?) and have held off and held off…but Charity (wonderful wife that she is) in an attempt to get me to actually bill my freelance network clients (I don’t mind the work…hate the billing) suggested that I use part of the revenues from my next few checks to purchase a Zeo (incentives…they work with kids, and apparently me…)…well, guess who only waited another month before billing? Yup, that’d be me!

The Zeo Arrives

I bought my Zeo and waited painstakingly for its arrival. Finally, it arrived. I opened the shipping box and inside, low and behold, was another box! But this was one fancy – you know, like Apple aesthetically pleasing fancy. Everything inside was all nicely wrapped and fancy. Its amazing how the packaging makes the product feel premier.

Using the Zeo: For Information

The first aspect of the zeo is its’ information aggregation and analysis. You wear a comfortable headband on your head while sleeping (yes, as awkward as that sounds…I had no trouble adjusting) and this wirelessly communicates information to your bedside zeo about your sleep patterns. In the morning you can see your overall ZQ (a “score” of how you slept), how often you awake, when you were in deep sleep / rem sleep / light sleep, and view all sorts of fancy charts and graphs. Zeo also offers guided coaching that helps you modify your habits to get better sleep.

I found this information very helpful b/c it provided me with an objective gauge of whether I got enough sleep the last night. I could see patterns forming where I wasn’t getting enough sleep for a few days, and then when I made the endeavor to get enough. I could also see and record the difference in my feelings / energy / etc…though I’ve barely taken advantage of most of these capabilities at this juncture.

Using the Zeo: Smart Awake

Honestly, the feature that has been killer for me thus far is the Smart Alarm. I tell the Zeo when I want to wake up and it wakes me up to 30 minutes before that time. Crazily enough, I usually feel better – even if I get 30 mins. less sleep, than if I’d slept right to the end. See, the Zeo tracks what stage of sleep I’m in and wakes me when I’m in light sleep rather than deep sleep – reducing my feelings of grogginess.

This has made a huge difference in my sleep habits. I’m now much better at getting out of bed on time. I’d estimate that I’m “gaining” 30 minutes to 1.5 hours each day due to the Smart Alarm feature. Granted, some of this may be placebo effects – time will tell.

Doing the Math

Now the question is – can we justify such an expense in light of the needs of the world? This is always a hard-pressing question upon my heart. For the past year or two I’ve taken a more dynamic approach to this question than I had previously (where the answer was almost always to sacrifice everything, whenever possible). I’ve begun to do little auto-magical (e.g. made up) calculations within my head to try and estimate the value of my time and how much money I am “saving” by “spending.”

For example, the Zeo cost me $200. Let us say my time is worth $10/hr.1I’d certainly hope its worth more…but I’m just being conservative. Lets take the conservative figure of time gained each day (30 minutes) and multiple that times a year (30 mins. x 365 days / 60 mins.) – 182.5 hours. Now, lets multiple this time gained by the amount my time is worth per hour (182.5 hrs. * $10/hr.) – $1,825.

Over a years time, I’m “gaining” $1,625 for an expense of $200. Granted, my time gained does not automatically translate into productivity…but to break even I’d only have to spend 20 of those 182.5 hours being “productive.”

The equations make sense to me, but do they to you? I use similar equations when deciding if I should purchase a video game, continue or cancel a subscription to Netflix or Grooveshark, and so on. My goal is optimal stewardship at minimal expenditure…but I think I’m trying to move beyond thinking of stewardship primarily in dollars to whole being…

Thus, while x might cost x amount, if it enables me to function x% better on an average day, I need to consider whether “indulging” will in the end “return” a value greater than the expenditure? e.g. How do we quantify the value of a honeymoon or romantic getaway for a husband and wife? Can we, should we, factor in the cost of a divorce down the road if the marriage is not indulgently cared for along the way?

This said, I think as Americans (including myself) we are grossly overspending. If we do adopt such a paradigm for measuring return vs. expenditure we must actually take the time to calculate the return, rather than using it as an excuse for gluttonous fulfillment of our pleasures.

Some Interesting Stats…I Don’t Know What They Mean…

I received a baseline report from Zeo on my sleep habits…I thought the findings where fascinating, though I’m not sure what they mean…here are the highlights:

  • I currently sleep an average of 6:01 hrs. each night, this is 1:19 hrs. less than the average for my peer age group.
  • Despite the significantly lower time spent asleep I show a significant front-runner status in both my REM and deep sleep.
    • In REM, I spend 1:49 hrs. while my peers spend 13 mins. less.
    • In deep sleep, I spend 1:50 hrs. while my peers spend 27 mins. less.
  • How is this possible that I get less sleep but more of the “quality” sleep? Its because most of my peers spend nearly twice the amount of time in light sleep (4:22 hrs.) as compared to me (2:23 hrs.).

In Case You Are Interested…

This is mainly if some sleep doctor happens to stumble across this post and is interested, here are a few other idiosyncrasies of my sleep habits:

  • I get very tired while driving or while in a car at all. Despite my hardest endeavors, if not driving, I almost always fall asleep on drives – oftentimes even relatively short ones (e.g. 30 mins.).
  • Exercise does not seem to significantly reduce my tiredness or help me push through it.
  • I get sleepy when I have been thinking a lot, this means I have a tendency to nap more on the weekends – b/c I tend to do a lot of reading/thinking.
  • While napping during the days I oftentimes prefer to sleep with as many lights on as possible…but when sleeping at night I am bothered by even the smallest of lights.

3 thoughts on “My First Two Weeks (+/-) with the Zeo.”

  1. Dave, have you ever had a formal sleep study done by a physician? I can’t help wondering if you have some sort of sleep disorder. My pastor’s daughter was recently diagnosed with a rare one – as a result of years of trying to determine why she would sometimes pass out! She would be able to hear but not respond, and knew when such an episode was coming on. It turned out to be a sleep disorder even though this happened during the day.

  2. Hi Dave,

    It’s Andi@Zeo here; I saw your comment on our ADHD and sleep post and popped on over here to say howdy. While I’m just an editor, I do have a hunch that what could be causing an increase in Deep and REM sleep despite a reduced Total Sleep Time is an underlying sleep debt.

    When our bodies are sleep deprived, they tend to do a few things to try and make up for it, one of which is increasing the amount of Deep and REM sleep. I suspect that if you were getting an extra hour of sleep every night, you’d see a decrease in total Deep and REM with an increase in Light. This is by no means a bad thing–even Light sleep has its benefits–but things do tend to “level off” once we balance our sleep needs.

    Anyway, glad that things are going well for you with Zeo! Feel free to reach out to me or anyone else if you have any sleep questions, or check out our Expert Answers database to see what they say about sleep (


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