Zeo: A Few Months Later.

Alarm clock
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Back in February I bought a Zeo. Its been around eight months now and I figured I should provide an update on how the Zeo has been going for me. I have both good and bad to report, but overall – I’d say it was a worthwhile investment.

First off, for those who aren’t familiar with the Zeo it is an alarm clock with some extra intelligence. It has a headband one wears which measures the quality and extent of one’s sleep. This information is aggregated and analyzed and allows for one to review and optimize one’s sleep schedule. It also can awake you during a period of light sweep, allowing you to wake up more refreshed.

I bought the Zeo because I have a hard time waking up in the morning and because I regularly experience significant daytime sleepiness. I also knew I was frequently tempted to stay up too late…so I figured the Zeo could help me get my sleep habits under control.

When I first began using the Zeo it seemed like a god-send. I was waking up 1 hour earlier than usual, feeling more refreshed, and forcing myself to go to bed at a better time. I was able to see the quality of my sleep and determine objectively whether I was getting enough sleep – rather than subjectively by how I felt or thought I’d slept.

At first I wasn’t doing very well, but as time went on I got better and began to sleep more appropriately regularly – thanks in large part to the Zeo. Unfortunately, the morning wake-up effects seemed to be declining simultaneously. I was having the same issues getting out of bed and I also was still feeling regularly fatigued during the day.

The headband was a bit of a nuisance to wear after its novelty wore off and it sometimes slipped off, it also tended to smell unpleasant as weeks of sweat accumulated on the sensor, and I did experience some very minor skin irritation and creases from wearing the headband – but nothing that would keep me from wearing it.

Still, the excessive fatigue didn’t go away and it was largely the knowledge that I was getting enough sleep but still feeling exhausted that pushed me to make the appointment with a new primary physician and begin what has now been going on two months of tests to determine what is causing the excessive fatigue. Thus far test results are indicating that I have some form of auto-immune disorder and this is likely liable for the fatigue as well as a host of other complaints.

I’m not sure whether the Zeo’s effectiveness for me decreased with time or whether the illness’ power increased with time. I suspect it was a combination of the two, with the latter being the more significant contributor. Other symptoms besides chronic fatigue have grown progressively worse over the last number of months (joint pain, chest pain, inflammation, etc.), so it seems likely that the fatigue also would worsen.

The Zeo was never made to be a medical device. I knew that when I purchased it. But I hoped that maybe there wasn’t something “deeper” wrong and that some better sleep hygiene and discipline would provide me with the extra energy boost I desired – it didn’t. So, in one sense, the Zeo didn’t provide me what I wanted – but on the other hand it did one better – it forced me to stop putting off seeing a doctor because, “I’m sure I just didn’t get enough sleep last night” and admit that there was something more wrong here and that I needed to take it seriously.

Now, setting aside my particulars, lets talk briefly about what I do and don’t like about the Zeo as a device and whether I think you should buy one.

First, the Zeo uses a memory card to store data which can then be transferred to a computer and uploaded to Zeo’s site via a USB flash drive. This is annoying in a day of ubiquitous wireless in the home. I’m not happy that I have to take the time to frequently upload my data, this should happen automatically.

Second, the headband is a bit of a nuisance. It isn’t overwhelmingly so, but I have to wonder if there aren’t better and smaller ways to track how well I’m sleeping. I know some other products are available – wristbands and so on. I know most are not of the same accuracy as the Zeo – but development in this area is really important, as the headband is awkward. Ideally I’d like something that was thin like a bandaid.

Overall, I’d say if you really want it – get one now…but if you can, wait for the next-generation. I would hope/expect that both of these issues will be eliminated (or at least significantly mitigated) with the release of a newer technology.

I’d also note that I’m not sure about Zeo’s long-term future with its current business strategy. Zeo is currently focused on sleep – they need to expand. The devices of the future will not be focused on one aspect of health but will cover a multitude – and numerous other vendors are making strides in this arena – oftentimes for a lower price tag than Zeo offers.

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