Is this sleep coaching gadget the key to sweet dreams?

Imagine a personal trainer for slumber. Zeo tracks your brain waves as you sleep to help your achieve your best night's rest yet



For the better part of my adult life, I’ve been a snooze-button junkie. Two hits of the button, and then I’m ready to take on the day. When the alarm sounds, my reflexes are lightning-fast; hitting “snooze” twice has become so integrated into my routine that to accommodate the habit, I actually set my clock 18 minutes in advance. It’s a simple trick, and I know I’m just trying to fool myself, but somehow it works.

Tricks aside, by mid-week I still find myself yawning as I stretch my arms overhead, waiting for the coffee to brew. I’ve always wondered about the science of sweet dreams, particularly how and if I could improve the quality of my own sleep. Luckily, I found Zeo: a personal sleep coach.

Zeo is a clever device that looks sleek on my nightstand, with a bedside display unit that functions much like an electronic alarm clock with a few extra buttons. It connects wirelessly to a lightweight headband, which you wear when you go to bed. The headband’s sensor detects your brain’s electrical signals and transmits them as sleep patterns to the bedside display. In the morning when you wake up, you can assess your “ZQ” — that is, your personal sleep score, which is based on how many hours you actually slept. A smart graph shows how long it took for you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up during the night, and how many hours you spent in REM, Light, Wake and Deep sleep.

The ZQ is tracked in a nightly sleep journal, and the sleep scores can be entered online (via a convenient USB stick) to generate a weekly or nightly sleep report. My dozing data synched with a unique seven-step sleep fitness program, where my sleep coach helps target my trouble spots (‘sleep stealers’) and teaches me how to enhance my sleep schedule for the best possible rest. It’s like having a personal trainer for slumber.  

The results are very interesting, because I feel like I’m getting an inside look into my life when the lights are out. So this is what my sleeping self is up to for six or so hours each night? Apparently, it took me 21 minutes to doze off last night (that’s a lot of sheep-counting), and I only slept in REM and Light sleep for four-and-a-half hours. The other two were spent fitfully on and off in Wake sleep, and my body never reached Deep sleep.

This information has helped me understand how what I do during the day and before bed (e.g. drinking a couple cups of coffee or exercising within a few hours of sleep) affects my ZQ. It’s also fascinating to see how the sleeping self transitions from lighter to deeper phases of sleep and back again throughout the course of one night. The results of each ZQ report remind me of the tests back in grade school that you couldn’t possibly fail. As my sleep coach tells me, “There’s no optimal ZQ.” But, “the more you know, the better you sleep.” 

Zeo is an indulgent gadget, but it’s worthwhile if you’re interested in improving your sleep. We all know how a great a good night’s rest feels in the morning. We wake up to brighter faces and sharper minds, ready to seize the day.

My sleep coach really shines on Sunday mornings, when I use its special SmartWake feature. Light music starts to play at the exact time Zeo deems “my natural awakening point”. I set the alarm as I usually would, and the device sounds as much as a half-hour earlier. It zeroes in on the perfect waking moment, and I find myself not reaching quite so impulsively for the snooze button.

Here’s a handy glossary of some of Zeo’s terms:

Wake: “The length of time you were awake when you were trying to sleep.” These disruptions last two minutes or more. “Some awakenings you won’t remember.”

REM sleep: “A time for vivid dreaming, REM sleep is considered essential for mental well-being and organizing memories to better remember and apply what you learn.”

Light sleep: “A time for accumulating more overall sleep. Light sleep is significant because getting more sleep is the best way to get the right mix of sleep you need to feel rested.”

Deep sleep: “A time for physical restoration and growth. Deep sleep is when the body produces growth hormone for restoring muscle and building immunity.”