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Returned my Zeo Personal Sleep Coach

Pete Brown - 30 December 2009

Zeo product photoFor as long as I can remember, I would always wake up tired. I don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon/evening, so I always figured I would wake a lot during the night due to apnea or something.

My wife had recommended that I go visit a sleep clinic. Never one to go see a human when a piece of electronics could tell me almost as much, and leave my medically untrained self to interpret the results, earlier this month I ordered a Zeo to try it out. $19.95 to try it out for a month is a pretty good deal.

My manager, Scott Hanselman tried the Zeo and found out, in his words, “I sleep awesome”.

I thought I’d give it a spin and see if it could confirm my thinking that I don’t deep-sleep until early am, and that my sleep pattern just isn’t that good.


The Good

I’m in ur Brain

First of all, this thing is cool. No matter what else you think of it, you can’t deny the coolness factor of having your own poor-man’s EEG sitting on your side table when you sleep.

The Zeo did a great job capturing data and displaying it both on the bedside device and on their website. It was easy to use, and the flash-based web site is just really slick. In fact, if you’re a web designer, it might be worth the $20 just to try out the web site and grab some ideas :)


In the shot above, I went to bed early, and that was obviously hard for me to settle into (red bars are awake time). You can also see that my wife came to bed with the baby er... 14 month-old finally sleeping around 12:30am. No, I didn’t need a $300 sensor to tell me that having kids has contributed to sleeping problems ;)

It also showed that I went into deep sleep around 2:00 and then again around 7:00, when most folks are up for work. I read a lot into that, until I captured more data and found that my deep sleep times vary quite a bit. Sure, they’re related to bed time (which in the above, you really need to say is about 1:00am), but also change due to factors I never quite bothered to figure out.

So, this was interesting to watch and to see how long it takes to fall asleep once I get to bed etc. It was also helpful to see that I had high sleep scores on most nights. What that told me was if I go to bed on time, I’ll probably have decent sleep. Just need to make sure I get that 8+ hours every night.

So, figured that was worth the price of admission.


The Bad


For the way I’d use something like a Zeo, the price of $250 to $350 was just way too steep. At $150 I’d consider it. At $99 I’d be all over it – as long as they didn’t do the printer/razor thing and sell the replacement pads for some crazy amount.

The problem is, I wouldn’t use the sensor every night, and would eventually get bored logging my sleep patterns into the web site. So, it just ends up being a very cool alarm clock with a nifty wake-me-at-the-best-time feature, and a slick-sounding wake-up chime. Most folks won’t spend more than $10 for their alarm clock.


This isn’t horrible, but just annoying. Every morning, I’d take the sensor off and have a band of black soot (presumably pad oxidation with perhaps a little dye leak thrown in) around my head, concentrated on the sensor location. Combine that with the red irritated indentations left by the sensor pads in its loosest usable position, and I woke up looking like I’d been abducted. The gasps and giggles from my wife and children didn’t help ;)

Warning: TMI - Now, this wouldn’t be a horrible thing, except that I work from home and often work a couple hours before my shower. Walking around with those marks just didn’t make me feel great. Sure, they wash off, but only with the amount of effort equivalent to taking a shower anyway :)

Long-Term Usage

Once you’ve figured out what your sleep problems are, and have taken steps to correct them – a process which can’t take more than a few months unless you have medical issues you need to see a doctor about – we’re back to “nifty alarm clock” utility level. The utility of the sensor aspect and the site and coaching is just not sustainable.

You can Game it…sort of…kinda

Ok, not really a bad, more just a fun way to spend the time that should be spent sleeping. I found that I could relax myself enough, while still clearly looking at the display, that I could sometimes get it to register me as in REM sleep for a bar or two. Hardly worthy of being on “That’s Incredible”, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Headband Redux

Sure if leaves sooty marks and red dents in your head, but the headband isn’t uncomfortable. However, it does alter how I would position my head on the pillow. You find you may have to sleep in a slightly altered position to avoid shifting the sensor around. After a week of wearing it I found the headband was still something I noticed and was still something I had to be aware of as I switched my position on the bed. Shawn Wildermuth said he couldn’t find a way to wear it without it slipping off his head, so obviously this is different for everyone.


The Ugly

Well, I already mentioned the marks, so we’ll leave that as “the ugly” for now. If you have teenage kids, be prepared for torrents of “dork” greeting you every morning, but suck it up for the geeky coolness that your kids will never understand :)



So, in the end, it was definitely worth the $19.95 plus return shipping ($9.00) to find out that my sleep itself is pretty good, just not long enough. If Zeo ever offers this up for $100 or less, snatch it up to satisfy your curiosity, and to use that wake-up feature for an important date or two.

So, just before the 30 day limit was up, I got an RMA and sent it back. In some ways, I’m sorry to see it go, but at $250, I’d have been sorry to see it stay.

Now…convert the beside machine to a small Win7 box, use the sensor API and let me write code for it, and I’m in. I don’t know what I’d do, but it would certainly be fun :)

posted by Pete Brown on Wednesday, December 30, 2009
filed under:    

4 comments for “Returned my Zeo Personal Sleep Coach”

  1. Darleensays:
    Thanks!! I am doing some research for my blog, and sleeping to improve health and lose weight.
    I stumbled upon sleepcoach.net and then to the zeo. I have never heard of Sleep Fitness or the zeo.

    Interesting concept, of have a a sleep analyzer by your bed every night.

    The price is a bit high, and I also wonder if it becomes like the gym membership and also other fitness fads that we spend our money on and then toss in the garage, or in this case use as a fancy (and expensive) alarm clock.

    What will they think of next? Or already have and I just have not found it.

    Well done review.


  2. Petesays:

    The Zeo reported no sleep issues. However, when I went under for some surgery in my mouth a couple months back, the Dentist pointed out I have pretty bad apnea. They had to put me on oxygen during the surgery.

    So, Zeo was interesting, but definitely not a substitute for a doctor. Given that I learned little from my Zeo, and what I did learn wasn't the whole picture, I'd say it was a fail. An interesting fail, but fail.

    If you suspect you have sleep issues, don't get a Zeo, see a doctor.

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