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I love finding products/gadgets/services/ideas that increase the quality of life in little ways. I decided to profile some of them here on BYT. If you have suggestions for something I should check out, email me

I was flipping through a magazine when I saw an ad for some sort of fancy alarm clock. It was called the Zeo and they claimed it wirelessly received signals from a headband you wore as you slept, recording things like h.ow many times you woke up in the middle of the night, how many hours of REM sleep vs. deep sleep you got, etc. Yet this was not a Skymall catalog, it was Popular Science. A little more research online suggested this product was legit, and did plenty of other cool stuff too. For instance, you could set the alarm time and it will wake you up either at that time or within a half hour before depending on what stage of sleep you’re in, theoretically making it easier to get out of bed. It also allows you to upload your sleep data to their web site, view your habits in a variety of charts and graphs, and get personalized tips and tricks for a better nights rest based on your patterns.

Overall I feel my sleeping habits are pretty good, but in the past couple years I’ve found that it has become increasingly harder and harder for me to get out of bed, my average snooze presses going from 1 to 4. I’ve also always been curious how long it actually took me to fall asleep, especially those times it feels like hours, or how many hours I actually dream during the night.  So mostly it just seemed like a fun toy, but my girlfriend on the other hand is a disaster, constantly waking up in the middle of the night, claiming she only got 4 hours of sleep, mad jimmy legs, etc. so I was also curious to see what it could do for her. Basically I had to have one.  And it totally looks futuristic.

It arrived in the mail a few days later – the Zeo itself, the adjustable headband, an SD card + SD to USB device, and a stack of manuals and documents. A single linear Getting Started guide would have been preferred over this curious collection of pamphlets and papers, but it’s relatively simple to use so no worries. I set the alarm to 7:30am with the SmartWake feature. The sensors on the headband supposedly search to find a “natural awakening point” when you transition into and out of REM sleep when the brain is highly active within the (customizable) 30 min window.  Even if it couldn’t do that, as a stand alone alarm clock it’s pretty nice, the display can be adjusted to a very dim setting, there are a variety of alarm tones and sounds to choose from which escalate in volume, and it won’t reset if the power flickers off and on.

Improper placement of Zeo Headband

I chose my alarm tone, cheesy but pleasant, and put on the headband. The straps are simple to adjust while it’s on your head and there is extra padding near the ears, and a hole for my ponytail (jk). They’ve done their best to make it as light and soft as possible, but if you feel like wearing a Wild Style headband while you sleep would be annoying, this product is probably not for you. I have more sensitise skin than you do, yet had no problem wearing it, but it did take a couple nights to really get used to it. Anyway, finished reading Scott Pilgrim Vol 4 and went to bed. I dreamt about waking up and checking my sleep stats on the Zeo.  then I realy woke up at… wait, I forget, this was like a week ago, let me check my online data at myzeo.com… “7:00am The alarm rang because we found a deep rising period. You pressed snooze.”

Ok, that’s pretty awesome. I got 7:45 min of sleep, took me 7 min to fall asleep, I woke up once during the night (girlfriend’s alarm), had a whopping 2 hours and 6 min of deep sleep, and 1 hour and 5 min of REM sleep. Once you log into myzeo.com it’s an elegantly designed site that feels like a local application, for instance as you click from one day to the next, the graph doesn’t reload, but morphs into the new view. It includes a sleep journal which asks you optional questions such as how much caffeine you drank the day before. All of this factors into your “Coaching”. The coaching is an optional $80 a year subscription service that acts as your personal guide.  My first coaching goal was to set my baseline by collecting 6 nights of typical sleep.  Once that was done they showed me how I compared to others and sent over a “relaxation track” to listen to before sleepy times.  Apparently there is actual sleep science involved in all this coaching and they’re not just making hippie shit up.

So, should you get one?  Well, The Zeo is pricey, $250 for the base unit or $350 with a lifetime of coaching.  They seem to offer deals on their web site though, like a free year of coaching (which may be enough for the average person), so be on the lookout.  I mean, if you have sleeping problems this thing could change you life, so yeah, it’s totally worth it.  Everything about the product oozes quality, from the solid feel to the classy web site.  It’s definitely ready for prime time and even if you’re sleeping fine, it’s still a lot of fun.  It might be the placebo effect, but the SmarkWake feature seems to work.  That being said, I’d like to see a few changes in version 2.0.  Wifi seem oddly absent, why do I have to manually upload my data even if the process is a breeze?  Second, I’m fine with alarm sounds, but some people probably want an FM tuner.  Finally, as the technology gets better I’m sure the headband will get smaller and give more accurate readings (occasionally it mistakes awake time as REM sleep as there is little difference from a brainwave standpoint).  Overall, it’s a fantastic product and highly recommended.  Get it here: http://www.myzeo.com/

In case you missed us last time on Cale’s Guide to Efficient Living:

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