Zeo Followup

A few weeks ago, I blogged about why I returned my Zeo sleep tracker — I liked it, but didn’t trust the data as much as I wanted to. A few days after I posted, I was contacted by Derek Haswell, who manages a bunch of their social media efforts — he had noticed my tweets and blog, and sent me a note to see if I’d be willing to chat with him and their VP of Scientific Affairs, John Shambroom. My initial experience with the Zeo notwithstanding, I’m a huge fan of the company, and am up for helping anyone who’s trying to help us all understand sleep a little bit better. So I spent a half hour or so on the phone with them chatting about my experience and some of the science in the Zeo.

You’ll recall that the last straw for me was that the Zeo wasn’t registering periods of wakefulness that I knew were happening — 5 or 10 minutes at a time — so that undermined my faith it it. Shambroom said that, counter-intuitively, determining wake state is actually harder than telling the difference between light sleep, deep sleep, and REM — the brain waves (or whatever) just aren’t really differentiated enough from light sleep. So periods of wakefulness are a weak point in the system.

We talked for a while about the implications of that — and ultimately I came to this understanding: my relationship with sleep is a pretty emotional one, and often intensely frustrating. What I mean when I say that is that because I’ve had trouble sleeping my whole life — with both apnea and insomnia issues — and it’s such a hard problem to debug properly, combined with the fact that when I can’t sleep I’m always tired & cranky — that all adds up to a lot of emotional context when trying to figure out my sleep. And in particular, the parts when I’m awake and can’t get back to sleep are the most obviously frustrating, since I’m asleep during the other times.

And so when you take the fact that the Zeo fell down on tracking a scientifically not-that-interesting issue (short periods of wakefulness), but highly emotionally charged one (can’t sleep!), that adds up to a perception problem (at least) for Zeo. They’re working on it, though, and I’m encouraged that they’re really trying to get this better as they go.

I was really happy for them to reach out to me to understand my own situation, and was really happy with their followups after the call (they sent me some research that may help me understand some things better).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the next improvement from them, and my overall experience so far has been pretty good.

One comment

  1. When I did my sleep studies, I was told that the only way that they could track the difference between waking state and REM was lack of chin movement (voluntary muscles?) and the Rapid Eye Movement, itself. On the EEG, the brain waves for REM and waking look basically the same.

    This reminds me of why I’m not using my fitbit to track my (horrible) sleep. I already know that I have a sleep disorder and it would just irritate me to have the device giving me lots of negative feedback on my sleep and maybe making suggestions. As you say, it can be an emotionally charged issue.