I wrote about Proactive Sleep a while back and wondered how it would be to combine a sensor to automatically record sleep pattern. Well, Zeo gets one step closer to that.

Zeo system consists of a wearable headband that measure brain’s natural electrical activity. Although their blog has a high-level explanation of how it works, my understanding is that its a single-channel EEG, which seems to be a reasonable way to do sleep analysis in healthy individuals. That data is wirelessly transmitted to a bedside display and stored on an SD card.

Algorithms based on proprietary logic churn out a personal sleep score (called ZQ) to quantify the type of sleep you get. The display unit looks like a bedside alarm clock and shows current and past 2 weeks worth of sleep analysis. Also has some smart alarm clock features like SmartWake alarm that wakes you up at the most suitable time within half-hour of set time. You could upload the data to an online sleep journal through the SD card. The website gives graphs, trends and the ability log other supplementary lifestyle data that can affect your sleep. All that for $249. An additional $100 would get lifetime access to a personal sleep coaching program, which includes regular assessments, goal tracking, email tips etc.

There is no question that Sleep Science is a serious, mature field. Zeo can find its place as a useful adjunct for plenty of sleep-related disorders that affect people who are otherwise healthy. It’s not an FDA approved 11 channel medical grade polysomnogram, and it’d be a mistake to compare it to one. It’s perhaps a closer analog to Actigraphy where a wearable sensor measures overall motor activity during sleep. An actigraph unit is an accelerometer based device like the FitBit, WakeMate, SleepTracker or Axbo.

Accurate or not, Zeo is yet another proof that healthcare is slowly being transformed by sensor-based, portable devices that are capable of analyzing data in a consumer-oriented way to enable individual patient to manage their conditions better.

April ’10 Update: I ordered a Zeo from Amazon in March’10. Been using it for couple of weeks now. The hardware looks and performs well, but I have my complaints. The sensor in headband is bit bulky to sleep with, and I don’t think I’ll get used to the headband anytime soon. The fact that I need to replace the sensor pad every 90 days feels like a hidden cost (they are $24.95  for a pair without S&H) that was not disclosed completely in the marketing.

Software-wise, it’s bit less intuitive than I expected. I’m still wondering what the data tells me. I know Z-score is a overall indicator, but what about the breakdown? Are my 49 minutes of deep sleep enough?  The fact that I woke up 7 times – is that normal? In the end, I’m asking the question- what does this $250 device do for me…  Probably not much because I’m not the target audience for it. People suffering from sleep disorders would perhaps be more receptive.

May’10 Update: Returned it. Sorry Zeo.

June’10 Update: Learned about the Zeo API. Mobile fitness companies RunKeeper and Daily Burn are the first to integrate their services with Zeo. Neat strategy to promote it as a platform.

July’10 Update: Found out about NeuroVigil: another startup in the sleep-monitoring space. Their technology is also based on a single-channel EEG wireless sensor. They claim to be able to send the data (and its analysis) to any mobile device. NeuroVigil’s founder, Philip Low gave an interesting talk at TEDMED in 2009.

Nov’11 Update: Noticed that Zeo now has a cheaper, smartphone-based mobile ($99) solution and original clock has been re-packaged as bedside solution ($149). Smart move, since it makes them more relevant in comparison to other solutions like EASYWAKEme the market.

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