More On Human Instrumentation Around Sleep Data

I’ve introduced two new devices into my personal human instrumentation experiment.  In addition to my Zeo, I am now carrying around a FitBit and using a Withings scale.  I’ve discovered the mild embarrassment associated with having a scale mis-tweet your weight by 10 pounds too much (e.g. “Brad – you gained a lot of weight recently – everything ok?”)  But I suppose that is part of the experiment.

The comparison on the Zeo and FitBit sleep data is fascinating.  Take a look.  Zeo from last night first.


Now the FitBit from last night.


The Zeo breaks things down into four categories: Wake, REM, Deep Sleep, and Light Sleep.  The FitBit only has two: Active and Asleep.  My FitBit time setting is wrong (it has me going to sleep at 9:17 but I went to bed at 11:10 – I’ll need to figure out how to fix that).  But both have me in bed for a little over 9 hours, although the FitBit thinks I was only asleep for 8:17 of it.  The Zeo has me asleep for 97% of the time; the FitBit has me at a Sleep Efficiency of 95%.

I need a few more nights of comparative data to completely understand the differences, but I thought I’d toss up a baseline to get started.    Oh – and I slept in this morning – I felt kind of crummy and decided to just sleep to try to shake off whatever was creeping up on me.

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  • While anecdotal and not a large sample set yet, do you find that the sleep data you have seen is reflective of your normal sleep patterns and quality of sleep you get? I thought it interesting that FitBit said you were awakened 7 times, that seems like a lot (and about what I typically experience as a light and fitful sleeper).

    • I have a bunch of Zeo data (at least four months) and it definitely reflects my sleep patterns.

  • Brad,
    What do you hope to get out of each device?
    Does the Zeo feedback help you improve your sleep quality?

    • My overall goals are to sleep better.  So – with both devices I’m trying to instrument my sleep in an effort to improve it – the classic “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” thing.  With the FitBit, I’m also interested in the pedometer – step counter measurement.  If you take my running out of the equation, I’m curious about my daily steps and would like to make sure I get it up over 10,000.

      • What has the data enabled you to do to improve your sleep? Is it more that you can note what patterns you had before sleep on good/bad nights of rest? Or really specific things?

        Any chance your more intense days of running equate to better sleep? Or when you are more consistent with running that your sleep is better?

        • The biggest insight that I’ve had so far is that I need to get into bed earlier – the amount of sleep I get is not “wake_up_time – get_into_bed_time”.  That simple insight – which is obvious – has been super helpful.  I lose between 30 and 60 minutes per night with the “fall asleep time” (usually 15 to 30 minutes) and wake ups during the night.

          When I wake up out of a REM cycle, I feel great – totally wide awake.  And I almost always remember my dream.  And – a funny / odd thing – I often have an erection when I wake up out of a REM cycle.  I haven’t figured out what that means, but it amuses me.

          If I have too much light sleep, I need a nap the next day.  I’m starting to think about what to do with this, like simply schedule a nap on days when I see my results were dominated by light sleep.

          If I’m running, especially intensely, my sleep is definitely better.

          • Interesting. I've been looking at the Zeo but have a hard time justifying the cost, because I've believed (rightly or wrongly) a lot of my poor sleep is caused by a lack of sleep which I don't need a $250 device to tell me I'm not getting enough. it's interesting to see that you're finding that sleep time is not the biggest driver of your sleep quality. I now might at least try out the Zeo. Although, I am still waiting for my FitBit to ship, and that might be able to give me "good enough" coverage on sleep data where I wouldn't need a Zeo.

  • Brad, have you studied up on sleep disorders? It is cutting-edge medicine; there are many people who have sleep disorders but don’t realize it – sleep apnea, narcolepsy, etc (there are many forms of each). The medical profession is starting to realize that sleep disorders are the underlying cause to many major diseases – heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc. Or at least, they are intertwined. As a result, there is an explosion of “sleep testing clinics” around the USA (and probably, in other advanced economies).

    I’m curious — what got you interested in this?

    I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder three years ago, and ended up finding out that the TOTAL CURE was to purchase a 2nd-generation MEMORY FOAM mattress. I now feel like i did when i was a teenager, when i wake up; solve math problems in the AM shower, etc:) Turns out that the QUALITY of your deep sleep is extremely important.

    You can spend up to $16k for a good memory foam mattress; but i have found that the NovaForm’s from Costco are “the 80/20 rule” answer. A few hotels offer them now, as a differentiator (Holiday Inn Express, etc). The first generation Memory Foam mattress technology was discredited because they made you sweat while sleeping. But the second generation Memory Foam mattresses solved that problem, and imho are nothing short of amazing to sleep on.

    It never hurts to purchase a “Memory foam topper” (a 4″ layer of memory foam), and Memory Foam pillows.

    -steve b.

  • Guest


    It is interesting to see you using Fitbit as you previously posted about your great experiences with the GoWearFit device. Are you still using that device? Why did you switch?

    • I wrote about GoWear in the post Entering Data.  I liked it – and used it for about two months.  I then lent it to Eric Marcoullier (Gnip CEO) to try it for a while and correspondingly never saw it again!  Thanks for reminding me to check in with Eric to see if I can get it back.

      • Have enough data now to do a full on comparison of the two products? I'd love to know how it is going (for mostly selfish reasons as I have a hard time sleeping)

  • thx

  • Yeah – look for a post soon.  The Zeo is definitely the best product.  The Fitbit is pretty good, but the sleep data isn’t nearly as comprehensive and the Zeo software is much better.

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