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Monitoring my sleep with ZEO--and what it portends

The last four nights I have been monitoring my sleep with a Zeo. This involves wearing a headband, which reads brainwaves and sends information to what looks like a clock radio on my table. When I wake up, I get the read on how much I slept, how long it took me to fall asleep (last night it was one minute), how much my sleep was deep, how much in REM, etc etc. And it gives me a score for the quality of my sleep.

Seems to me that a sleep monitor is just one way in which we’ll be using digital tools to monitor, measure and manage our lives in coming years. Athletes, of course, are already doing it, measuring and graphing their jogs, swims and bike rides, along with the reads on different body functions, starting with the pulse.

In each of these areas, we quantify parts of our lives that previously we understood only subjectively. (I slept “pretty well” last night, I felt “a little sluggish” on my 10-mile run, etc.) And as we quantify, we can upload our data to the Net and compare ourselves to thousands and millions of others.

In my book, The Numerati, I wrote about how people are collecting our data, from banks to grocery stores, and using it to understand and predict us. But we ourselves are going to be at the very center of the data revolution. That doesn’t mean, however, that we won’t be providing the Numerati with rivers of valuable data. If Zeo takes off, sleep scientists will benefit from a valuable database of sleeping behavior.

The key question is this: As society struggles to improve health coverage and lower costs, will we increasingly be asked or told to monitor our own bodies? I’m betting we will (and that some of the monitors will eventually be implanted in our bodies.)

My prediction: Insurance companies will start off offering us discounts for monitoring ourselves. (Auto insurance companies have already toyed with this.) Those discounts will become the standard fees, and those of us who do not wish to be monitored will have to pay a premium.

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