Sunday, April 8, 2012

the new SLEEP

Part of the promise of digital technology is access to unforetold levels of data that can be used to make everything we do more efficient. Even sleep?

I don't think I have sleeping problems; that is, I don't usually wake up tired or feeling like I haven't gotten any shut-eye. But guess I can't be completely sure that I'm getting highest quality of sleep available. Today, just as easily as we can count our daily number of steps or take our blood pressure, we can gain access to information about our quality of sleep.

The Zeo Sleep Coach will monitor sleeping patterns so that we can find out how much quality sleep we've gotten - how much light sleep, deep sleep and REM. The coach asks questions about the number of hours slept, amounts of caffeine or tobacco consumed and other factors to give pointers on how to improve quality of sleep.

Zeo seems to be doing for Sleep what Nike+ did for running, or Fiat EcoDrive did for fuel efficiency - a platform solution that gives us more information about daily activities to help us do them more effectively.

If given the opportunity (and an extra $200), I would try the Zeo out. It is a concrete solution to the promise of "The Quantified Self", the idea that knowing more about the everyday things we do can help us do them better.

But thinking about this seems to open up many questions. Do I want to sleep with a band on my head for the rest of my life? What if I want to sleep face down? What if Zeo tells me that what I thought was pretty good quality sleep is actually terrible quality - won't I feel too pressured to sleep properly? Or worse, what if all the changes I make don't end up giving me better quality of sleep? Does this end up a waste of  money?

The Quantified Self concept itself raises questions. If we really want to quantify everything we do, who is going to do the counting? Will there be one master device to measure everything, or will it be a 1:1 thing - a measurement device each for sleeping, eating, sitting, standing, driving, typing, breathing, etc? In any case, who will process all of this data so that we can maximize it? Will a time arrive when there are no more uninformed decisions, when step, bite, snore or breath can be optimized?

It will be interesting to see how the promise of self-knowledge unfolds in actionable, concrete, operationable ways. And until we find a real solution, perhaps ignorance is bliss.


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