What’s Your Bulletproof ZQ Sleep Score? The Zeo Hack Every Sleep Hacker Needs To Know

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The Zeo is a must have tool for sleep hackers – with a catch.

I was really excited I was when I first got my Zeo.  After years of sleep hacking and measuring the results based on how I felt, I could finally have exact quantitative metrics on how long I stayed in REM or deep sleep.  After some extensive testing, I knew my sleep hacking techniques made me feel great and I was alert and relaxed on minimal sleep.  However, I wanted more objective data.  Not only would it help me to prove that I wasn’t killing myself, it would allow me to test new techniques that could improve my sleep even more.

There was one problem – my ZQ was not as high as I expected most nights.

How could this be?  I was focused, alert, in good health, and refreshed even after just two hours of sleep.  I already ran a battery of tests to prove I was getting restorative sleep – so what was wrong with my Zeo sleep score?

The Zeo itself is amazing, but my score wasn’t nearly as high as I thought it should be.  Even though my REM and deep sleep were usually high as a percentage, my overall ZQ was low.

So I went to my friend (and cofounder/CTO of Zeo) Ben Rubin for answers.

He explained that the Zeo uses a simple algorithm that computes your total sleep time, REM sleep, deep sleep, time in wake, and how many times you were woken, then uses them to create your total ZEO sleep score, or ZQ.

Here is the formula:

ZQ= {(TST*1) + (REM*0.5 + Deep*1.5) – (TIW*0.5 + #wakenings/15)} *8.5

 ZQ = Zeo Sleep Score
TST = Total Sleep Time
REM = hours in REM
Deep = hours  in deep
TIW = hours in Wake
#wakenings = # of times you woke up

The ZQ score is heavily reliant on total sleep time.  The Zeo is expecting you to sleep at least 8.5 hours.  No matter what you do, if you sleep less than 8.5 hours a night – you’ll get a mediocre score. But we have study data that shows people who sleep less live longer. It’s not proof that sleeping less is good for you, but it’s proof it doesn’t have to be harmful, and the “8.5 hour rule” is probably not very scientific.

To see how important the difference is, I’ll show you what my score would be with two hours of Bulletproof sleep.  To make things simple, I’ve calculated this as if I spent half the time in REM sleep and half in Deep sleep.

ZQ= {((2)*1) + ((1)*0.5 + (1)*1.5) – ((0)*0.5 + (0)/15)} *8.5

This would give me a ZQ of only 34.  But is that really a problem?

So I modified this formula to solve this problem.  I’m calling it the “Zeo Force Multiplier.”  If your goal is to sleep more than 8.5 hours a night and wake feeling refreshed, then you can use the regular ZQ.

But if like me, you want to wake up feeling refreshed on less than 8 hours of sleep, you can adjust your score to tell you how good your sleep was based on how much you WANTED to sleep. To do that, you need to use the Zeo Force Multiplier.

Here’s how you would enter the data if your goal is to get only 2 hours of sleep. (I recommend you target 5 or more for longer terms)

  1. Get your ZQ score from your Zeo after you wake. Let’s say it was 40.
  2. Multiply your score by 8.5.
  3. Divide that number by the number of hours you wanted to sleep (5 in this case.)

Here’s how it looks in the equation:

ZQ score in the morning = 40
Goal: 5 hours of sleep

1. Multiply 40 by 8.5 to get 340

2. Divide 340 by 5

Your Bulletproof ZQ = 68

Now you have a number you can use to measure how efficient your sleep is in 5 hours. It’s theoretically possible (in a perfect world) to get a Bulletproof ZQ of 85 in 5 hours of sleep, evenly divided between deep and REM sleep. I haven’t done it yet.

There is no consistent research I’ve found for “hacked sleep” that says whether 50% deep and 50% REM are ideal, but that’s where I set my goals.  I know I won’t hit 50/50 all the time because of sleep and wake times.

Look out for a new blog post coming up on some cool new technology that increased my (always low) REM sleep by up to 500 percent. Stay tuned!

Please share your questions about the Zeo or sleep hacking in the comments and we’ll respond.


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By Dave Asprey

  • When are you gonna tell us about the bulletproof coffee you selected?

  • i just tried it for the first time. 4.5 hours sleep, REM was only 25 minutes! deep sleep was 1h 48m.

  • Howard

    There are more than 20 negative Amazon reviews on the Zeo claiming that it simply does not work as advertised. Some of them are scathingly well-written, and very persuasive. I am not inclined to buy a $100 instrument to measure sleep unless I can be assured that it actually does something useful

    • Howard,

      I personally know the owner of Zeo, and I can assure you it works as advertised. There are bad reviews for many undeserving products on Amazon, and I think you might be jumping the gun to see it as a bad product after just looking at the reviews on Amazon. The Zeo is being used by top athletes like Lance Armstrong and Team Radioshack, Jarod Shoemaker, and others. Ultimately the decision is yours, but I think the Zeo is worth the money. Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂


      • Optionzz

        Could be some of the posts are from the $1000/night sleep centers…I learned more in a week of ZEO, by far, than I did from the sleep center…also, the more well written and persuasive the neg comments on Amazon are, the more likely they are written by vested interest folks. Not saying this is the case here, but it COULD be. My experience is that the ZEO is, after my banjo, one of the best purchases I’ve made. We have TWO of them…

        • Thanks for the input man, I agree completely. I also dig the banjo 🙂

    • I’ve had a Zeo for quite some time, even before I discovered bulletproofexec.com. Luckily I bought it before seeing reviews on Amazon or I might not have bought it. But it works for me. I don’t use it all the time, only when I am making changes to my routine, diet, supplements, etc… and want to see the effects on sleep. Like when I got the emWave2 and started using it before bed, my Zeo showed a lot more deep and REM sleep than I usually have. And I woke up feeling like I had slept better than usual. Maybe the people it doesn’t work for just have thick skulls 🙂

      • Dave Asprey

        Thanks! I also don’t Zeo every night – I’m not that obsessive – but I use it to track progress and experiments. It’s great!

  • ecwilson

    I routinely get a ZQ score over 100 with less than 7 hours of sleep.

  • Optionzz

    Great idea! I have the same problem. I think my body wants 6 hours…but they must be “quality” or I don’t feel right. Somethimes I have 9 hours in bed to get 6 hours of the right stuff. Need more information on how to “remove” those pesky wake times thoughout the night. I thought it was “ZEO’s fault” but their excellent tecnical sevice is convinced that my machine is working properly…

  • Debbie Belcore

    “Look out for a new blog post coming up on some cool new technology that increased my (always low) REM sleep by up to 500 percent. Stay tuned!”
    Has this posted? When I search increase REM, there a a lot of podcast links.

  • Jared

    I bought a Zeo and really like it, but after the first week, the headband won’t stay on. They suggest tightening it, but it will fall off or get to the point where I can feel my pulse and get an insane headache. Do you have any advice? I am surprised they don’t come up with a more secure head band. I am thinking of trying to return it because it is useless. I was thinking of trying to make a chin strap or something, but wanted to see if you had any thoughts. Thanks!

    • Dave Asprey

      I’ve never heard of this prob; some people are uncomfortable but the headband falling off regularly is weird. I will ask Zeos CTO when I see him next.

      • Elai

        I too have the same problem. It falls off around %20 of time in the middle of the night. The lack of reliability is frustrating to the point that I’ve transitioned to accelerometer trackers, since they at least track time properly.

        The zeo slips off very easily if you put your face into a pillow and move your head down in a nodding action, which I guess is the movement causing the thing to fall off.

  • Michael

    I’ve not started hacking my sleep yet. First I am building a bank of data with varying inputs. Feeling good / being hungover, after a workout / after a feed etc

    I have noticed my Deep sleep is fairly consistent, it almost doesn’t matter what I do to myself, my body gets a certain amount of deep sleep then adjusts REM & light sleep.

    Using a 5 hr target sleep time, based on my data I would aim for 1.5 hrs of deep and 2.5 hrs of REM, because that’s what I am averaging now, on about 7.5 hrs sleep. I just want to cut the seemingly unneccesary Light sleep back.

    I don’t care about the Z score so much – as the time in REM & Deep.

    • Elai

      I find it can’t the tell the difference between being half awake when you just lie in bed after waking up and REM. If you get up and start moving, it shows your awake.

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  • Question for you biohackers out there: is the headband transmitting bluetooth waves the whole time you have it on, or only once you’ve finished?? I’m a bit wary of wearing an antenna strapped above my frontal cortex for 7 hours a day following my experience with bluetooth headphones with a transmitter that sat right by my cerebellum. After a few long periods of wear, got some serious headaches, earaches, and grew sick.

    Anyone reporting issues with sleep disruption that could be attributed to the device itself?

    • Yaniv

      I know some signal is being sent the entire time. I don’t remember if it is bluetooth or RF for each of the versions. I am also curious if Dave is concerned about those.

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  • Dan

    Hello, I’ve found that I can only get about 30 minutes max of deep sleep, no matter what supplement or drug I take( I average 15-20 minutes a night. I work out pretty hard in the AM 6 days a week. The most effective things have been doxepin, and olanzapine. (tried 5htp, gaba, valerina, kavakava, etc). Is there another known way to bump up this number?

    • Dan, I have managed to increase my deep score from a sub 30 min average to about 50 minutes. 2 things seem to help the most. 1. No caffiene after 3:00p.m at all. I will still have very strong coffee in the mornings though.
      2. Workout intensity & frequency have increased.
      Alcohol seems to play havoc with my deep sleep. Sometimes helping – others hindering. 1 -2 standard drinks a 4 hours before bed seems to be good. A nightcap or more than 2 seems to be bad, unless I have a very significant amount.

      • Dan

        Thanks Michael. I do work out very hard, alternating powerlifting and HIIT cardio/accessory work sessions. If I do have a PM coffee it is before 3, but have seen no correlation in deep sleep times even when I do have afternoon java. I’ve only had alcohol once during this trial, and that was 3 IPAs in the late afternoon, and also no noticable impact to deep sleep.(Both my parents are poor sleepers as well…)

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  • Interesting article Dave. Lately I’ve been focussing on the longer term impacts of not getting enough sleep (rather than the nightly quality of my sleep). I’ve been recording my sleep over the course of a week and was able to develop a (basic) formula to calculate my actual sleep debt at any point in time. What I did then was to use some data on psych studies that looked at reaction speed vs. awake time and included this to determine my ‘% performance’ level at any point in time (right now I’m at about 55%, but it’s friday and I’ve had about 6hrs of sleep the last few nights which has bought it down a little).

    Next I’m planning on setting up a reaction speed test to provide a feedback loop and allows me to test my formula against what I really register. I’m particularly interested in how various foods/beverages/drugs impact on my performance levels. I’d like to put this online to get an idea of what other people register too.


    • Dave Asprey

      Check quantified-mind.com for some cool tools!

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  • alicia hatt

    Check out the Readiband by Fatigue Science. It is a wrist worn device that provides real time fatigue levels and updates. It is a complete fatigue risk management system and the only FDA approved and Scientifically validated device on market.

  • Terry Clark

    Now that the Zeo is gone, what do you recommend to track sleep cycles?

    • Joe Parisi

      I have had the same problem. I saw a few of them on Ebay for sale but do not want to purchase if its dead tech.

      • MotherGinger

        I bought one off of ebay. It works! Some people have had tech troubles just as some did before the company keeled over, but mine works, and I got my first readings this morning with no problem.

  • Travis

    Dave, what advice do you have now that ZEO have shut down?

  • Nate

    Any updates on your bloodwork and biomarkers from the sleep deprivation. Maybe if you had more sleep you would have remembered to come back and post them? Sorry! I had to!