Introduction: DIY Replacement Zeo Sleep Monitor Headband Sensor

Picture of DIY Replacement Zeo Sleep Monitor Headband Sensor

Last year I purchased a Zeo Mobile Sleep Manager. This is a nifty Bluetooth headband that tracks your brainwaves while you sleep and presents it on your smartphone as a graph indicating when you were awake, in light, deep or REM sleep. It's like having your own personal EEG. You can use your Zeo to improve your sleep, test the effectiveness of sleep aids, or to experiment with dream recall or lucid dreaming. As a data junkie, this was something I absolutely had to have!

Unfortunately, the Zeo uses a silver-coated fabric headband sensor that the company says needs to be replaced every few months to ensure optimal performance. These replacement sensor pads are expensive (about $50 for a three pack). Worse, it seems like the company that made the Zeo went out of business last March, so replacement sensor pads are not available at all now!

You can buy a Zeo on eBay, but in order to keep it running indefinitely, you will need to be able to make your own replacement sensor pads. The design of the sensor pad seemed fairly straightforward. After a bit of research and experimentation, I succeeded in making my own replacement headband sensors, and I'll show you how to make DOZENS of replacement sensors pads that will keep your Zeo going strong forever!

DISCLAIMER: Although I have tested these sensors on my own Zeo device, you assume all risks for damage to your Zeo device by making and using these replacement sensors. I am NOT affiliated with Zeo Inc. in any way and did not consult with them in making this sensor.

I make no guarantees about the performance of these handmade sensors vs the Zeo OEM sensors, but until Zeo Inc begins selling them again, I hope this guide will help people who already have a Zeo device and wish to continue using it.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

This project is relatively inexpensive when compared to buying replacement sensors from Zeo (although now that they are out of business, this is moot). For a little over $35, you can  buy enough material to make DOZENS of replacement Zeo sensors.

The most unusual material in this project is the conductive fabric for the pads that contact your forehead. I bought the MedTex 180 fabric from SparkFun and it looks and feels exactly like the material used for my original Zeo pads. The 12" x 13" sheet will set you back twenty bucks, but there is enough material to make about 30 sensor pads. For comparison, I also purchased the cheaper RipStop fabric from SparkFun ($9), but it seemed too stiff to work well. It might work, but I recommend spending the extra money for the MedTex 180.

The second critical component is the fabric snaps. They have to be the right size and style to snap into the back of the Zeo. I used Sew-Ology No 16 Pearl Snap Fasteners, 7/16 in and they worked perfectly. These are sold as packages containing matching studs and sockets, but only the studs will be used in this project. Each sensor pad will require three fasteners.

Hint: It is important that the studs and prongs be metallic and unpainted, as they need to conduct electrical signals. The first set of snaps I bought had bare metal studs but painted prongs. These can be made to work, but require more effort (I'll explain this later).

The rest of the materials in this project can be found at your local hobby and crafts store.

You will definitely need scissors and a hammer. If you use iron on patches as I suggest here, you will need a regular clothes iron. The iron on patches gives your project a nice finish, but are not required. You could also get away with just using plain fabric and sewing or using staples to hold it all together.

Having a 1/8 inch hole punch is helpful, but not required. Such hole punches can be found at your crafts store, but it might be tricky finding that exact size. You don't really need it, but it might help if you can find it.

  - MedTex 180 Fabric ($19.95 for a 12" x 13" fabric sheet from SparkFun)
  - Heavy fabric (I used black twill, $1.75 for a large piece)
  - No 16 Snap Fasteners, 7/16 in ($4.29 from HobbyLobby)
  - Iron-on fabric patches (I got a set of several at the supermarket for under $2.00)
  - Yarn or string (I paid $5.99 at HobbyLobby for more yarn than I can use in a lifetime!)
  - Heat shrink tube or plastic stir straw
  - Double sided foam tape

  - Hammer
  - Clothes iron
  - Stapler (regular size and TOT50 mini-staples are helpful)
  - 1/8 in hole punch, such as this (optional, but very helpful)
  - Needle and needle threader (optional, but helpful)

Step 2: Print the Template

I have provided a PDF template for the Zeo Mobile device (Model ZEO 301). This template will also work for the Zeo Sleep Manager Pro+ and Zeo Sleep Manager Pro.

I have provided a second template for the Zeo Bedside, which has the snaps in a different location. Make sure you download the correct template for your device.

Before proceeding, print out the template. You may have to select "Actual Size" from the Print dialog box to prevent your computer from scaling the template. Check it against your Zeo device to make sure all the snaps are in the right positions.

Step 3: Make the Front Piece

Picture of Make the Front Piece

The part of the headband that rests against your forehead will be made out of the iron on patch. The iron on patch provides an easy way to seal the edges of finished sensor pad and gives it a clean look.

Cut out the template and then trace it onto the iron-on patch. Then carefully cut out the piece. I find that using the hole punch helps me to round out the corners of the openings and start my cuts, but you can do it with only scissors.

Variation: If you wish, you could use a sturdy piece of fabric instead of the iron on patch, but then you have to sew the whole thing together, or use staples to keep everything together. Your choice.

Step 4: Assembling the Back Piece

Picture of Assembling the Back Piece

The back piece is what holds everything together, so choose a sturdy fabric. I purchased some black twill from my fabric store. You probably will have to buy way more than you will need, but it will be inexpensive (I paid $1.75 for a large piece).

1. Cut out the "Back" template and punch the three holes for the snaps. You should do this before attaching the template to the fabric.  Do this as precisely as you can, otherwise the snaps won't mate properly with the Zeo.

2. Cut a rectangular piece of fabric that is slightly larger than the template. Staple the template to the fabric as shown in the picture.

3. Punch out the four holes for the strap attachment. These holes need to go clear through the fabric.

4. Now, lift up the paper template and push three metal studs through the holes. If you used a 1/8 in hole punch, they should fit right through and hold snugly in place. The studs need to face away from the fabric.

5. Push the socket part onto the stud. This helps keep them in place on the paper template and provides a flat surface that will be helpful when you hammer in the prongs from the other side.

Step 5: Attach the Foam Pads

Picture of Attach the Foam Pads

Turn over the back piece.

Now, using the front piece as a template, trace and cut out three foam pads out of double-sided foam tape. Stick the pads on the backing fabric. Make sure the front piece fits nicely around the foam pads.

Step 6:

Picture of

You will now need to cut out the conductive fabric. The conductive fabric will cover the foam pads and will overlap the snaps. Each bit of conductive fabric will need to cover the pad and its respective snap, but NOT short out with the other pads or snaps.

1 - Cut the "Front + Back" template into three parts that surrounds each pad and its respective snap.

2 - Trace the three parts onto the conductive fabric.

3 - Cut out the three parts from the fabric and stick them on the foam pads. The double sided tape will hold them in place.

4 - If needed, trim the fabric so there is no chance of the pads shorting out. Be aware that the sensor pad is flexible, so give enough space between the pads to prevent shorts when you wear it.

Hint: The conductive fabric does not need to fully overlap the snaps, it is enough that it cover a part of the snap to make contact. If you cut it a bit short, it may help prevent the middle and right pads from touching and shorting out.

Step 7: Attach the Snaps

Picture of Attach the Snaps

The metal studs are held onto the fabric by metal prongs which you hammer through the fabric from the opposite side.

The prongs not only hold the metal studs in place, but more crucially, they provide an electrical contact between the conductive fabric on the front and the metal studs in the back. Because of this, it is important that the prongs be bare metal.

Hint: When I bought my first set of fabric snaps, I found the metal prongs were painted white. Because of this, they did not make electrical contact from the conductive fabric on the front to the metal stud on the back. You can still use this type of prong, but you have to provide an alternative electrical path. One method which worked for me is to put a staple through the conductive fabric and backing fabric right beneath the stud, then drive the prongs on top of the staple. This presses the staple against the conductive fabric and the stud underneath, making reliable electrical bridge. This makes hammering the prongs a lot harder, but it can work if you don't have any other choice.

To drive the prongs through, place the sensor pad on a scrap piece of wood with the snaps facing down and the conductive fabric towards you. Now, place the prongs on top of the studs, with the sharp points facing down. You have to position them exactly on top of the studs, by feel. This is tricky. You can practice on a scrap piece of fabric. If you do this, try attaching the metal sockets rather than the studs, as you won't be using the sockets in this project.

Once you have the prongs positioned, hammer them down with a few solid strikes. The studs should now be firmly attached to the fabric backing.

Hint: If you have a multi-meter, you can check to make sure you have electrical contact between the conductive pads and the corresponding studs on the back. You can also check for an unintended short circuit between the pads.

You can now remove the staple and the paper template from the back of the sensor pad. The sockets that you snapped on the studs can be removed and discarded.

Step 8: Strap Attachment

Picture of Strap Attachment

The sensor pad is held against your forehead with a Velcro and elastic headband. You will use the original Zeo headband with your home-made sensor pad. The sensor pad has two anchors where you attach it to the headband. These anchors are short plastic tubes which are held to the sensor pad using a cord.

1 - Cut out two small pieces of heat shrink tubing or a plastic stir straw.

2 - Use your needle to thread a piece of black yarn or cord through the four holes in the fabric and through the tubing or straws.

3 - Tie off the loose ends in the front so that it forms a complete loop.

Hint: Make sure there isn't too much slack, but don't pull it so tight that it scrunches the fabric. The sensor pad needs to be able to lie flat.

Step 9: Putting It All Together...

Picture of Putting It All Together...

Now flip the sensor pad over so that the conductive fabric is on top.

Position the front piece on top of the sensor pad and staple it in place. Make sure the glue side faces down. The staples serve to hold everything together while you seal the edges.

Now, using your clothes iron set on "Low" iron all around the edges. Make sure you get a good seal. You may need to experiment with the temperature, but don't go too high or it will damage the patch or conductive fabric.

You can press the edge of your iron against the four sides of each conductive pad to seal the conductive pads against the front piece.

Variation: If you don't have an iron, and you don't care how this looks, you can sew everything together, or simply use staples to hold everything together. My first prototype was made out of the conductive fabric, the metal snaps, paperboard and a lot of staples. It worked but it didn't look pretty.

Once you are done sealing the edges and pads, remove the staples. If you did this step well, it will all hold together nicely!

Step 10: Trim It and Presto!

Picture of Trim It and Presto!

Now, simply trim the backing fabric, and congratulations, you're all done!

You can now attach the headband to your sensor pad and snap the Zeo to the front.

Sleep well knowing you've saved a lot of money on replacement Zeo sensor pads!

DISCLAIMER: Although I have tested these sensors on my own Zeo device, you assume all risks for damage to your Zeo device by making and using these replacement sensors. I am NOT affiliated with Zeo Inc. in any way and did not consult with them in making this sensor. I make no guarantees about the performance of these handmade sensors vs the Zeo OEM sensors.

Step 11: Conclusions and Future Ideas

Although I have no way to truly compare these against the specifications of the originals, I have used these replacement sensor pads on my own Zeo and found that it was able to record an entire night's worth of sleep, just like the original sensor pads. I did not see any difference in the performance or accuracy of the readings, but this is just a subjective opinion.

The replacement sensor pads looks and feel like the originals. The pads in my replacements are slightly less soft and less puffy than in the genuine Zeo sensor pads, but nonetheless, I find them as comfortable to wear as the originals.

I am rather happy with how this project turned out. I am disappointed that Zeo Inc seems to have shut its doors, as I think the Zeo is a great product and I would like to see its continued development and enhancement. This Instructable is in no ways meant to detract from their business, should they find a way to resume operations.

If Zeo Inc does not make a comeback, I hope this Instructable inspires others to continue experimenting with these ideas. I suspect these sensor pads could be used as the foundation for other DIY projects related to sleep and brainwave sensing. Although perhaps a bit far-fetched, I would be delighted if someone with more skills than I could design and build DIY hardware to replicate or improve upon the functionality of the Zeo device itself!

Good luck and happy dreams! :)


jelte1234 (author)2017-12-18

It sounds to me like the main issue is that over time the conductive surface of the fabric degrades. Would painting it with conductive paint restore functionality?

MartinS382 made it! (author)2017-03-24

Just buy Ambu Blue Sensor SP electrodes and clip 3 of them into the ZEO sender. Works perfect, better than the head band.

EllieS33 (author)MartinS3822017-07-15

My sleep date on ZEO is all broken now. How can I tell if it is a problem with my sensor OR the metal transmitter? Thanks!

Laurence ClarkC (author)EllieS332017-07-16

Hi EllieS33,
I have many years of experience with Zeo bedside coach. I wonder if you could clarify what you mean by "sleep date"? That is a good question. And I just woke up... The transmitter has a battery in it that is hard to replace. I can't say exactly how long they will last but I would say that after two years maybe it's the battery. I just buy new ones even when I have to buy new coaches (on Ebay) that come with transmitters. I do this because it is cheaper than using a smart phone since I prefer to avoid that cost. If you have a smart phone anyway you can get ResMed S+ non-contact sleep monitor which works well and is similar. It's the best motion based monitor. But you may need a different phone. The sensor has conductive cloth that eventually gets worn and dirty and I have at best got one to last a year. You need to clean your forehead before wearing it and when it is at its last legs you can gently clean it off.

EllieS33 (author)Laurence ClarkC2017-07-16

I have a resmed and it is just OK. You can walk away from it and it still registers that you are sleeping.

About 3 months ago I had a 100 score in Resmed and a 95 on my zeo the same night , so at that time I knew both units were working well. And boy did I feel good that day. I got 1.5 hours of deep sleep on my zeo. Hardly any since!!

I need to give up all coffee but that is hard to do when I am so wiped out in the AM. I wake up 4-8 times each night.

Laurence ClarkC (author)EllieS332017-07-16

You can find out by buying a few Ambu blue sensors (which you can get very cheap) and trying them. They leave a glue residue on your skin which is a little bit of a nuisance to clean off.

KannanJ3 (author)MartinS3822017-05-20

Does that fit into the Zeo monitor's stud holes? The black dot in the picture above looks quite big to fit.

MartinS382 (author)KannanJ32017-05-20

Fits perfect!

EllieS33 (author)MartinS3822017-07-16

If the transmitter is charging that means the battery is alive, right?

Laurence ClarkC (author)KannanJ32017-07-16

yes they fit the sensor snaps.

EllieS33 (author)MartinS3822017-07-16

I meant sleep data.
I did not know that the transmitter has a battery!
I have 4 transmitters but don't know which ones are newer.
I also have 2 unopened sensors.
Gee I want this to work but does the base unit ever go bad too? I need to trouble shoot three things.
Tried another washed sensor last night and there was incomplete data again. it lost the connection after one hour. I think I layed on my side and that is when it went bad.. I remember checking it at 4 am, and it was connected at that time, but according to the graph it disconnected at 4:30.
maybe tonight I will tighten the headband.
Thanks so much for your input.

Thanks, that sounds good. I have a mobile band functioning on a bedside using a paperclip and electrical tape right now. Some one sold me a bunch of mobiles as bedside bands. Do you need gel to adhere the electrodes to the forehead?

EllieS33 (author)Laurence ClarkC2017-07-15

I don't understand what you mean. of the sensor does not fit the snaps in the transmitter then what can you do?

For the ambu blue you don't need gel. They are already wet. But if they are old, maybe you need some water to make them wet again.

Thanks Martin, this has helped me ditch my smart phone and save much money. I only owned it for my ResMed S+ sleep manager. It is the best of those based on motion detection.

I bought a bunch and they are cheap and work very well, but I wonder how long they last? The headbands with sensor pads cost $120 and if that can last a year then the Ambu would have to last a month at $10 for three to be equally worthwhile.

Laurence ClarkC (author)2017-04-07

pros & cons of sensor pads versus electrodes:

A. Cost comparison between Zeo Softwave sensor pads with silvery conductive material and Ambu SP electrodes:

Pads: maximum of one year @ $85.

Ambu: lasting one week= pack of 50 @ $21.05 = $65.68/year.

B. Drawbacks:

They last at least a week each.
They get a bit dirty.
They leave glue on the forehead that require alcohol to remove.

Laurence ClarkC (author)2017-03-24

I have some of the Zeo Mobile headbands. Is it possible to adapt them for use with the Bedside Coach?

Laurence ClarkC (author)2017-03-22

Then what is the thick metal part that snaps on the headband called? That is the part sitting in the center of the image.

marciot (author)Laurence ClarkC2017-03-22

Nice job on the build! Anyhow, the central part, that's the Zeo electronics. It's the brains that make it all work.

Laurence ClarkC (author)2017-03-22

Then what is the thick metal part that snaps on the headband called? That is the part sitting in the center of the image.

Sidx (author)2013-08-21

Hi I have been trying to get the double sided foam for the headband in England our DIY and hobby shops don't seem to keep it. Could you tell me how thick it should be or if you know a place I could get it in England.

marciot (author)Sidx2013-08-31

I use 1/16 inch double-sided foam tape, which is fairly typical in the US. The thickness isn't that crucial, but if you can find something slightly thicker, it might be best, as the 1/16th tape is barely thick enough. Have you tried hobby shops, hardware shops, or office supply shops? I am very surprized that this product does not exist on the UK.

You could always order it online internationally:

Good luck!

scottmayer (author)marciot2017-01-10

A solution I use for not being able to locate double sided adhesive foam tape thicker than the readily available 1/16" thickness (which I found too thin to maintain good contact between the MedTex 180 Fabric and my forehead) is simply 'fabricate' thicker dimensioned sections out of this thinner 1/16" thick tape.

All that this involves is cutting two section of this 1/16" thick foam tape into roughly equal lengths, peeling back the glue protective paper from one side of each piece and then pressing these just exposed surface of each piece together to form a new, 1/16" thicker, section. In this way one can use two strips to make 1/8" thick foam sections, three strips to make 3/16" sections, etc.. The acrylic glue on the 3M 4016 Double Sided Foam Tape that I use is very strong; effectively fusing the individual sections into a single piece (i.e. the bond is stronger than the foam itself).

This method is so quick and easy (and almost fun) to do, and the bonding so strong, that I now wonder if part of the reason that thicker dimensions adhesive foam tape is not readily available in the market is that manufacturers understand that one can easily 'stack ones' own' as needed.

Sidx (author)marciot2013-09-01

Hi Marciot thank you for your help I wasn't sure what thickness to get. I have found ebay to be the best place to get the double sided foam in the end and have bought Black Single Sided Foam Tape 20mm Wide x 6mm Thick. I am not sure yet if this will work I wanted it a little bit thicker as I get marks from the studs over my forehead and have to keep changing the position every night. this is the link: My son in law has a laser machine in my garage and has laser'd out the templates for me.
I am hoping to try to put everything together today.

marciot (author)Sidx2013-09-01

Hi Sid. Yes, that should work. Double sided foam tape would hold the conductive fabric in place better, especially as you drove in
the studs, but it's probably not a huge deal to make it work with single sided tape. You could use staples around the pads to keep the fabric in place, or maybe tuck the edges of the fabric underneath the sticky side of the tape to secure it. Even if you do none of that, it should all hold together when you iron on the patch. Let us know how it goes, and maybe post pictures of the finished product!

Good that you have a laser cutter, as cutting out the parts is by far the most tedious part of the process.

KannanJ3 (author)2016-11-28

Anyone wants to sell their Zeo head sensor to me?

guitarman5 (author)2016-09-28

Do not buy replacement zeo sensor from rlong192002,aka Richard Long, ebay account. He's a scammer!!

KannanJ3 (author)2015-12-20

How do I know it is time to change the original Zeo headband sensor? I see gaps in the recording with dotted lines. Is this the indication?

rlong192002 (author)KannanJ32016-06-27

Yes, this means that the transmitter things one or more of the electrodes is not making contact, or the unit is not on your forehead. The circuit uses the central DRL noise reduction electrode to test for connectivity.

For my repaired headband all the Ohm is below 1K (40-400 Ohm), and still the headband is not picking up any proper signal. When checking in ZeoScope, there is a very noisy signal and REMs are not getting shown properly. Same if I use the transmitter directly on the head without headband. Could it be that the transmitter itself is broken? And what can I do about that?

marciot (author)3d_printed_brain2016-08-01

I would check to make sure there is no shorts between the electrodes on your homemade headband. However if you do not get a signal with the transmitter directly on your head, then it does sound to me like there might be a problem with it. I don't know of anything that could be done to help with that.

I recommend purchasing a set of disposable adhesive EKG gel electrodes to test the transmitter. You should get an extremely clean signal. If you don't then I would suspect the transmitter DRL signal is not being properly produced, or perhaps the snap receptacles on the transmitter are corroded or damaged in some way. If you get a clean signal, the problem is definitely the sensor.

rlong192002 (author)KannanJ32016-06-27

One of the best ways to test your headband is to use a simple ohmmeter to check resistance from the fabric to the snap. It should be under 1K ohm.

marciot (author)KannanJ32015-12-20

Yes, it's probably time to replace your headband.

varocketry (author)2016-02-15

Just bought a ZEO package on Ebay after Steve Gibson's recommendation (

I hope the headband replacement effort launches soon. This is a great DIY substitute though, thanks.

kedwa30 (author)varocketry2016-05-17

I was just reading a transcript of that. He was saying they were going for $40 on Ebay. I did a search just now and I only came up with a listing on Amazon selling new for $480 or used for $200. That's crazy! Similar functionality can be made with a $35 Rasperry Pi or some other generic SBC. I don't know why Zeo went out of business, but it is clear that their product is in high demand now.

marciot (author)varocketry2016-02-15

Congrats on your Zeo purchase! It's an amazing little device and so sad that it was discontinued and it's assets purchased by a company which probably has no intent on ever marketing it again. Very sad indeed.

KevinP125 (author)2016-03-05

I bought the materials but it seems like a pain in the butt. I stuck three blank snaps into the three holes on the back of the sensor and stuck that to my forehead. I hold it in place with a regular headband. The device is picking up brain activity. I have not tried it while sleeping yet. It seems that the sensor is not too picky. Has anyone else tried anything like this?

marciot (author)KevinP1252016-03-07

I have noticed that you can get a signal using just the metal contacts, but I have not tested it for an entire night.

I did try snap-on ECG electrodes from an EMT supply store, although they are a bit pricey and tend to make a gooey mess.

Dennis Hinrichsen (author)2016-01-02

How do I buy one of these from you?

I am not currently offering these for sale. The instructions are here so you can make your own.

JennyR13 (author)2015-12-29

Great instructions! On my first try I tapped one of the studs a bit too enthusiastically, and the connector to the Zeo bent a bit. It would fit, but then pop out. So, I know to use a firm but gentle tap with the hammer.

I had trouble getting the ends of the yarn to be tidy enough in the back. They took up so much room that I couldn't get a seal all the way around with my patch fabric. When I make the next one (when I don't tap as hard), I think I'll use thinner yarn (the first was worsted, maybe I'll use DK), or a slightly wider strip of iron-on patch fabric. I can always take the Zeo off the headband sensor to charge it (I have a bedside model) if the fabric proves too bulky.

marciot (author)JennyR132016-01-02

Glad these instructions are working for you! I'm still pleasantly surprised that there are folks still using their Zeos after all this time.

tsukidancer (author)2015-02-06

I am interested too if anyone is still making these. Thanks.

daniel.villeneuve (author)2015-02-02

Hi my name is Daniel i am a fan of Zeo i would like to know if you are still selling the replacement headband could reach me at many thanks

marciot (author)2013-06-18

I wanted to give you guys an update on sensor pads for the Zeo Bedside. I have completed the template for that model and am now in the process of making nine of these for those of you who wanted to buy them from me. I plan to sell them for $15 each, plus shipping. Four of these are already spoken for.

StevenN1 (author)marciot2014-12-25

I am a happy Zeo mobile user and certain a very bad news when Zeo went out of business. I just found out this discussion. If you have the replacement pad for sell, please let me know. I also know some small manufacturers in Asia that might be able help you out if you show interest too, feel free to drop me an email:

By the way, thank you for helping out Zeo user out there :-)

It is holiday time so Merry X'mas in 2014!

Couldbenow (author)marciot2014-09-17

I'll buy, thank you.

Couldbenow (author)Couldbenow2014-09-17

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