Sleep Credit

On 2013/01/04, in Life, by Greg Woods

Sleep appears to be an area of human ‘activity’ which we are still learning about. One observation of sleep is that we can rack up a sleep debt – where we can go a night or two with reduced sleep, and perhaps feel OK for those few days. Eventually the debt must be repaid, or we’ll start falling asleep at the wheel, getting irritable with others etc.

Well, I’ve long maintained that I build up sleep credit. My optimum sleep is likely 7 hours, maybe as low as 6. Mrs Woods seems to need at least 8. So we go to bed somewhere in between – which I suspect is doing neither of us any good. I wake up alert early, fail to get up because the bed is a nice place to be. So I fall back to sleep and the alarm then wakes me in some part of the sleep cycle which you probably shouldn’t be woken from. I feel OK, but not as good as I did when I first woke.

So after 2 weeks with no really late nights, I seem to build up sleep credit. Last night was one of those nights. In bed at midnight. By 1:15am, it was obvious I wasn’t getting to sleep, so I did the correct thing and got up. I started programming on a Windows Phone app I’ve been struggling to devote time to. I made the best progress in a long time. By 4am I wrapped it up and went to bed. I still wasn’t tired, but tossed and turned until 6am when I did get some sleep – though not much.

So in one night my sleep credit has turned into sleep debt. But as long as I don’t give in to the temptation of a post-work nap, or go to bed really early, I should sleep normally for the next week or two.

Maybe I should try polyphasic sleep – though I suspect we’d need separate beds for that!


Sleep is a complex thing. My little ‘sleep credit’ theory could be complete rubbish. Subconscious anxiety, too much caffeine (I admit my body can’t handle caffeine as well these days), a slightly disturbed sleep environment could all have contributed to last nights sleep deprivation. Though the sleepless nights do seem to follow a vague pattern.


3 Responses to Sleep Credit

  1. Br Seraphim says:

    *Please* don’t try polyphasic sleep. I tried it most of a year ago and found it hard and bad for me, found another website besides pro-polyphasic one, a sleep expert who pointed out the other side of the story, and believed him. It’s taken months to finally get back to something nearly normal, and I feel much better now. I like best the advice to fix either the going-to-sleep time, or the getting-up time, and letting the other find it’s natural place; but my best is to keep a sleep log, find the average, take that as my real need, and aim for it. *Much* better!

  2. Greg Woods says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve since ruled out polyphasic sleep as being too much hassle. I tend to fix the getting up time, with the going to bed time varying between a bit too early (i.e. when Mrs Woods goes to bed), and a bit too late (getting stuck into some code, reading, TV). If I start waking up too early, throw in a couple of later nights sorts things out.
    I’d never thought of a sleep log though. Might give it a go.

  3. Eli Burrup says:


    I take 3 20 minute naps per day. Once at lunch, one after work and one around 10:00 pm. I too believe this builds sleep credit. I only require 3-4 hours sleep at night and feel more rested than ever before sleeping a total of (4-5 hours per day). There is Science that proves gray matter and emotional intelligence increases with sleep credit. I’m not sure what you meant by polyphasic sleep but I guess my schedule would be considered that. You might try and train your brain to nap more frequently and you can have nights like you expressed in this post everyday without accumulating sleep debt.


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