Short Term / Long Term Sleep Debt Cycle

By Walsh, J., et al. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h29m / day (96 day average)

I think setting out to make sure on average I was having at least 7 hours and 30 minutes of sleep was a good health decision.

But using an average without any measure of volatility was a big mistake, because even though on the long run getting “enough sleep” is a great health decision, accumulating sharp amounts of sleep debt in the short term can still make me sick.

It’s similar to the relationship of Current Ratio and Debt to Equity for companies. Low Current Ratio could kill a company in the short term due to not being able to cover expenses when incoming cash flows are temporarily down, and High Debt to Equity could kill a company in the long term due to dry up of cash flow caused by most of it being used to repay debt principal and interest.

And the importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. Not only does it reduce the chance of me feeling sick, based on observation there’s been a very strong correlation for me with getting enough sleep vs having a good mood. Getting enough sleep also helps me think quickly and clearly and make less decisions due to decision fatigue.

What triggered such a critical review of my sleeping habit has been how I’ve felt this week.

Below is the amount of sleep I’ve had since Sunday:

  • Sunday 13-14 Sep (Time in bed is 4 hours 12 minutes)
  • Monday 14-15 Sep (Time in bed is 8 hours 59 minutes)
  • Tuesday 15-16 Sep (Time in bed is 4 hours 1 minute)
  • Wednesday 16-17 Sep (Time in bed is 9 hours 33 minutes)
  • Thursday 17-18 Sep (Time in bed is 9 hours 13 minutes)

I started feeling very sick since Tuesday due to 2 nights of low amounts of sleep within 3 days and playing a full competitive soccer match on Tuesday night. Even with 2 nights of 9+ hour sleep and a long term average of 7 hours and 29 minutes of sleep, I still feel like shit today (Friday 18 Sep).

The feeling of shittiness also meant that I spent most of my off work hours trying to get as much sleep as possible, meaning I was cutting down on morning time for myself (meditate and exercise) which had spill on effects of making me feel even more shit.

And interestingly enough, the vicious cycle of feeling like shit due to lack of sleep always starts off with a shitty Sunday->Monday sleep. This usually happens because I usually go to sleep much later on Fridays and Saturdays, which cause my body to be still awake at very late hours on Sunday and thus very hard for me to get to sleep on Sunday nights.

This leads me to just staying up very late during Sundays until I get sleepy enough to sleep, which just makes for a shitty start to the week.

Since sleep quality on the app Sleep Cycle is highly correlated with hours of sleep, this following graph of my 96 days of sleep tracked is a great reference point for my observation:


So to help solve this short term debt cycle problem I keep having every week, there’s a few measures I will take:

  • Ensure I have a good start to the week by getting enough sleep on Sundays
  • Ensure I get enough sleep on Sundays by enforcing a stringent regular waking time (6-7 am) which helps cut down on sleeping too late during Friday and Saturday nights
  • Create a pre-sleep routine that involves cold showers (I feel sleepier when my body temperature is low)


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