Sleep is crucial to the recovery and health of your body, and Sleep Debt is an indicator of whether you are getting the needed sleep. WHOOP’s article, “What is Sleep Debt & How Do You Catch Up on Sleep?” defines Sleep Debt or Sleep deficit as the difference between the amount of sleep your body requires and the amount of sleep you actually have. Sleep debt progressively builds up and can last for a day if you get one night of poor or limited sleep. In this blog, I will discuss what happens when you accumulate sleep debt, some strategies to catch up on sleep debt, and personal experiences and tips I like to use.

Sleep Debt’s Impacts

Given the cruciality of sleep in our lives, having sleep debt inhibits the positive effects of sleep and can negatively influence your body and well-being. The information on its impacts comes from the previous link. In the short term, the side effects include poor concentration, decreased focus and alertness, moodiness, daytime sleepiness, increased anxiety, reduced coordination and athletic performance, elevated stress hormone products, lower energy expenditure, and greater drive to eat. The long-term impacts of chronic sleep loss can lead to increased risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, lower levels of the appetite-control hormone leptin, reduced immune system function and a greater risk of infections, dementia, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.

WHOOP’s tips on catching up on Sleep Debt

The first thing you can do is go to bed earlier than usual or sleep in later to make up for the sleep debt. The second thing you can do is decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep, which can be done by avoiding screened devices in bed, lowering the bedroom’s temperature, relaxing before sleeping, and blocking out noise and light. The third thing you can do is avoid catching up on sleep on the weekend, which can disrupt your standard sleep patterns, leading to a lower sleep quality overall. The fourth thing you can do is improve sleep efficiency through consistent bed and wake times, reinforcing your circadian rhythms to make it easier to get quality sleep. The fifth thing you can do is take a brief afternoon nap to catch up on sleep debt. Additionally, WHOOP enables you to track your sleep debt, sleep efficiency, and the time it takes to sleep. It also has a Sleep Coach feature, which calculates exactly how much sleep you need for the best recovery.

Personal Experiences with Sleep Debt

For years, I ignored sleep debt. One of my worst habits was that after a week of school, I would stay up late playing video games, which repeatedly disrupted my circadian rhythms. Even when I received my first WHOOP and gained more awareness that I was not keeping up with my sleep night, it took me a long time to address this.

There have been three most impactful strategies to enhance my sleep. The first one was to go to sleep and wake up simultaneously each night. Over time, my sleep debt decreased, and I did not need to spend as much time in bed for good quality sleep. My next favorite strategy was to have a pre-sleep routine, which includes stretching, meditation, rolling out, not being on the phone, reading, breathing techniques, and other recovery behaviors. While this worked, I still wanted to improve my sleep as much as possible, so I have tried to perfect my sleep environment by keeping it cool, doing everything I can to maintain darkness, and using Bose sleep buds to prevent external noises from waking me. The final thing I want to mention is that WHOOP provides me with information on Sleep Debt, Sleep Performance, Sleep Quality, the number of times I wake at night, the amount of REM, Deep and Light Sleep, sleep needed, and more. Accessing this data has led to sustainable changes in my sleep, and I am delighted to have this fantastic technology at my fingertips.

Final Insight on Sleep Debt

I recommend immediately reducing your sleep debt and improving your sleep quality. This crucial behavior is overlooked, yet it can be impactful and completely change our lives. Before I began making these changes, I had no idea how I was able to function with high sleep debt, poor quality sleep, and not sleeping enough. Hopefully, this discussion on sleep debt was valuable for you.