Do you suffer from SLEEP DEBT?

Do you suffer from sleep debt? Don’t short-change your sleep

Do you sleep badly during the week and try and make up for it at the weekend by sleeping longer? This is known as “Sleep Debt”. A study by the New York Sleep Disorders Center run by PhD Joyce Walsleben states that ‘Sleeping late at the weekend disrupts your sleep rhythm and can make it difficult to go to bed on a Sunday night, so you are starting your next week already in a hole’.

This was me up until a few years ago. This was a repetitive cycle that went on for years until I realised the damage I was doing to my health. The problem with this type of sleep pattern is that is very common and most people don’t realise they have got into a poor cycle of sleep because they are so used to a routine.

What does good sleep look like?

  • 7 hours sleep - Every person depending on age is said to require approx. 7 hours of quality sleep (although its a myth that everyone needs 7 hours sleep - user dependent). As you get older you require less sleep, however, you still require quality sleep which should be your aim each night when you hit the pillow.

  • Circadian rhythms - In the diagram below you can see that your body goes through what is known as circadian rhythms and these are natural patterns based on a 24 hour clock. During this 24 hour period your body releases specific hormones and throughout the day this controls, digestion, blood pressure, appetite, energy, immune system and many more.

  • Melatonin the key sleep hormone - The major sleep hormone Melatonin is released in your body in a cyclic pattern and is initiated by your body when day turns to night and as we can see on the diagram at around 9pm your body starts this secretion process. I will talk more about this on future blogs, but for the time being understand that without Melatonin you can’t sleep and it is a hormone that is very simply disrupted by modern life style and light. So, once you fall asleep so begin the sleep cycle. This cycle is a 90 minute cyclic process of going through different stages of sleep. Yes, not all sleep is the same and your body throughout the night will fall under one of these categories during your sleep.

From this simplified diagram you can see that the body goes through 2 main stages of sleep (in reality this can be broken down into 5 stages but we will keep this simple)

STAGE 1 - The first is REM sleep or Rapid Eye Movement. This stage of sleep is just at the very beginning and you sometimes feel the on set of this stage when you involuntary suddenly jerk or kick your leg. Sometimes that shock can take you back out of this cycle, but once you go into REM sleep this is when your dreams occur. STAGE 2 – Deep Sleep. This is the key to gain those 5 benefits mentioned earlier. These cycles last typically for 90 minutes and repeat ideally 4-6 times.

So, how can I tell if I am sleeping well?

So, this is when technology can give you a helping hand. For the past 3 years I have been using an application on my iphone called Sleep Cycle. This is a free app and is fantastic for monitoring your sleep and keeping track of what influences your sleep. The key to getting great sleep is understanding what prevents you having good sleep and what assists you in having a great sleep. Sleep Cycle is an advanced alarm clock that uses sound or motion to record your sleep pattern and you can simply either place it near your pillow or on a bed side table. This will then monitor your sleep pattern in a graphical display so you can clearly see these cycles of sleep. It also comes with an alarm clock that wakes you when you are coming out of one of your 90 minute cycles. What this means is that a normal alarm clock abruptly wakes you up whenever you ask the alarm to go off. For example, if you set your alarm for 7:00 your alarm will go off a 7:00 but you could be in very deep sleep. We have all experienced this when you suddenly wake up and feel tired and groggy as you have been disturbed in your deepest point of sleep. Sleep Cycle on the other hand gives you a 30 minute window. So, how this works is it will gently start to wake you up when you are coming out of one of your 90 minute cycles so when you do wake up it should feel much better with less of a shock to your system.

When I first started using sleep cycle this is an example of how my sleep looked:

As you can see most of the night I was spent in REM sleep and after my initially dip in to deep sleep at around 12:30 I then mostly remain in REM sleep or wake up thoughout the night.

After hacking my sleep these were my results:

After a year of working on my sleep and reaching this area my sleep massively improved. As you can see yes I do have moments of REM sleep and lightly awake, but the periods are far less and more of the time my body in in a deep rejuvenating sleep. When I have slept like this I wake up with so much more to offer the world and often more than not I don’t require that morning coffee to get me going for the day. I notice that my energy levels are more level throughout the day and my mind finds it much easier to focus on complex tasks. What even better is this cycle of sleep simply echoes into my next nights sleep and compliments this style of sleep and cycle.

So, moral of the story start monitoring your sleep. Use an app like Sleep Cycle to get an accurate picture of your sleep and make notes and be aware of what you do/don’t that effects your sleep each night. This data is incredibly important and is the first step in hacking your sleep and changing your health for the better. Over the next few weeks and months follow my blog as I will be posting videos and material on how to hack your sleep and reap all its amazing benefits.

Mark - Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner

If you would like direct help with your sleep get in contact.

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