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How Much Sleep Debt is Good vs Bad?

0hrs may not be realistic, but less than 5hrs helps.

Why 5hrs of sleep debt?

Most people carry some amount of sleep debt. Keeping your sleep debt under 5hrs will ensure you feel and perform at your best—at less than 5hrs your expected reaction time will be 90-100% of your peak reaction time. While 0hrs of sleep debt is ideal, it may not be realistic because life happens.

Higher than 12hrs of sleep debt will drop your expected reaction time to less than 85% of your peak reaction time. While it may seem daunting to reduce 12hrs of sleep debt it can be surprisingly quick to pay down! You accumulate sleep debt over the past 14 days, so if you get your sleep need tonight and drop off a bad night 14 days ago you can reduce your sleep debt quickly.

Using sleep debt to your advantage

While you can't reduce your sleep debt below zero or get sleep credit, you can use sleep debt to your advantage depending on how productive you need to be—for example, some people don't need to be as productive on weekends and are fine carrying a little more sleep debt. Or if you know you have an important event coming up—such as a big meeting, conference, or exam—getting your sleep debt as low as possible in anticipation of the event will ensure you'll be at your best.