Get Sleep: Steps you can take to get good sleep and improve health, work, and life is the second in a projected series of Web sites produced by the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine and WGBH Educational Foundation. The overall goal of this project is to translate research in medical and scientific topics on sleep in a way that makes them accessible and useful to the general audience. Both organizations are doing this in the hope that accurate information presented clearly will help individuals improve their sleep, a vital component of human health.

In this module, the focus is specifically on the causes, consequences, and responses to insufficient sleep. Accordingly, the aim is to help people understand their own need for sleep and what the cost of doing without it can be. This is just a beginning: as in any change, the difficulties and barriers standing in the way are not just those of information. In the case of sleep, many things can confound the best efforts to get sufficient sleep. Everyone who worked on this site understands these barriers to healthy sleep—and have experienced some of them first-hand. They may take the form of family, school or work responsibilities, or the requirements (and temptations) of a 24/7 culture that offers activity at any time. Shift workers in many professions, who work physiologically disruptive schedules in order to provide the rest of us with safety and services, are often the members of society who are most in need of sleep.

It’s tough, and we understand that fact. But there are things you can do. In the site, you’ll find three Success Stories of people who faced and surmounted significant barriers to getting the sleep they need. Video profiles of a night shift nursemembers of the Philadelphia police force, and an assistant attorney general each touch on specific aspects of sleep and strategies that help individuals—or entire groups—improve their sleep health. 

The What’s In It For You? section addresses why getting adequate sleep is essential—outlining benefits to health, mood, memory, and judgment and safety. We often think we can “tough it out,” for instance on a long drive during times we are typically asleep. The truth is that no matter how strong our will may be, our vigilance flags as we get sleepier and the risk of mishap increases. This means reduced awareness, slower reaction time, and increased risk of accident. Our bodies and minds simply need sleep to function well. You can experience a simulation of this first-hand, with our How Awake Are You? interactive, which is based on a test used in research settings to measure individuals’ mental and physical vigilance and response. 

The What Can You Do? section aims to put improved sleep within reach. This section of the site includes strategies to consider on the personal level and in the workplace. Information on when to seek help from medical professionals as well, whether it is with behavioral recommendations for improving sleep habits, or for evaluation for sleep disorders. The What Are Your Barriers? activity in this section introduces you to first-person accounts of sleep barriers and how they were overcome. 

A production team of video, multimedia, and editorial staff worked to create the videos, essays, and interactive activities on this site—at the direction of researchers and physicians at the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine (DSM).

The site includes video, essays, interactive activities, and many additional references, resources, and links. All of the material on this site has been written by professional science writers at WGBH Educational Foundation, under the direction of the module editor of the DSM, Dr. Christopher Landrigan, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Division’s Educational initiative, Dr. Stuart Quan. The site's content has been reviewed by members of the DSM faculty, as well as by an external editorial board.

This site was originally launched on December 31, 2008 and revised October 1, 2021 It is maintained by the Division of Sleep Medicine.

To see a complete list of the personnel involved in and responsible for the creation of this site, please visit the credits page.

A resource from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Produced in partnership with WGBH Educational Foundation

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