Harvard Women's Health Watch

Six for 2006: Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep

For good health, you need adequate sleep as much as you need regular exercise and a sensible diet. Here's why.

The National Sleep Foundation and other health organizations have reminded us that we don't get as much sleep as we used to — or as much as we should — and we're paying the price in drowsiness and fatigue that affect our physical and mental health and threaten public safety. Despite such warnings, our habits aren't changing much.

A 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey found that, compared with 1998, more people are sleeping less than six hours a night. Average sleep on work nights is 6.8 hours — still short of a good night's rest. And sleep difficulties, the poll indicates, visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. Women are especially affected: They report more trouble sleeping than men do, and they are more likely to feel sleepy during the day.

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