Sleep is a necessity of life to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Throughout history sleep has been an active need to provide rest and healing to the body. Without sleep several mechanisms of the body can go awry. Most physicians and scientists agree that the average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. Anything less, creates an unrested body; which outwardly creates issues with focus and concentration. Though you may think the lack of sleep is not a big deal, over time, it can so become more than what you think. Sleep deprivation can affect your immune system, mood and energy levels. Some research shows that the chronic lack of sleep can increase weight gain, cause diabetes, heart disease, depression, arthritis and breathing issues. In modern society we have become obsessed with so many things which keep us from getting the proper sleep. In a study by the National Institute on Aging, 9,000 persons aged sixty-five and older were studied, but about half reported frequent trouble sleeping. This included the inability to fall asleep or trouble remaining asleep throughout the night.

Many people believe they can function on less than eight hours of sleep and do just fine. However, studies show that there are those walking around in a fog so severe that it affects their work, driving and social interactions. Often, such persons choose to drown themselves in caffeine, energy drinks and drugs such as uppers to keep them going. Rotating shift work and night work also contribute to the above habits.
There are five stages of sleep which take about two hours.

Light sleep:  drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Eyes and muscles move slowly.
Light sleep: brain waves become slower and eye movement stops.
Deep sleep: Extremely slow brain waves (delta waves) with spurts of faster waves.
Deep sleep: mainly delta waves with no eye or muscle movement.
REM sleep:  breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow. Dreams usually happen in this stage, but can occur in other stages. Eyes jerk rapidly while muscles become paralyzed. These stages can repeat themselves throughout sleep. REM sleep normally occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Older adults spend less time in delta sleep. It is not uncommon for persons 65 or older to sleep less, but they often dose off at points during the day.
A variety of conditions plague the sleep of Americans. Unlike many other medical conditions there is usually no pain associated with sleep disorders such as:

sleep apnea (a condition that causes person to stop breathing or shallow breaths, and occasionally snoring during sleep)
insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
restless legs syndrome (achy, jerky legs)
narcolepsy (extreme daytime sleepiness), and
parasomnias (abnormal sleep behaviors).
The most severe of these disorders is sleep apnea. People who experience sleep apnea also have elevated blood pressure and are more likely to suffer from strokes and heart disease. When breathing is stopped the oxygen level in the blood also drops. This prevents REM sleep and can in some cases be associated with psychotic episodes.
Avoid heavy meals three hours before bedtime
Go to bed only when you are sleepy
Maintain a regular sleep/awake pattern
Exercise during the day
Don’t take naps late in the day
Take a hot bath or shower an hour or two before bedtime
Attempt to relax before going to sleep
Maintain comfortable temperature in room
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine right before bed.These items may cause wakefulness later in the night.
NIH Medline Plus
Prescription for Nutritional Healing   Phyllis A. Balch