This article is from the National Sleep Foundation titled, "What Happens When You Sleep?" provides an interesting outline of what processes a person should go through in a normal night's sleep. Not getting any sleep at all for many, many days in a row will actually lead to death! The average person will die in 8 to 10 days if they don't sleep over that length of time; the longest anyone's known to have lived without sleep is 11 days. Additionally, most people will suffer permanent brain damage after being awake for between 6 to 8 days.
Those examples are extreme consequences associated with not getting enough sleep. Yet such serious issues emphasize the importance of finding a way to get your optimum amount of daily sleep. If no sleep at all is fatal than living everyday without adequate sleep is not healthy. The article describes during what sleep stages energy is created by the brain and body, it's also well documented that sleep improves daytime performance.
During sleep your neurological, endocrine and other body systems create the chemistry necessary for the continuation of your life itself but a more common concern for most is that these chemicals are required for simple, adequate daily functioning. Carrying a sleep debt means living with a constant deficiency of these chemicals necessary for a life of quality. A good night's sleep is about more than getting enough hours of sleep in a night but making sure the sleep you do get is of solid quality is crucial. If there is anything you can do to improve your sleep such as replacing a mattress and/or pillows, wearing earplugs if you live in a noisy area and if you or your partner snores resolve this because it's a sleep problem for both of you; neither the person trying to sleep through someone's snoring nor the person snoring is getting great sleep. Many of the products which work to prevent snoring also help to prevent sleep apnea, a common yet dangerous and sometimes fatal sleep disorder, read the packaging before purchasing if you're looking for something to help with this also. Consider any purchases made to improve your sleep as necessities for a healthy life. Maybe this information will inspire you to make important sleep related health changes such as prioritizing your sleep above other things you've felt were more important, because without a sleep restored body and mind you're not going to be a whole lot of good to the parts of your own life you've valued above your own sleep.
If you or someone you know has difficulties with sleep, take a browse through the other articles on the Sleep Foundation site and take a look at some of the durable medical goods they offer to aid in sleeping through their store. A number of the products they offer appear somewhat complicated and some are expensive, it would probably be best to consult with your doctor before making a purchase. Additionally, Amazon.com offers a number of high quality sleep aid products such as special pillows, mattress toppers, and even snore prevention devices which the wearer places inside their nose to widen the nostrils and allow for increased respiration; a couple examples are the Snorepin* and the SleepRight Breathing Aid*. The principle is the same as the disposable adhesive drug store products but apparently much more effective and there's no concern about these coming unstuck and falling off in the middle of the night. Even if snoring or sleep apnea aren't problems for you these little devices will increase your night-time oxygenation which shouldn't cause you any harm. If they don't already come in sets of two or more t's suggested to purchase at least two so you always have a clean set ready to wear.
Each of us needs a different amount of sleep per night on top of that we all have different rhythms for when it's best for us to go to sleep and wake in the morning; hence the idea of being a "night owl" or a "morning person". Each one of us must figure out our optimum sleep needs for ourselves. If you already know when and for how long you should sleep nightly but are finding it difficult to keep up with your needs, sit down and take a look at what parts of your day would be better and how much more quickly you might accomplish a task if you were to get more sleep each night. A large number of a day's inconveniences can be associated with carrying a sleep debt; forgetfulness, slow performance, making mistakes, errors of judgment, poor behavior towards others, lowered immune response, and even increased physical pain. If you're unsure of the best time of night for you to sleep and the amount of sleep you truly need then keep a sleep journal. In it each morning you'll keep track of when you slept each night, for how long and how you'd describe the quality of your sleep. In the evenings you'll record how you felt during the day. After doing this for a few weeks you'll notice correlations between how you feel in the day and the connections to the timing, quantity and quality of your sleep. Once you sort this out you know what you should do...