Along with air, water, and food, sleep is at the top of the list of human necessities. While sleeping better at night will leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated, and ready to take on the day.

The results of sleep deprivation can be devastating to not only the body but the brain. When you don't get enough sleep, you may feel fatigued, confused or like you're in a fog. It affects your energy level as well as your mental and social functions.

Nowadays, sleep deprivation is common. Many of us feel like there are fewer hours in the day than are needed to complete our daily tasks and this results in extended periods of being awake and less sleep for us.

While some people like to believe that they've trained themselves to function on less sleep, it is a false belief.

Better natural sleep is needed to refresh the brain so it continues to work at optimal functionality.

After periods of reduced sleep, a person's behavior can change.

The ability to process language hinges on proper sleep patterns.

Sleep-deprived people are less capable of understanding speech patterns and may have difficulty recognizing words or speaking.

Although even severely sleep-deprived people are able to verbally communicate, activity is greatly reduced when neurons in the brain have not been properly regenerated during a night of restful sleep.

Throughout the night, you will continuously move from one stage or type of sleep to another in cycles.

There are six phases of sleep:

Stage one:

Awake. You can expect to be awake for short periods of time during the night although you probably won't remember most of them.

Stage two:

You will sleep lightly or drift in and out of sleep. You'll awaken easily and your muscles will begin to slow down and relax.

Stage three:

With your muscles finally relaxed, your brain waves will slow. You will spend about half your sleep in this phase.

Stage four:

This is where deep sleep sets in. Brain wave patterns slow and your breathing becomes rhythmic. At this point, your body will be repairing itself by releasing hormones.

Rapid eye movement (REM). In REM sleep, your muscles will completely stop moving and your breathing and heart rate will become rapid and irregular. Your blood pressure will fluctuate and your eyes will move rapidly.

Your brain waves will also show a pattern similar to being awake. Dreaming takes place during this time and if you are awaked during REM sleep you may recall your dreams.

For most of us, a night or two of poor or no sleep isn't that bad as long as you return to a normal sleep schedule within a few days.

One good night of naturally better sleep after a few poor ones can get you back on track and caught up.

Sleep debt or chronic loss of sleep can lead to serious consequences.

Even small nightly sleep loss can affect your normal daily functioning at this point.

You are more likely to have accidents, poor performance, and loss of memory and ability to concentrate. Long-term sleep loss can affect both your physical and mental health.

Napping is built into your body's biological clock.

Typically you'll feel the urge to doze off between 1 pm and 4 pm as your body loses important brain power after the lunch hour and a slight drop in your body temperature.

Although you may be able to nap and receive a boost in your ability to function, if you're not getting enough sleep at night, a nap may not help.

The best bet for keeping your brain functioning at a highly active level is to get a good night's rest of at least eight consecutive hours. Set a nightly schedule to help your body settle down and relax. This may help you drift off sooner and remain asleep.

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