What Really Happens To Your Brain When You Sleep?


Let’s face it- sleeping is pretty weird. We get tired. We close our eyes, and then we wake up a significant amount of time later. In a way, sleep is pretty terrifying! What happens during those non-waking moments when our brain is working to keep us alive while letting us rest? There is a lot that happens to the brain and the body during sleep as well as a lot that needs to happen. Science has proven over and over again that we need sleep. Without sufficient amounts of sleep for a consistent amount of time, we can go a little batty and become physically exhausted. Our brains create dreams as it filters out and makes sense of the millions of pieces of information it takes in throughout the day. Deep sleep at an REM state is needed to help the body rest and recover. Do you know how deep that recovery goes? Rest is not just a state of feeling, a heart rate, or a comparison for tired muscles. Rest is something that happens on a neurobiological level, according to new research.

Scientific American reports that during sleep, our very synapses rest and recover. Synapses are the connection between neurons. During the day, our synapses become full and active. The article explains that “the researchers found that sleep provides a time when the brain’s synapses — the connections among neurons—shrink back by nearly 20 percent. During this time, the synapses rest and prepare for the next day, when they will grow stronger while receiving new input—that is, learning new things, the researchers said.”

“Synaptic homeostasis” is the term given to synapses which do not get a chance to rest, causing them to “become overloaded and burned out, like an electrical outlet with too many appliances plugged into it”. If our synapses get tired, our whole brain gets tired and it will not be able to communicate properly.

Rest And Recovery

Enduring the physical and psychological side effects for many years of drug addiction or alcoholism is taxing. Under the influence of euphoria and other pleasurable side effects, we often don’t notice just how tired we really are. Upon getting sober, it hits us all at once. We aren’t just tired, we’re pooped! Getting lots of rest throughout the first year of recovery is important. Finding a balance between sleeping and being active is important, but, sleep is very important. Ideally, in recovery you should be getting between 8-10 hours of sleep per night. During treatment, you’ll have the opportunity for plenty of napping and resting. Rest is critically important for recovery so that your brain is well rested in order to recover.

Lakehouse Recovery Center provides integrative and alternative treatment methods so that you can feel rested, replenished and restored as you recover. Our residential treatment programs are open to men and women with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. For more information, call 877.762.3707.