Sleep Specialist Dr. Michael Mak Discusses the Importance of Sleep

Dr. Michael Mak is a highly qualified medical professional who specializes in sleep medicine and serves as a staff psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He also provides cultural mental health services for the Hong Fook Mental Health Association. Dr. Mak holds academic positions as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and an Adjunct Research Professor at Western University. His areas of interest include medical education, using simulation in Psychiatry education, insomnia management, and sleep disorders in psychiatric patients. He holds several important roles including Site Director for Undergraduate Medical Education at CAMH and PGY5/Transition to Practice coordinator for the postgraduate Psychiatry program at the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Education Committees of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Sleep is essential for physical and mental well-being, yet many people struggle with getting enough restful sleep. In this article, we explore the importance of sleep for overall health and well-being, with a focus on the impact of lack of sleep on mental health and emotional regulation.

Why is sleep important?

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for both physical and mental well-being. A lack of sleep can lead to a host of health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. On the other hand, a good night’s sleep can improve overall health and well-being.

One of the most important benefits of a good sleep is that it allows the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. During sleep, the body releases growth hormones that help repair and rebuild cells and tissues. This is particularly important for athletes and other physically active individuals, as the body needs time to recover from the stresses of exercise. Additionally, sleep also helps to boost the immune system, making it easier to fight off infections and illnesses.

Another benefit of a good sleep is that it can help improve cognitive function. Sleep is essential for memory consolidation, allowing the brain to process and store information from the day. This can lead to improved concentration, attention, and overall cognitive performance. Additionally, sleep also plays a role in regulating emotions, helping to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

What is the relationship between sleep and our vital organs?

For organs, good sleep is vital for the brain and heart. The brain needs sleep to function optimally and consolidate memories. During sleep, the brain also clears out toxic molecules and waste products which can cause neurodegenerative diseases if accumulated. In the heart, sleep helps to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Research has also shown that individuals who get enough sleep are less likely to develop high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

Dr. Michels Mak mentions a rare genetic disease named  Fatal familial insomnia (FFI)  which is a rare and inherited sleep disorder that affects the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The condition is caused by a genetic mutation and is passed down through families. Symptoms of FFI include difficulty sleeping, vivid dreams, hallucinations, and progressive deterioration of brain function. As the disease progresses, the affected person may experience changes in behavior, memory loss, and difficulty communicating. There is no cure for FFI, and patients typically die within 18 months to 3 years after symptoms first appear. FFI is a rare condition, affecting fewer than 40 families worldwide, and researchers are still working to understand the underlying mechanisms of the disease.

How is having no sleep related to a mental health issue?

Lack of sleep is closely linked to mental health and can have serious effects on one’s well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and stress. These mental health conditions can also make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, creating a vicious cycle of poor sleep and poor mental health. Moreover, poor sleep can affect brain function and interfere with the ability to concentrate, make decisions, and remember information, which can negatively impact daily activities and overall quality of life.

Sleep also plays a crucial role in regulating emotions and processing traumatic experiences. During sleep, the brain processes and integrates emotional experiences into our memory, allowing us to regulate our emotions. If sleep is disrupted, this process can be disrupted as well, leading to increased emotional reactivity, irritability, and mood swings.

The impact of sleep on physical health

In addition, lack of sleep can have a physiological impact on the body, which can further contribute to poor mental health. For example, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased inflammation in the body, which has been implicated in the development of depression and other mental health conditions.

Therefore, it is important to prioritize getting enough quality sleep for overall mental health and well-being. This can involve developing a regular sleep routine, creating a sleep-conducive environment, and seeking help if sleep difficulties persist as Dr. Mak tells us.

Dr. Michels Mak mentions Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays a role in promoting better sleep. It is a natural sedative that the body uses to produce serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate sleep patterns. Foods that are high in tryptophan include dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, as well as poultry, such as chicken and turkey. Whole grains, nuts, and seeds, such as almonds and sunflower seeds, are also good sources of tryptophan.

Consuming a snack that contains tryptophan before bedtime can help increase the levels of tryptophan in the bloodstream, leading to an increase in serotonin and melatonin production. This, in turn, can help improve sleep quality, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

In conclusion, incorporating foods high in tryptophan into your diet can help promote better sleep, but it is just one part of a healthy sleep routine. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management are also important factors in achieving restful sleep.

Disclaimer: The above video and content is for educational purposes only. The expert health advice offered in this video are that of the specialists. For more details, you can contact them directly or consult your health expert.