Sleep Problems and Fatigue

Sleep Problems

Sleep is crucial for optimal health. During sleep, the body works to preserve healthy brain function, immune function, and physical health. Sadly, estimates indicate that about one-third of the population suffers from one or more symptoms of insomnia, which include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, and nonrestorative or poor quality of sleep.

This is a problem because poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of many chronic health conditions including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, anxiety/depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Part of the reason that these associations exist is that healthy sleep is needed to engage in many health-promoting behaviors. For example, sleep restriction causes increased appetite, particularly for junk food, and it reduces motivation to be physically active and exercise. Sleep restriction can also lead to antisocial behaviors, having negative effects on relationships, which are crucial for health and well-being.

Some people, despite allocating enough time for sleep, find sleep to be elusive. In these cases, they often rely on sedatives, such as alcohol or pharmaceutical medications. While pharmaceutical medications for insomnia, such as benzodiazepines, may be effective in the short-term, they lose their effectiveness and become habit-forming in the long-term. Upon discontinuation of the drug, symptoms of insomnia can rebound and sometimes become even worse than they were before starting. These drugs also alter sleep architecture in a way that compromises sleep quality, and they can leave you feeling groggy and unrested during the day.

If you are dealing with sleep problems, it is important to address the underlying cause(s).  The causes of poor sleep are myriad and include sleep-disordered breathing (sleep apnea), stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, circadian rhythm dysregulation, nutrient deficiencies, and infection/inflammation. This turns into a vicious cycle, as poor sleep will exacerbate many of these conditions.


Fatigue is perhaps the most ubiquitous and non-specific health complaint. Nearly every disease known to man can cause fatigue. This represents a significant challenge to individuals and their health care providers when fatigue is the primary symptom. If further signs and symptoms or laboratory evidence do not shed light on a cause, this can leave patients and doctors adrift in a sea of potential problems and solutions with no direction to sail. Yet, fatigue can cause a major decrease in quality of life and can be an early sign of serious illness. Fatigue itself will interfere in the practice of healthy behaviors such as exercise, healthy cooking, and social activities and makes navigating life’s inherent day-to-day challenges more difficult if not impossible. Getting to the root of the issue is possible though when the correct tools are utilized.

Fatigue can be divided into a few general categories even though most fatigue involves aspects of multiple categories: insufficient energy production, increased energy expenditure, insufficient sleep, intoxication, infection, organ failure/dysfunction, and altered perception. Standard medical treatment for fatigue is to screen for common markers of disease. If nothing turns up, a doctor may tell you that there is nothing wrong or offer an antidepressant drug, even without further evidence of depression. Well, feeling tired all the time IS something wrong and just because a cursory evaluation did not reveal a cause does not mean it is not. In this scenario, a more thorough investigation is called for, one that analyses the full history of an issue, tests multiple metabolic points of data, and incorporates a holistic approach. Even if such an investigation does not produce a smoking gun, the absence of a diagnosed disease state in no way prevents us from nurturing the many aspects of health.   There is always something to be improved and we work with our patients over time to determine what works best for them.

How We Work With These Problems

Dr. Sharp has been on a quest for over forty-five years to explore the many approaches to understanding and healing core breakdowns in people’s health. The work of functional medicine is to discover what’s going wrong. Conventional medicine is concerned with making a diagnosis and treating with pharmaceuticals – which often amount to only the treatment of symptoms and not root causes. Our approach with each person that comes to us for help is individualized. We begin with a comprehensive, in-depth medical history reviewing the evolution of each person’s illness. This allows us to recommend a number of diagnostic tests that are rarely performed in mainstream medicine and allow us to identify where the normal physiological processes of the body are breaking down.  For individuals with sleep problems, the testing process includes in-depth biochemical and electrophysiological sleep studies at home.

We are a team of professionals, including a functional medicine physician, a dietitian/nutritionist, and a stress resilience coach.  Together and collaboratively, we seek first to understand and address the root causes of illness, including the use of nutraceuticals and botanical supplements rather than prescription medication.  For many of our patients, past traumas are playing a role in persistent health problems.  Our collective skillset includes help for resolving the impact of past traumas and releasing obstacles to healing.

We focus on the process of true healing.  The holistic process means addressing every lifestyle element that influences health:

  • Testing for and correcting nutrient deficiencies with diet and supplementation,
  • Testing for and correcting other forms of biochemical or physiological dysfunction,
  • Learning and practicing the skills of stress resilience,
  • A rational and individualized plan for exercise and fresh air,
  • Attention to healthy sleep,
  • Elimination of toxins from our immediate environment and from our bodies.

Beyond understanding and addressing the roots of unwellness, we provide active support for building skills and habits for a healthy diet and stress resilient lifestyles.

It is our mission to actively support and guide each client in building skills and habits for a healthy and sustainable life for the long run, free from the restrictions that poor health can impose on achieving our most cherished goals. At Plum Spring Clinic, our job as holistic practitioners in Chapel Hill NC is to help resolve your sleep and fatigue symptoms holistically and non-pharmaceutically. Become a patient with us today!