Why does a person experience the inability to sleep or feel tired all the time?

Multiple factors can be at work. The inability to sleep and feeling tired are functional problems, meaning the body is not doing what it’s supposed to do. As a result, it works too hard and causes symptoms. In most cases, routine diagnostic studies do not provide the true cause of these symptoms, and the patients are “labeled” as having conditions like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.

What should a person do who is suffering with these symptoms?

The inability to sleep or frequently waking up at 3 a.m. and not being able to resume a normal sleep pattern are classified as a chronic condition. Unfortunately, most doctors are very good at treating acute conditions, but when it comes to chronic conditions, they drop the ball. Few doctors are trained in assessing the true cause of why these functional symptoms are appearing. As a result, patients are given medications to mask their symptoms or brain-firing patterns so they can have more energy or sleep better. Most medications have adverse side effects, which can become long-term. In addition, the body will develop a dependency on such remedies.

So what should people do who have chronic sleep deprivation? They should see a doctor who understands functional neurology and functional medicine. The doctor will order certain diagnostic tests that are commonly not ordered or overlooked by most doctors. This occurs because their doctor may not have been trained in functional medicine. Based on the test results, a trained doctor will use expertise to properly assess what is actually causing the patient’s symptoms — in most cases, some sort of autoimmune condition. The body has some sort of imbalance or infection that the immune system wants to get rid of and can-not, so it attacks an organ or a system in the body. Autoimmune conditions are very common in people with diabetes or thyroid conditions.

What are these tests?

One is a very comprehensive blood test to look for problems, including a thyroid condition, which is a common problem that many female patients have. They often take medications for it for the rest of their life. Usually, when blood tests are ordered by some physicians, the physician looks at one marker (TSH) to diagnose a thyroid problem, and one marker is not always enough. In our evaluation, we look at several markers and assess if the patient has a real thyroid problem or if another condition is causing the thyroid gland to be affected.

Is there any other test that is usually done?

The adrenal stress test is very important as well. The adrenal glands are known as stress glands, and they’re located on top of your kidneys. Their job is to release the proper amount of chemicals such as cortisol, testosterone, and estrogen. These are the hormones in our body that manage stress, maintain libido, and control our immune system.

For instance, cortisol levels should be high in the morning and low at night. When they are high, you feel energetic; when they are low, you feel relaxed or tired. Stress can affect cortisol production. Chemical stress such as alcohol or tobacco use, emotional stress such as a bad relationship, and physical stress such as a lack of exercise and sitting behind a computer or steering wheel all day could cause adrenal fatigue — a condition in which the adrenal glands slow down. According to some literature, more than 80 percent of the population is suffering from this condition. The economic stress, 24/7 workday, and popularity of sugar and caffeine have the potential to make this condition an epidemic.

Upon testing, we have found that cortisol levels in many individuals drop in the afternoon, which is why they crash during the day. When their cortisol levels rise in the middle of the night, they can’t sleep.

If you feel drained both mentally and physically, or if you experience body aches, mental fogginess, or blood sugar imbalances, there is a good chance that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. Many of these patients report the use of coffee or other stimulants in order to focus and get transient energy. But stimulants can also cause digestive problems, autoimmune dysfunction, thyroid problems, and blood sugar dysregulation.

We also look at whether a patient is suffering from a chronic infection in their gut that may have been overlooked for years. We have seen in many cases that patients have a parasitic infection; once identified and eliminated from the body, the patients had drastic improvements in their quality of life. As you may know, 80 percent of your immune system is related to your gut function. Many of us with a routine American diet do suffer from gut dysfunction, which is another topic.

Wow, so how do you treat this?

Good question. The medical and patient model has been to take medication to force the body to sleep. But we know this is not a cure, even leaving out the side effects. We need to help the body to get its proper function back, and many of these functional chronic symptoms as a result will virtually and potentially disappear. In most cases, there are neurological, structural and metabolic causes, and all three must be addressed for ultimate results.

So how do you approach these chronic conditions?

In a similar but more comprehensive way. We find the true cause of the patient’s symptoms, then we treat the patient in all of these areas. In most cases, the patient will receive oxygen treatment, start a detoxification program, avoid certain foods that they are sensitive to based on the testing results and start specific, customized supplements in conjunction with one-on-one physical therapy to relax the body.

What does oxygen treatment do?

Oxygen is food for the brain. After age 25, your ability to utilize oxygen diminishes by about 1 percent a year. As a result, your brain functions will not be the same, and you may have symptoms such as chronic tiredness, memory loss, or brain fog. Oxygen therapy is a must to improve body function. The brain controls all your bodily functions and organs. If it does not have enough food, your body will not work efficiently, especially your hormone production. We have had great success with patients experiencing these functional problems.

Dr. Ali Mazandarani (Maz), DAAIM, BCIM, DC, CCRD, CCPCP, provides care at MedWell, a center for the recovery of chronic conditions via natural, drug-free methods. The center is located in Midland Park, Bergen County. You can reach the center at 201-848-8000.