Quality sleep ranks right up there with flexibility as the top two most overlooked components of health and fitness, from my experience working with adults.   Harvard Health lists their six reasons on why sleep is important in an article written in 2006.  In it’s article Harvard Health Publications highlights weight gain and chronic elevation of stress hormones as an effect of chronic sleep deprivation.(1) If  a wellness regimen causes sleep deprivation, is it a wellness regimen?   For most motivated exercisers the wellness components would line up similar to the following list, in order of most important to least important.

1.  Exercise - making sure sets, reps, weights and/or distance prescribed for that week of training is achieved.

2.  Nutrition – ensure protein is in post workout meal or shake, healthy fats are consumed, may fall off the wagon over the weekends but all in all stay on track during the week with overall fitness goals.

3.  Flexibility – if time for stretching will fit it in after.

4.  Warm up – rarely warm up.

5.  Sleep - not overly concerned about it.  Don’t recognize how training regimen impacts it, or just ignore it unless it is a big problem.

6.  Psychoscocial/emotionally well being - not on the map for most people.

The above list is a pretty accurate depiction of most people’s outlook on the compeonents of wellness in order of importance and general thought process about each one.  The major problem with the above outlook is not recognizing how one compenent effects the other in the big picture of a healthy lifestyle.

Wellness needs to be described as a chain reaction or domino effect moreso than the more commonly used phrase of ” holistic approach.”  The holistic approach mindset indicates being somewhat conscious of all components leads to a healthy lifestyle, which is inaccurate.  Overexercise can still be a problem if emotional wellbeing and flexibility are downplayed, or if the domino effect mentality isn’t used, which is the idea that exercise will effect emotional well being and sleep.  The amount of, the intensity level  and the frequency of exercise performed all cause a chain reaction on the human body impacting flexibility, emotional well being and sleep patterns.

In an article written in 2007, The American Family Physican Organization indicates a condition called the ” overtraining syndrome ” can lead to increase illness and injury resulting from poor sleep patterns stemming from overexercising.  This is a condition found in long duration enduarnce athletes.  Recreational athletes aren’t exempt from the ” overtraining syndrome.”(2)  Overexercising often will lead to a tunnel visioned exerciser feeling sluggish, sleep deprived and frustrated from not reaching goals.

In a New York Times article published in September of 2007 Dr. Alex Chediak of the American Academy os Sleep Medicine cites exercise releases bundless of small proteins (cytokines) responsible for ” making people feel drowsy and responsible for prolonging the time they are sleeping.”(3)  Also cited were the major factors for increasing the release of these cytokines is an increase in duration and intensity of exercise.(4)  Adding miles, minutes or laps to your current workouts will eventually lead to a chronically fatigued physical state.

Any wellness or program that emphasizes exercise without acknowledging how it will impact the body on a long term basis isn’t a wellness program.  Sleep is a big piece of the wellness pie that has to be recognized and tracked just like workouts and meal plans.  Wellness is a chain reaction, how you handle one component of it will absolutely have an impact on all the others.


1.  Harvard Health Publications January 2006.  ”  Importance of Sleep:  6 Reasons Not To Scrimp On Sleep.”

2.  American Family Physician.  July 15;76(2): 237-244.  ” Common Problems In Endurance Athletes.”

3.  New York Times article in Fitness & Nutrition section.  ” Sleep After Hard Workouts?  You Must Be Dreaming.”  Published September 2007.  Author Gina Kolata.

4.  New York Times article in Fitness & Nutrition section. ” Sleep After Hard Workouts? You Must Be Dreaming.” Published September 2007. Author Gina Kolata.

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