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  • Writer's pictureMartha Lewis

Is Over Exercising Affecting Your Sleep?

Updated: Mar 23

I used to over-exercise! Living in a ski town, it’s what I did with my friends. I used to spend all day touring around on my split board in the backcountry. Or skiing 9-4 (what we call “bell to bell”) at the resort. 5 hour bike rides were a typical fun day in the mountains. I did 24-hour mountain bike races and got up in the wee hours of the morning to scramble up peaks. And then “recovered” with alcohol.

I was in my twenties. I had tons of energy. Even though I drank too much and stayed up late partying, I felt great!

Now that I’m in my 40’s and have a kid, I don’t have the time or energy to do these strenuous activities anymore. I’m happy with a mellow hour-long bike ride or one backcountry ski run on Teton pass.

A few years ago, I might have been bragging. But now I’ve learned how bad over-exercising is for us. I know this won’t go over well in the town of extreme athletes where I live, but it’s true. Exercising too much is stressful for our bodies and can lead to health problems.

Exercise is stressful. In moderation, it’s good stress. Our bodies adapt and get stronger with regular physical activity. When we exercise too much, though, our bodies release lots of cortisol to help us deal with the inflammation that exercise creates. Over time, we can't make enough cortisol to deal with the stress and that’s when things start to deteriorate. Workouts feel harder. It takes longer to recover. You feel tired all the time. It’s hard to motivate to exercise at all.

When you feel tired all the time, your body is telling you to slow down. It literally doesn’t have the energy to do what you’re asking it to do. If you keep pushing anyway because you’re an athlete and you think you should be able to do what you’ve always done, you’re eventually going to collapse. Or you’re going to gradually get sicker and sicker until you’re forced to rest. Maybe you develop an auto-immune disease. Or get diagnosed with hypothyroidism and start taking thyroid meds. Or you can’t get rid of that belly fat no matter how many crunches you do. Whatever it is, at some point your body is going to make you slow down.

If you’re tired all the time and still exercising like crazy, I recommend taking it easy. Switching to gentle exercise like walking and yoga will be much better for you. I know it’s mentally hard to change what you’ve been doing for decades. I know you worry about gaining weight if you don’t exercise enough (when too much cortisol is actually what’s giving you belly fat).

If you want to know for sure that this is happening in your body, lab testing will show you. Testing for cortisol and how it’s being used in the body will tell me exactly what kind of exercise you should be doing. Exercise is good and an important part of being healthy. Too much exercise is stressful and not good.

If you aren’t sleeping and tend to over-exercise, let’s chat because they’re connected and I can help. I know how frustrating it is not to sleep, and I know what a relief it is to finally find the answer. I did these same labs. I found out I had a parasite and messed up cortisol that was causing my insomnia and fatigue. I corrected those and now I sleep great! And you can, too! It starts with a call. You can book it here.

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