Sleep well for good health

Sleep is the one step in my program that is absolutely essential to helping every other step work effectively.

~ Marilu Henner, Total Health Makeover


Marilu calls sleep the fountain of youth. In the Total Health Makeover she says, “if someone told you that you could look younger, feel better, boost your energy level, and keep yourself healthy, wouldn’t you want to know how to do that? It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’s as easy as getting a good night’s sleep.”

A few facts about Sleep –

  • We spend almost one-third of our lives asleep.
  • You can improve your immune system with a consistent regime of good sleep.
  • Sleep improves your memory.
  • Sleeping well will help you master all the other THM® steps.

Here’s how to assess your sleep health in THM® terms.

  • Beginner * Become aware of your body’s sleep patterns. Notice when your body needs sleep and also the times you sleep when you don’t really need it, and why.
  • Intermediate * Same as beginner, plus try to establish healthy sleeping habits, like getting to bed and waking up at the same time each day, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and getting to bed before midnight.
  • Advanced * Same as intermediate, plus keep a sleep journal to better track your pattern, including any roadblocks to a good night’s sleep.
  • Makeover Maniac * Become so obsessed with your journal that you no longer have time to sleep.


Read more about Sleep in Marilu’s books.

Total Health Makeover * chapter 12

The 30 Day Total Health Makeover * short summary on pages 67-68

Healthy Kids * what happens to our kids on pages 1-3; bedtime stories on pages 179-181


Sleep well; stay healthy

Getting a full night of good sleep is a key to good health. One of sleep’s greatest gifts is hormone balancing. Once we get below 7 hours of sleep a night, we are automatically at increased risk for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, depression, and obesity.

Slow waves = better metabolism. That deep, dreamless, slow-wave sleep that we fall into about three or four times a night may actually regulate our metabolism, according to some researchers. This stage of sleep starts about an hour after we fall asleep, and during that time we release growth hormone, which prompts the body to burn stored fat. As we age, we get less time in this stage – perhaps only 5-10 percent of our sleep time. Compare that to the 20 percent we get when we’re young, and it’s clear why we may feel shortchanged.

If we have just two nights of bad sleep, our hormones start to rebel. Leptin, which manages our satiety (fullness, satisfaction), will be reduced by 20 percent. Ghrelin, which manages our hunger, can be increased up to 30 percent. In two crappy nights, we get hungrier and we don’t feel as satisfied by what we’ve eaten. For most of us, that leads to snacking or overeating.

Add one more night of bad sleep, and we become 25 percent less sensitive to insulin. It’s the same change in insulin resistance as if we instantly gained 25 extra pounds.

Do yourself a big favor. Stop those fat-storage hormones and green-light the fat-burning hormones. Help your body stay healthy and drop weight by getting at least seven hours of sleep a night!


Get a good night’s sleep

The body releases it’s greatest concentration of human growth hormones (HGH) during sleep. These are the main ingredients that help the body repair damaged tissue. HGH spurs cell division and organ growth, particularly during childhood. It tapers off in adults after age 30.

Sleep deprivation can cause immune system failures. Bacteria that we normally are able to fight off start to run wild. One single night of sleep deprivation can result in a 30 percent decrease in the activity of cells that attack tumors in the human body.

When your doctor says “get some rest” it means you need to stop what you’re doing and get some sleep, so that your body can start focusing on healing itself at the cellular level.

Do your health a favor – get a good night’s sleep.


Getting to sleep

Did you know that nearly one-third of the world’s adult population has trouble getting to sleep? If you fall into that group, try these tips.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night, and have an established bedtime routine.
  • Exercise during the day. Tire out your body by using it during the day.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine, stimulants, and alcohol. Even when you consume them early in the day, they can affect your sleep.
  • Eat your main meal at midday, and a light meal in the evening.
  • Learn a relaxation technique – meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, journaling – and practice it as part of your bedtime routine.
  • Don’t overthink it. The more worked up you get, the harder it is to sleep.


Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow

One of the best ways to get a jump on your day is to start thinking about it the night before.

Before you go to bed tonight, spend 30 minutes preparing for tomorrow:

  • check your calendar for tomorrow’s events (business meetings, kids’ sports, etc)
  • know what you’ll eat for breakfast
  • pack as much of your lunch (and your kids’ lunches) as possible
  • check backpacks, briefcases, totebags, and purses (lunch money, permission slips, flash drives, power cords, library books, homework, USB cables, textbooks, uniforms, instruments, sports equipment … this list can go on forever, can’t it?)
  • lay out your workout clothes if you work out at home; pack your gym bag if you work out somewhere else – don’t forget your shoes
  • lay out your clothes (and your kids’ clothes) for the day
  • put your skin brush on the bathroom counter or scale, where you’ll see it first thing
  • fill your water bottle

You’ll sleep better tonight, you’ll have a jump start on your morning, and it will make the whole day go easier.


You snooze, you lose

People who get five or fewer hours of sleep a night are 55% more likely to be obese than those who sleep 8 hours straight.*

Sleep deprivation may increase your output of hunger hormones, turn off your fullness hormones, and bring on cravings for simple carbs (sweet and sugary foods), which perk you up. Sleep gives your body a chance to rebuild and repair itself.

Not sleeping for at least 7 hours each night? Start improving now, by getting to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight. (That might mean starting to get ready for bed a lot earlier!) Then every few nights, go to bed another 15 minutes earlier, until you’re at a minimum of 7 hours each night.

*According to a review of 45 studies published in the journal Sleep.


Need more energy? member Furlara shares her secrets for having more energy. These are tried-and-true strategies that work independently of each other, but together make a huge difference in way you feel. We dare you to try this yourself.


Sleep: I don’t get enough. But I find that I have great energy if I go to bed and rise at the same time every day. If I gravitate an hour outside of the range, I can feel the difference. So give it a try. Whether you get 6, 7, or 8 hours of sleep a night, make sure that you go to bed and get up about the same time. One day a week, also go to bed one solid hour earlier than normal (sleeping in an extra hour doesn’t give you more energy, but going to bed one hour earlier does). Don’t oversleep on the weekends and go to bed or get up outside of the range to any significant extent. Consistency is key. Quality over quantity is important too.

Water: For days in a row, drink at least 32 oz of pure water (if not more). If you consume coffee or tea, drink more. If you do well with water one day but not another, it can affect your energy. Keep it consistent for days in a row and see what happens.

Vitamins: I take a multivitamin and fish oil. And I started taking a probiotic supplement two months ago.

Breaks: If you work, take a break every 90 minutes. Studies show that you lose focus and deplete energy at about the 90-minute mark. You just need a 5-minute break to walk around, stretch, eat a healthy snack, read something inspirational, sit in silence, talk to someone, or walk a lap. Surfing the internet does not count. Get away from all electronic devices. If you purposely take 3-5 minute breaks every 90 minutes, you will notice a difference in your energy level.

Food: Make sure that you are having at least one serving of complex carbs per day. Bread doesn’t count. Have brown rice, oatmeal or any substantial grain at least once a day.

Exercise: It is important, but the tips above will work even if you don’t exercise on a given day.

Mental: If you are depressed, overwhelmed or consumed with anything mental, get it out. Try to journal for 5 minutes a day or at least every few days. It makes a big difference in your outlook. Carrying around mental baggage in your head is draining. Put it on paper to gain perspective and to have more mental energy.


Lose the snooze

Most people wake up 15 minutes later than they should because they hit the snooze button a few times. Then the whole day is spent feeling behind and catching up.

Be different. Set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier than your usual wake-up time. Then exercise a little bit of discipline in that one moment – get up! – and you’ll be a step ahead the rest of the day.

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