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Good night’s sleep key to keeping pounds off

American adults get an average of 6.9 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It is recommended that we get 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

After talking with many of my clients about their sleep habits, I believe many of us are walking around sleep deprived!

A person who is not getting enough sleep is easily distracted and is negatively affected at work. Lack of sleep, or disrupted and uneven sleep patterns, even can lead to weight gain.

There are two hormones called leptin and ghrelin that are affected by sleep deprivation. Leptin is produced by fat cells and tells the brain when to stop eating. Lack of sleep decreases leptin levels. Therefore, the brain is not signaled appropriately to stop eating.

Ghrelin is produced by the stomach and triggers hunger. Ghrelin levels are increased with sleep deprivation, causing a person to feel more hungry and consume extra calories. When our sleep is sound, adequate in amount, and consistent day-to-day, we not only have more energy and feel good, but our weight is better managed, as well. 

The holiday season is a busy time, but remembering to make sleep a priority can help keep your diet balanced and healthy. If your sleep habits need improvement, here are some tips to try:

n Go to sleep and wake up about the same time every day, even on the weekends. This schedule helps reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

n Avoid eating or drinking large amounts before bedtime. Eat a light dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime. Avoid spicy or fatty foods at night if you are prone to heartburn, which can keep you awake.

n Avoid nicotine and caffeine in the evening. These are stimulants that can keep you awake. Also, limit alcohol in the evening – while it is a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep.

n Exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly often have an easier time falling asleep and sleep more restfully.

n Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.

n Sleep primarily at night. Daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you nap during the day, limit naptime to ½ hour. If you work nights, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight doesn’t interrupt your sleep.

n Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Help your body wind down at night with relaxing activities such as taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book or listening to soothing music. Use of electronics such as laptops, video gaming systems, cellphones and television before sleep can disrupt the body rhythms and suppress the release of the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep.

n As a last resort, try over-the-counter Melatonin supplements. Melatonin has been shown to be safe in low doses for short-term or long-term use, but be sure to talk to your physician prior to taking it. Melatonin has been shown to not only help with sleep, but also to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), according to

Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate on a cold, wintery night to relax and help you wind down. In each of the following recipes, combine the ingredients together and heat in the microwave or on the stove. Each recipe makes one serving and is approximately 100 calories.

Basic Low Calorie Hot Chocolate

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Tablespoons Splenda or other artificial sweetener

1 cup of boiling water or non-fat milk

Low Calorie Hot Dark Chocolate Recipe

1 Tablespoon unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder

3 Tablespoons Splenda or your favorite artificial sweetener

1 cup of boiling water or non-fat milk

Super Satisfying Fat-Free Hot Chocolate Recipe

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Tablespoons of your favorite artificial sweetener

1 cup of non-fat milk

¼ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg

1 tablespoon of fat-free cool whip

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