New bell schedule sleep in jeopardy

What impact will the new schedule have on our sleep?

“As big decisions are made in a career, career path [and] relationships you want to [have good sleep habits] so you can make those decisions accurately,” family medicine physician Yohan Perera said.

Ravali Vallurupalli

“As big decisions are made in a career, career path [and] relationships you want to [have good sleep habits] so you can make those decisions accurately,” family medicine physician Yohan Perera said.

With her noise-canceling headphones blasting Hamilton songs, senior Sarah Carroll was frantically typing away at her keyboard. Her head was bobbing up and down. A bowl of blueberries sat beside her and a Red Bull nestled in her hand. She was too occupied to think about what led to this painstaking night as her head throbbed. 

Carroll had an AP Government test coming up and had been working on her unit one homework study guide. She had steadily been working on it for two weeks. Although she did not procrastinate on the assignment, the night before its deadline, Carroll realized she misread a vital part of the instructions. It was that Thursday, close to midnight that Carroll started typing out every handwritten word from her pages. 

The first thing she did was go downstairs and grab a can of Red Bull. Hamilton’s songs about the U.S. Constitution started pouring into her ears. Finally satisfying the requirements, Carroll allowed herself to shut down for a mere 5 hours. 

At 6:50 a.m., Carroll snoozed her routine alarm five times. At 7:40 a.m., she reluctantly got up and put on her feel-good lucky clothes. Grabbing her blueberry bagel, biscotti and chai latte, she decided to eat while driving and blasted 2010 pop songs. Carroll’s “hand [was] on the steering wheel, but [felt she] could pull [away from it at any] minute.” 

“I was exhausted. I was so anxious that I was awake. I was essentially running on adrenaline at that point because I just had to get through [the day],” Carroll said.

That afternoon, she returned home and collapsed on her bed, or as she calls it, her “cocoon” constructed of four white blankets, one white comforter and a handful of stuffed animals. Sarah slept for a consecutive 16-18 hours due to her loss of sleep the previous night. 

The California state government passed a bill on October 13, 2019 which requires  Oak Park High School to alter its current bell schedule. The school days will extend classes and modify the 45 minute support time by embedding it into each class. 

According to Senate Bill no. 328, high schools are required to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. starting on July 1, 2022, or the date which the new school year starts. This law was passed because studies show that teenagers need more sleep and point to school start times as one reason why they don’t get enough. In Oak Park’s case, the law may work against this intention. 

The current bell schedule incorporates the 60 minutes of 0-period to reach the required number of instructional minutes per year. This allows students to avoid heavy campus traffic, take double frees as juniors and seniors, take an extra elective course, attend more clubs, have 45 minutes of support time, have an hour break between 8 periods or leave campus an hour sooner than most schools. 

The new bell schedule will change OPHS student schedules in aspects of work, extracurriculars, time management, eating patterns and sleep cycles. With the new dismissal time officially an hour later than the current schedule,  some students may worry about their ability to complete a day’s work without impacting their sleep schedules. 

“[It feels like I will lose sleep] because there will be less time [in a day] to balance homework, sports, studying and free time,” sophomore Olivia Marino said. 

According to a physician Yohan Perera, a lack of proper sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, anger, lack of focus, inability to multitask or poor judgment in the short term. Academically, students tend to get poor test scores, drop in performance and have trouble focusing. 

“The neurodevelopmental part of it is that the brain is continuing to develop at very rapid rates of childhood and adolescence. Major parts of the brain that focus on short-term memory, long-term memory and coordination are all developing the cerebellum, hippocampus and hypothalamus, which are all developing [at] very fast rates during adolescence,” Perera said.

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation include high blood pressure and diabetes, which lead to health hazards like strokes and heart attacks. These are some of the top causes of death in the United States. 

“I would say the major categories of the heart, endocrinology, diabetes, skin health, hair health and eye health-those are kind of the main categories to think of for long-term effects,” Perera said. 

The new bell schedule will not only potentially affect the duration of sleep but also when students sleep. This may cause a shift in the students’ circadian rhythm, or internal clock. Similar to the hour shift of daylight sayings or jet lag from long flights, a person’s circadian rhythm is shifted with time changes. The new schedule may shift students’ internal clocks to either back or forward based on the classes and extracurriculars they choose to take. 

According to Sleep Foundation, “circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes.”

The body has many circadian rhythms, but the most important is the sleep-wake cycle. This is a rhythm that is pertinent to the human species. The 24 hours in a day are split into 8 hours of sleep and 16 hours of activeness. 

“[Shifts in sleep patterns] definitely affect the natural circadian rhythm [that] each person kind of gets accustomed [to],” Perera said. “[It is an] abnormal sensation that you are not tired when you are supposed to be tired, or you are tired when you are not supposed to be tired. And that is due to your body’s internal biological clock that gets established over time.”

There are no substitutes for sleep. No amount of caffeine will make up for the toll one’s body takes health-wise. No amount of sleep on weekends will make up for less than 8 hours during the week. Human brains do not function like that. They need consistency to function in a healthy manner. 

“In every area of life, [sleep deprivation] makes you a less functioning human-one more prone to errors. We are more prone to mistakes or are prone to self-harm and harm to others. And so, [sleep] is a really critical part of our life,” Perera said. 


*The beginning of this article was written from an interview with senior Sarah Carroll.