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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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New schedule creates mixed results in quest for sleep

As+students+react+to+the+new+schedule+and+time+management%2C+Dr.+Alejandra+Lastra+at+the+University+of+Chicago+shares+her+insight+and+advice+regarding+sleep.
Midway illustration by Audrey Park
As students react to the new schedule and time management, Dr. Alejandra Lastra at the University of Chicago shares her insight and advice regarding sleep.

Summer Pinc, a sophomore who lives in Hyde Park, sleeps 30 minutes more than last year due to  the new schedule, which pushes U-High’s start time to 8:30 a.m. She feels more refreshed throughout the day because of the extra time she can now use for sleep.  

“I really like the extra sleep time,” Summer said. “It is really helpful. For a while, it felt like they did assemblies for mental health and encouraged us to sleep more. They never did anything about it until they gave us this extra time.”

The later start time was implemented in part to give students more time to sleep, following research showing that high schoolers should sleep 8-10 hours daily.

Students like Summer have utilized this time for sleep. For others, though, this is not the case, especially students with longer commutes or who engage in after-school activities.

Uma Malani, a junior on the girls swimming team, said the schedule gives her at most 15 minutes more sleep. She said the extra time does not change her schedule greatly, considering she leaves her house around the same as last year because of the increased traffic. 

“One day, I will leave my house at 7:30 a.m., and I will get to school at 8:10 a.m.,” said Uma, who lives in the Old Town neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. “Another day, I might leave my house at the same time and get to school at 8:30. At that time, more people are going to work, so the traffic is heavier. It takes more time to get to school, which is frustrating, and as a result, the extra time doesn’t really do anything.”

For Adrija Chatterjee, who uses public transportation, the schedule does not change when she leaves her house for school, since the transportation schedule remains the same. 

Adrija said the 30 minutes gives her time to complete homework at school in the morning but does not give her time to sleep. 

Alejandra Lastra, a pulmonologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said she is unsurprised that some students are not using the 30 minutes for sleep. 

“Lab made a good decision to delay the start time, but it should be later,” Dr. Lastra said. “I think 30 minutes is in the right direction, but it is not enough to make a big difference.”

Dr. Lastra said puberty causes teenagers to face a two-hour natural delay in their sleep schedule and circadian rhythm, and the delay with the earlier start time does not give teenagers the recommended 8-10 hours.

“It is not that teenagers are fighting sleep. It is just that they are not biologically ready for sleep,” she said. “An earlier start essentially punishes teens for a biologically proven phenomenon.” 

Dr. Lastra said she encourages teens to find a balance between academics and a healthy sleep schedule because the effects of sleep deprivation can be severe. 

“It is also important to build resilience and prepare students for college, but at the same time, it is just as important to keep a balance so that you have enough time for leisure and mental health,” Dr. Lastra said. “By 11:30 p.m., you should be in bed, no negotiations. It should be a priority like you would prioritize going to school on time.

Effects of sleep deprivation, according to Dr. Alejandra Lastra 

  • The velocity at which toxins are cleared from the human body is eight times faster when asleep than awake. The toxins have been proven to be linked to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, so sleep deprivation can cause a higher risk of disease. 
  • Those who are sleep deprived perceive the world as more threatening, and it can affect social behavior. When sleep deprived, people tend to be less empathic, have lower tolerance for social interactions and isolate more. 
  • It is proven that sleep deprived people will have slower response times and are less alert. Drivers increase their risk of motor vehicle accidents when they do not get enough sleep. 
  • Sleep deprived people tend to adopt less healthy diets and food choices. 
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About the Contributor
Audrey Park, Editor-in-Chief
Audrey Park is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as an editor-in-chief. She began writing for the Midway in the 2020-21 school year when she was in ninth grade. Her favorite story she has written is about University of Chicago nurses seeking solutions for the uninsured. She loves journalism because of its ability to represent and reflect multiple perspectives. Audrey also enjoys reading, traveling and playing card games. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, special coverage: (with Clare McRoberts and Sahana Unni) superior 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, general feature Story: excellent 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, sidebar writing, “Affirmative Apprehension — Expert input: Law professor explains case” 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, online package 2023 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, news story: excellent 2022 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, St. Louis convention: Honorable mention, editorial writing 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, sidebar writing, “Misinformation solutions rely on regulation, media literacy”

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