Remember how much getting up for high school sucked? Well, a sophomore named Jillian Dos Santos fought the tyranny of early ass first period classes at Rock Bridge High School and won. (Cue your respective victory songs.)
After routinely arriving late for class, Jilly learned her Columbia, Missouri school district was considering an even earlier morning start and she was exasperated.
“I thought, if that happens, I will die,” recalled Jilly, 17. “I will drop out of school!”
Oh teenagers, but seriously, 7:20 am is aggressive. So Jilly tapped into the skills she learned during a Democratic voter turn-out internship by cooking up Facebook and Twitter profiles for her campaign to push back her school’s start time. She invited her classmates to attend the next school board meeting, encouraged them to “dress up” and Jilly herself spoke to the board against moving the school’s starting bell up an hour. She was victorious, but why stop there right? The sophomore started on phase two, pushing back her school’s starting bell.
By now, Jilly had even dug into the science behind why teens suck so badly at waking up according to the New York Times and learned that biologically teens’ bodies are more likely to not feel sleepy until around 11 p.m, which is called “sleep” hormone melatonin.
New evidence suggests that later high school starts have widespread benefits. Researchers at the University of Minnesota, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied eight high schools in three states before and after they moved to later start times in recent years. In results released Wednesday they found that the later a school’s start time, the better off the students were on many measures, including mental health, car crash rates, attendance and, in some schools, grades and standardized test scores.
Of course, not everyone agreed with Jilly’s cause. Some parents noted that the belated starting bell would impact after-school jobs and student athlete’s practice schedules. But it’s tough to argue with the sleeping benefits, provided the kids go to sleep with enough time to grab a full night’s rest.
Researchers have found that during adolescence, as hormones surge and the brain develops, teenagers who regularly sleep eight to nine hours a night learn better and are less likely to be tardy, get in fights or sustain athletic injuries. Sleeping well can also help moderate their tendency toward impulsive or risky decision-making.
In addition, almost 60 percent of kids whose schools begin at 8:35 a.m. get eight hours of sleep each night.
Ultimately, Jilly lobbied the school board at the next meeting to enact a school start time of 9 a.m. and won. Now, seven months after the change was put in place some first-period teachers and parents alike have seen a positive change with more rested and receptive students.
Connecticut, North Carolina, Kentucky and Minnesota were the first to institute later school starting times. Elsewhere, Seattle’s school board will decide whether to push their school’s start bells back this month and high schools in Long Beach, Calif.; Stillwater, Okla.; Decatur, Ga.;, and Glens Falls, N.Y., have already joined the movement. So if you’re reading this and hate waking up for an 8 a.m. first period, it looks like you can actually do something about it guys!
Image via Getty.