Starting school too early could be dangerous for teens, even if they do everything right.

No coffee after 6 p.m. Phone is off at 8 p.m. Asleep by 11 p.m. And your teenager is still exhausted, anxious, and irritable the next day?

If they start school at the crack of dawn, that bad attitude might be more than just adolescent moodiness.

GIF from "Kiki's Delivery Service."


A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that middle and high school students who start school before 8:30 a.m. might be at a higher risk of depression and anxiety — even among those who do everything else "right."

"While there are other variables that need to be explored, our findings show that earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens," lead author Jack Peltz, clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Rochester, said in a press release.

The researchers monitored the sleep hygiene habits, sleep quality and duration, and depression and anxiety symptoms of two groups of students — one made up of those who started school before 8:30 a.m. and one comprised of those who started later — over a seven-day period.

While students who instituted good routines — turning off electronics, early bedtimes, etc. — showed improved outcomes across the board, those who started school earlier still reported more mental health challenges.

A 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fewer than 1 in 5 U.S. middle and high school students start school at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Historically, districts have implemented early morning start times in order to align student schedules with parent work schedules and allot time for after-school activities.

While other recent studies have found that an 8:30 a.m.-or-later bell can benefit students, the Rochester study is among the first to isolate a direct negative link between early start times and adolescent mental health.

Meanwhile, the movement to let kids sleep is small, but growing.

In 2016, the American Medical Association came out in favor of later school start times, citing data that middle and high school students require 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep to "achieve optimal health and learning."

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images.

In February, a bill was introduced in the California State Senate that would institute an 8:30 a.m. school start time statewide. The bill was shelved after falling short of the votes needed for passage, with opponents arguing that a "one-size-fits-all" approach would constrain the flexibility of local districts.

Supporters plan to revisit the legislation next year.

Despite the findings, Peltz insists that good sleep hygiene is still important for young people.

"At the end of the day, sleep is fundamental to our survival," he said. "But if you have to cram for a test or have an important paper due, it’s one of the first things to go by the wayside, although that shouldn’t be."

The next step is getting school administrators to weigh the evidence.

Convincing school districts across America to start later can't be harder than convincing a teenager to shut off their phone, right?

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.