By Yasmin Khan
Late nights. Little sleep. Loss of focus.
For many of us students, this crushing situation is our reality. Sleep deprivation has spanned the experiences of high schoolers, as we attempt at juggling academics, activities, and social lives. Trudging into school every day, dark circles shadowing our faces, us students are found nodding off in class, struggling to keep our heavy eyes open. But who, or what, is the perpetrator of this impending issue that is so detrimental? One word: homework. In an effort to lessen this epidemic, we’ve heard the suggestion to take easier courses or less activities; however, these are the very things that keep us sane on top of immense loads of work. Why are we trying to take them away?
To further comprehend this adverse issue, let’s examine a best case scenario. Most grade level class teachers assign on average about 1 hour of homework (discounting higher level classes). With about 4 classes a day, and usually 3 of those giving homework, that’s already 3 hours. Now, add the facts that most students take activities that last until at least 4:30, getting home by around 5, and many students do take higher level courses. Let’s also not forget the demand of household chores, exercise, and family time. Those 3 hours sure look like a dream.
As a result, students generally fail to meet the recommended amount of sleep. In fact, while teenagers require around 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep a night, only 20% of people between the ages 11-17 achieve this. Moreover, common side effects of sleep deprivation include decreased long-term memory, lessened ability to pay attention, and overall lack of motivation (Ponte). Furthermore, less sleep is correlated with overall lower academic achievement and increased chance of substance abuse (Fallone). That doesn’t really sound like the ideal state of mind for anyone, let alone a student, now does it? The boundless amounts of homework we are given generates a “do or die” mentality, inducing students to stay up late in order to finish work, out of fear for the academic and confrontational consequences. While it is equitable to say that we should be preparing to receive more work throughout high school, we are only in grade 10. Teachers should be more lenient when giving homework, whether that means giving slightly less work, or allowing for due date extensions. We should be allowed to enjoy life before the crushing fist that is the IB takes over.
On the other hand, a valid counter-argument to the extension of due dates would be to express that in order for a lesson to go on, the students must do the learning for homework. Nonetheless, extensions wouldn’t even be necessary if teachers gave less work to start with. With 75 minute classes, it shouldn’t be too much to ask to only have 30-40 minutes of work per class. A study done by Stanford University exemplified that 90 minutes-2 ½ hours a night of homework is optimal, but that more than this can be counterproductive. This study also illustrated that too much homework is associated with elevated levels of unhealthy stress, sleep deprivation (along with other reductions in health), and not enough time for activities, friends, or family (Parker). The compromise calling for less homework instigates better health, time for family, friends, exercise, and most importantly… sleep.
Unfortunately, the lack of sleep amongst us students has become so prevalent that the subject of sleep itself has escalated (or de-escalated for that matter) into somewhat of a joke, as we tag each other and laugh about memes highlighting our shared sleep deprivation. This looming issue that spills into the seams of our lives has taken its course, but can be easily solved. So teachers, I beg of you. Give less homework, and increase our productivity during the day.
We are tired of being tired.
- Klass, Perri. “The Science of Adolescent Sleep.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 May 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/well/family/the-science-of-adolescent-sleep.html.
- Fallone, Gahan. “Sleep and Children’s Physical Health.” Encyclopedia of Education, edited by James W. Guthrie, 2nd ed., vol. 6, Macmillan Reference USA, 2002, pp. 2231-2234. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3403200560/OVIC?u=60iskl&xid=c6ded298. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.
- Parker, Clifton B. “Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework.” Stanford News, 15 Mar. 2014, news.stanford.edu/2014/03/10/too-much-homework-031014/.
- Ponte, Wendy J. “Excessive Homework Strains Family Life.” Do Students Have Too Much Homework?, edited by Judeen Bartos, Greenhaven Press, 2012. At Issue. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010796202/OVIC?u=60iskl&xid=285b4086. Accessed 10 Feb. 2018. Originally published as “No More Homework,” Mothering, no. 149, 2008, pp. 58-66.