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Losing Sleep over Schoolwork? You’re not alone.

Raima Islam '21
28 January 2019

If you think you’re the only one up late at night completing your schoolwork, you’re not. Many students nowadays feel we get too much schoolwork, hindering us from enjoying our high school days and from spending time with our families. Not only that, but schoolwork has a negative impact on our health in many different ways.

Personally, it’s hard for me to find time to adequately focus on all of my classes. I understand that it was my choice to take challenging classes, but I’m not the only one with this problem. I surveyed fifty students on how much sleep they get on an average night. The kids I surveyed took different numbers of classes, with some taking six classes, while others taking seven or eight. The classes they took also had a range of difficulty and differing workload.

The recommended number of hours of sleep for a teenager is between eight to ten hours. It came to my surprise that only 10% of the students I surveyed get at least eight hours of sleep per night. The rest of the students sleep from a range of one to seven hours.

The results of the survey; photo credit: Raima Islam '21

They attributed their lack of sleep to the amount of work they get on an average night. "I do appreciate getting lots of work as a way to benefit my academics,” claimed Julia Perdomo ‘21. “However, there sometimes is too much work to the point where it interferes with my sleep schedule and overall health." All students I surveyed had the same opinion as Perdomo — they want less work but the same academic benefits. They just wished their schoolwork didn’t have to influence their health.

Too much schoolwork has been proven to take a major toll on the health of students. If a person sleeps for less than five hours per night on average, his/her life expectancy is reduced by about 15%. This lack of sleep leads to increased levels of stress for students.

A 2014 Stanford University study showed that 56% of students attributed their stress to homework. Homework also leads to other problems, such as sleep deprivation, weight loss, and fatigue.

The study also discussed the negative impacts of too much schoolwork on students’ social lives. Having too much schoolwork forces students to prioritize their grades over their relationships. The heavy workload leads to students quitting extracurricular activities or not bothering to participate in them in the first place. Too much work also leads to less interaction with friends and family.

My parents have totally different work schedules, so it’s not too often to have both of them at home at once. On the days when they both are home, my sister and I don’t get to spend much time with them due to the amount of homework and studying we have to do. The pressure of school has sadly tampered with other relationships too, since we have less time to interact with family members and friends.

Even teachers recognize when it’s unnecessary to give too much work. “If teachers give more work just to have students do work, I think that it has no purpose. But if it’s work to teach them a skill, reinforce their competency, or help them be more confident as writers or students, I think that there's value in more work,“ stated Ms. Mary Garofalo. “I don't think more work or less work is really the question; if it’s less work and it’s quality work and it’s assessing what they need to learn, then that’s really important. If it’s more work and it’s pointless worksheets, then it's just a time-waster.”

Adding more schoolwork into students’ lives also does not improve test scores, as many argue. Finland is ranked as having some of the best test scores in the world. What’s their secret? They get very little homework.

The little amount of homework they get is also linked to why they’re some of the happiest people in the world. Their school-system is even arguably the best in the world, due to no standardized testing, having them start school at older ages, and having an overall more relaxed school atmosphere.

An average Finnish student will spend about thirty minutes each night finishing any schoolwork, compared to an American student spending three to seven hours per night. The little amount of homework Finnish students have maximizes the time they can spend studying, participating in extracurriculars, and spending time with loved ones.

Viewing the negative impacts of schoolwork on American school-children goes to show how much our education system needs to change. I think we all can see that instead of taking notes on the Darwinian Theory or World War II, we need to be taking notes on education reform.