Excessive Homework and Sleep Deprivation
Dear Teachers and Administrators of New Jersey, Studies have been conducted, surveys have been taken, documentaries have been developed, and it’s been discussed in the news for years; and still everyone agrees that nothing is being done to change the fact that students are being assigned entirely too much homework and not enough time to complete it. Students spend six hours daily learning in school. If they are lucky, they can return straight home where they will work additional hours to complete homework by the next day with no time for anything else; but this is not always the case for most students.
Many students participate in activities after school. Then you have numerous other students who must go straight to work after school and on weekends to help during the hard economic times in our nation. Afterward, they will return home and struggle to get their homework completed by the next day with no time for family or friends. Enough is enough! There needs to be less homework with more time for completion. Homework is also having a medical affect on students because they are becoming sleep-deprived as they try to complete an assignment that is due the next day. Studies have shown that students are now taking more risks because of the amount of homework assigned, having little time to complete it.
According to CNN Health’s Medical Assignment Manager Ann J. Curley, studies have shown that more than two-thirds of US teens report they are getting less then eight hours of sleep on school nights, which is considered an insufficient amount of sleep for a teen. Less sleep has become associated with risky behaviors. Some of these risky behaviors are smoking, drinking alcohol, being sexually active and using marijuana. These risks lower physical activity, causing them to feel sad or helpless. Insufficient sleep on school nights is associated with participation in health risk behaviors such as fighting and consideration of suicide.
A lack of sleep can cause stress, and so do hours of homework. Stress can lead to bad grades, depression and many other unhealthy habits. CNN Health sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shrives says, “Most people know that if they are sleep deprived, they cannot make good decisions. Chronic, partial sleep deprivation affects our ability to think straight, make good decisions, and impacts our behavior.” Teens need to have at least nine to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, because having any less can largely impact how they function.
There needs to be less homework or none at all for teens to get the sleep that is medically required. School performance is also affected by lack of sleep. High school students may not be getting enough sleep because of the early start times in school. If a student is caught sleeping, they will be given three warnings to keep their head up or they will be sent to the nurse’s office to get drug tested, when in fact, they are only sleep-deprived from the amount of homework assigned. Missing only a couple hours of sleep may not seem like a big deal, but it can create a noticeable sleep shortage over time. When students are tired they generally aren’t paying attention.
When they take tests at seven-thirty in the morning after staying up late doing homework, it is not likely for the whole class to get an A. Consistent lack of sleep can become more serious, with long term consequences ranging from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), to diabetes, to serious sleep problems, which are dangerous to the human body. Sleep deprivation also plays a major part in accidents among teens. A study published in the 2010 Journal for Clinical Sleep Medicine found that sleepiness behind the wheel and poor sleep quality increased the risk of motor vehicle accidents in teens. Results show that teen drivers were twice as likely to have had a crash if they experienced sleepiness while driving or reported having bad sleep.
This study listed homework and studying, participation in sports and extracurricular activities, working after school, sharing responsibilities at home, and social activities as possible factors for the lack of sleep in teens. I personally can relate to this because I am a sleep deprived student. I wake up at six o’clock every morning, and attend school for seven hours or longer, depending on if I go to tutorial or a club. After school I go to work for at least another four hours; then go home, eat dinner, and complete homework or study for another three to four hours. I usually go to bed around eleven or twelve o’clock, getting only six to seven hours of sleep a night.
This routine takes place every day, five days a week. Students would be more effective in school if they had less homework. Research conducted by Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology professor, suggests that “practice” homework can help improve test scores, but he found little connection between the amount of time spent on homework and actual academic achievement. Studies have shown that “a child will understand a concept better if they have the time to work on five problems, rather than struggling to race through 50.” I can honestly say that if less homework were assigned with more time to complete it, I would be a better student.
This is because I would have the time to actually understand the homework assigned and not just rush through it because there is more to be done by the next day. More time means my test scores would improve because I’d have time to study, leading to improved grades, increasing my GPA, and providing an excellent chance of getting into a better college. The bottom line is: less homework and more time would be a win-win situation. There are steps that can be taken to improve the amount of homework assigned, providing students more time to study or for extracurricular activities. Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology professor, created the “10-minute rule,” meaning that a child should get 10 minutes of homework per grade. Many school districts are beginning to use this method, which has been endorsed by the National PTA and the National Education Association.
It’s about time homework policies be reviewed and rewritten. Teachers can also “talk” to each other to ensure they aren’t overwhelming students with homework the night before a huge test, or the night of a special school event. Parents have even started movements across the country calling for less or even better homework, and not just “busy” work. Many parents have argued that students should instead be reading for enjoyment, exploring and being creative which is part of being a child; they will have their entire adulthood to work. In summary, less homework with more time equals more sleep, less stress, better grades, and a happy and healthy student!