By: Bruce Liska
School is a leading cause of stress for the average teenager. Grades, exam scores, and standardized tests will determine your future. However, the amount of stress that school puts on teenagers can be extremely unhealthy. Having a rigorous class schedule on top of after-school commitments is something that colleges like to see on your transcript, which means taking several honor and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
This combination of after-school commitments and high-level academic courses can cause unhealthy habits in students, including sleep deprivation and caffeine addictions.
“[When students don’t get enough sleep,] they get sick. It takes them longer to get assignments done, said Mrs. Spage, the AP Psychology teacher at Park View. “It’s harder for them to focus and concentrate, and they make dumb mistakes. ”
Out of over 50 students who were surveyed, 57% of those students drink caffeine for the purpose of staying awake. Caffeine makes sleep deprivation worse for students.
“Caffeine is a psychoactive drug, albeit a legal one. Like any other psychoactive drug there is the possibility of addiction — both mental & physical — tolerance and withdrawal,” said Spage. ”Kids who use caffeine as a way to stay awake instead of getting more sleep just make their sleep deprivation and the symptoms of sleep deprivation worse.”
Do teachers give too much homework for students to live a healthy life? Do the expectations of universities contribute to this problem too? Students end up depriving themselves of sleep in order to finish homework they can’t do because of sports, after school clubs, honor societies, and jobs, yet these are all things students are expected to participate in to be an ideal candidate.
According to a survey of 75% of the AP teachers at Park View, the average AP teacher gives about 45 minutes of homework per night (not class period, but every night). Each teacher feels the difficulty of the homework in their class is about average, compared to other AP classes, and they feel that they give an average amount of homework for an AP class.
“I feel that there is a lot of stress to keep up good grades. I’ve been doing extra-curricular activities and taking the highest level courses for a very long time and it’s a lot of stress to keep that up. But I do it to get into college,” said Ariel Liu, a senior at Park View.
Most of those same teachers also expect students to get about 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
“I do think it is important to get as much sleep at night as you can. I remember studies have always said to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, but I’ve also seen that it apparently differentiates based on your age,” said Mr. Wellington, the AP US History teacher at Park View. “I do think the more sleep you get the better you would be able to maintain focus and attention during the day.”
Many colleges look for their ideal student candidates to take at least three AP classes per year, if not more. According to the Park View AP teachers, that would equal about two hours of AP homework per night. Luckily, students are given the option of a study hall period where they can work on homework, but each study hall period is only 90 minutes.
On top of the two hours of AP homework, students have family commitments, hobbies, jobs, and homework from other classes.
According to our survey, about 20.5 hours of a student’s day is committed to sports, clubs/honor societies, family commitments, hobbies, other after school activities, the school day, and AP related homework. That leaves about three and a half hours for sleep. This does not include:
- Non-AP related homework
- Time spent getting up in the morning before school, using the bathroom, showering
- Eating breakfast and dinner (Lunch is at school)
“The last time I stayed up late doing homework was yesterday. I had to do a project and had to write three essays in three hours,” said Ariel Liu.
Having that little sleep can be extremely unhealthy for students. Loudoun County has tried to help students sleep more by starting high school later than most counties.
“Loudoun County also has one of the latest start times for high school. That’s in place to help teenagers get more sleep since their bodies like to go to sleep later and wake up later,” said Spage.
Teachers won’t be able to ease up on the amount of homework they give per night because of exams and SOLs, but by doing this, it is hurting the students.
The skills are still new to the students, so they really have to practice a lot,” said Mrs. Ramsis, the AP World History teacher. “[For the AP World History Exam], they have to practice reading, they need the vocabulary, they need the skills practice of different multiple choice, and they really need the primary source readings. Not only to analyze, but to use as information in their essays. So, maybe slightly less book chapters, if they reduced the content, but I’d still give primary source readings and the different practices”