By Uso Atuegbu
The experience that Santa Catalina, along with other schools across the world, has been through this past year is like no other. Returning to school after a global pandemic has been challenging for all; returning back to old routines or creating new ones is undoubtedly challenging. With having a co-curricular requirement to fulfill, adjusting or re-adjusting to boarding life, a new block schedule, and many other factors, managing time to finish homework may seem daunting. Homework is assigned to help students apply information learned in class, but how much is too much?
A survey was done on 67 Catalina students from all grade levels 9-12. 22% of the students were freshmen, 37.3% were sophomores, 26.9% were juniors, and 13.4% were seniors. According to this survey, 11.9% of students take 1-2 hours to complete homework, 35.8% take approximately 2-3 hours, 32.8% take 3-4 hours, and 19.4% take more than four hours every night. The Washington Post wrote about a new study that focused on homework and its correlation to students’ mental health specifically in upper-middle class neighborhoods. Valerie Strauss, author of the article, states that the study was conducted by Mollie Galloway, assistant professor at Lewis and Clark College, and Denise Pope, lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. They found that less than 1% of students surveyed were unaffected by stress when completing their homework. To contrast, 82% of the surveyed students stated that they were experiencing stress manifesting itself in physical ways, such as headaches and sleep deprivation, from their homework loads.
The recommended amount of sleep for teenagers is between 8-10 hours. According to Stanford Children’s Health, seven out of ten high schoolers are not getting the recommended hours of sleep every night. The survey done on Catalina students reveals that the majority of students here are no different than the high schoolers surveyed by Stanford. In the survey done on Catalina students, only 7.5% of students (5), reported that they are getting the recommended amount of sleep every night. 44.8% of Catalina students get 5-6 hours of sleep and 44.8% of students are getting 7-8 hours of sleep. Luckily, only 3% of Catalina students reported getting only 3-4 hours of sleep.
Sleep deprivation in teenagers has been described as “an epidemic” by Ruthann Richter, writer for Stanford Medicine News Center along with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Richter also reported that William Dement, the founder of Stanford’s first ever Sleep Disorders Clinic stated, “[Sleep deprivation in teenagers] is a huge problem. What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could perform.” Sleep deprivation is also known to cause an increase in anxiety and depression in teens along with a decrease in the ability to focus and grades. A factor that is believed to help students receive the recommended amount of sleep by American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics is high schools starting by earliest 8:30 a.m. Eric Suni, author of “How Would Later School Start Times Affect Sleep?” articulated that starting school later in the morning is believed to help accommodate the “phase delay” that a lot teenagers experience early in the morning during puberty, which is the reason why most teenagers, on average, can not fall asleep until 11 p.m. Suni describes a phase delay to be when teenagers tend to struggle with falling asleep, leading to later wake up times. He states that, “This phase delay can shift the body’s internal clock back by up to two hours. As a result, the average teenager cannot fall asleep until 11:00 p.m. and would do best waking up at 8:00 a.m. or even later.” Suni’s conclusion matches up with the survey on Catalina students. 49.7% of the students surveyed, which was the majority in this section of the survey, reported that they go to bed at 11 p.m. or later on homework nights. 43.3% reported going to bed at 10-11 p.m. 6% of students stated that they go to bed between 9-10 p.m, while only 1.5% of students (1), go to bed earlier than 9 p.m.
Sleep is a necessity for not only high school students, but also adults and children. It is important, when completing homework, to take breaks and get enough rest. If possible, try splitting up longer assignments over the span of days to avoid staying up until midnight trying to finish everything in one night. Getting enough sleep is good for not only the body, but the mind as well. It helps mental health, sharpens focus in classes, and can consequently help keep grades up. It is important to step back and evaluate where an individual stands both mentally and physically. While it may seem difficult during a busy week, strive to find time to have fun and balance out academics with your passions.