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Abstract

This paper talks about the way students respond to university workloads. Programs offered in a university can be very demanding, in terms of classes, assignments and other tasks not scheduled throughout the semester. In response to this heavy schedule, students often depend on unhealthy ways to complete the tasks in time. Students consume caffeine to stay alert while doing their work, but sometimes they use excessive amounts of caffeine in order to meet the deadlines. Even though overconsumption of caffeine allows students to stay awake and complete their work, it affects their health negatively. For instance, cardiovascular health, anxiety, and sleep deprivation are some of the health problems caused by caffeine overconsumption. Therefore, in order to avoid negative effects on health, a better solution is to train students to manage their time and avoid working late. Moreover, the transition from high school to university life can be difficult; therefore, training programs should be conducted before students enroll in a university.

Work, Health and Time: Overuse of Caffeine in University Students

The fastest-growing population of caffeine users is adolescents. Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, which is available in different types of drinks. Apart from coffee, caffeine is generally consumed through soft drinks, tea, chocolate, and particularly energy drinks. Caffeine increases mental alertness and relieves physical and mental fatigue. This mental alertness and relief from fatigue is appealing to students. One of the most important responsibilities of university students is to prioritize their activities in order to manage their time and maintain a congruous and balanced lifestyle. It gets challenging for students to juggle these priorities, such as family, work, and academic studies. Furthermore, having a lot of work piled up for students can affect their physical and mental health, for instance, students often don’t get enough sleep, which causes poor eating habits and also leads to stress. Due to time constraints and poor planning, university students look for unhealthy ways to complete their work. Thus, this negative consequence begs the question: To what extent are students pressured by universities, how do students react to this pressure and what can be a better solution for tackling the academic objectives? In this paper, I will argue that student expectations from the university make it difficult to manage time efficiently. Therefore, they often turn to overconsumption of caffeine, which has a negative effect on their health. Hence, students should be told about time management skills, which can change their routine to avoid negative effects on health for students.

Workload from the University

In a student’s academic life, the transition from high school to university is marked as a major step. In this transition, the student changes from a dependent to an independent learner with a highly regulated schedule. Students’ learning processes depend on decisions made by them in a more responsible manner. University students often find it difficult to manage their time and complete tasks prior to their deadlines, due to the increased academic workload. One way to understand workload is the number of hours worked or time spent on independent studying (Kember, 2004). According to the Course Perceptions Questionnaire (CPQ), the workload is defined as pressure caused by the demands of the syllabus and assessment tasks on students (Kember, 2004). However, the perception of workload for students is influenced by the time spent working on it, which makes them feel tired and results in having a negative influence on understanding workload. During the semester, the tension gradually builds up for students, as there are a lot of deadlines that must be accomplished as well as approaching tests and exams. Therefore, students look for shortcuts and undesirable study methods in order to cope with the excessive amount of work that is piled up.

As a result of having an excessive workload, students face a problem maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Commonly, students sleep less, juggling with various responsibilities to manage their time and complete the requirements. Statistics show that 74% of adolescents go to bed after midnight (Henriques, 2009). As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017), adults need seven or more hours of sleep every day. However, assignments, accountabilities, and schedules for students can be highly demanding and can lead the student to set a lower priority for proper sleep. Students probably are aware that sleep deprivation is unhealthy; nevertheless, they willingly sacrifice sleep to finish the assignments. However, along with health, poor sleeping patterns are correlated with poor academic performance. A recent report by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2017) found out that having a lower GPA is common in students who pull an “all-nighter”, or a full night spent studying and working on assignments. The dreaded “all-nighter” is portrayed as an elementary pillar in the occurrence of university life.

Students React to the Problem by Depending Highly on Caffeine

In order to complete the academic workload, students depend on the consumption of high levels of caffeine, which allows them to stay awake by activating their brains. Students who consume high caffeine sleep less compared to students who have a low intake of caffeine (Caine-Bish, 2014). Sleep can be disturbed by the consumption of caffeine. By little consumption of caffeine, students may feel energetic but over-excessive intake can cause withdrawal symptoms. Students in the university are reported to consume high levels of caffeine (Lvyers et al., 2014). One of the reasons for overconsumption is that students usually are not aware of the consequences challenged by drinking caffeinated beverages and the input of caffeine in common beverages (Mackus et al., 2016). Beverages that caffeine has been added to such as energy drinks, usually have their caffeine content labeled. However, products that naturally contain caffeine, for instance, tea and coffee, do not state the caffeine concentration, so students over-consume caffeine. Moreover, overconsumption of caffeine affects a student’s health negatively.

Caffeine is ingested to reboot alertness and prevent tiredness, however, when consumed in high doses like 300mg or more (Lvyers et al., 2014) it can contribute to anxiety symptoms such as nervousness and jitteriness. Anxiety is a response that activates the “flight or fight” response in our body that makes an individual overreact. High level of anxiety and being sensitive to anxiety can lead to alexithymia, which is defined as “difficulties in identifying, describing and regulating one’s own emotional feelings” (Lvyers et al., 2014, para.1). Students who over-consume caffeine are more prone to have alexithymia compare to those who do not consume caffeine (Lvyers et al., 2014). Thereby, consumption of caffeine results in a psychological effect on health.

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Caffeine is effective and addictive due to its intense effect on brain chemistry, which could lead to a negative impact on cardiovascular health and kidneys. Adenosine is a chemical formed in the brain and its function is to bind to the adenosine receptor and decrease the activity of the nerve cell, which would cause drowsiness. The nerve cell accepts caffeine to bind instead of adenosine; however, when caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor it does not decrease the cell activity. Instead, caffeine leads the brain to release hormones that would affect the blood vessels and blood pressure, which would cause an increase in heartbeat. An increase in blood pressure can escalate to a stroke and a heart attack due to the damage to arteries (Meija & Mares, 2014). Also, high levels of caffeine can affect the digestive system and can lead to rhabdomyolysis, the damage to muscle fibers, which results in kidney failure and further health problems.

A Better Solution is Time Management

On the other hand, time management is the key to better health and good organization of work. In this era, with advanced technological development, students are required to multitask and overwork in order to meet deadlines effectively. A better way to handle the workload and care about one’s health is to replace caffeine with time management. According to Alberti and Benjamin Franklin, in the 15th and 18th centuries, time was valuable and a utilized and respected resource (Green & Skinner, 2005). Time management is about prioritizing tasks, creating goals, and keeping track of the usage of time. The aim of every student is to complete the assignment in the given timeframe. However, students fail to complete goals because of poor time management. This leads to cramming for tests and students trying to complete their work overnight, which contributes to individual stress and poor academic performance (Kember, 2004). Also, the decreased quantity and quality of sleep can affect the concentration level during the daytime. Furthermore, students fail to adhere to their schedule as planned because they try to work on various tasks at a given time and some students procrastinate. Therefore, students should be provided with guidance regarding time management to avoid negative consequences.

Time management can be considered, as the duration of time students are willing to spend on their assignments. Thereby, there is a correlation between time management and conscientiousness (MacCann, 2012). Poor academic performance is common in students who cannot utilize their time sufficiently and this can be altered with the help of training programs. Training programs can be helpful for students to increase their work efficiency and reduce stress. Students are assisted to improve conscientiousness towards their work and develop their planning skills through training programs as time management has the possibility to be trained and can be changed over time (MacCann, 2012). Time management is important because it is an example of a coping strategy that helps to handle stressors. Training programs bring a positive change in students’ lives as they are taught about the ways to increase the ability to control time and prioritize work, as well as help decrease their stress levels (Hafner et al., 2014). Therefore, students who have no or minimal amount of experience with stress tend to benefit more from the training program compared to students with more experience in stress (MacCann, 2012). Consequently, training programs on time management help to improve planning and coping with stress.

Training programs related to time management should be held for students before they are enrolled in the university as there is a positive influence noticed on the academic performances of students after taking the training program (Goodwin & Califf, 2007). That occurs since; the GPA has a positive correlation with the time spent on working and in planning the day properly. Also, cognitive skills are developed through the training, which helps the students to analyze situations and react to the problem; likewise, it has a positive influence on learning outcomes designed for students. After attending the training programs, students reported using time management strategies frequently (Hafner et al., 2014). This portrays that time management training contributes to a positive change and the contribution of time and achievements received in a course will change throughout the semester. Moreover, having better control of time and a few changes in the routine can help to change the working style of studying. Students can have personal organizers as simple as a diary and a focused timetable that would help remind them about the upcoming deadlines and allow them to prepare for them beforehand.

Challenges Faced by Students in Universities

Students often find university education challenging as the curriculum differs from high school. In comparison to high school education, the university’s culture covers a broad course in a time span of three to four years, and students find it difficult to cooperate with the demands of every course. Even after giving their full potential, most students fail to achieve the particular target (Kember, 2004). In order to be able to cope with the workload, students spend their nights working on assignments with the help of caffeine. However, when caffeine is overconsumed, it has negative effects on the body, and acts as an addictive substance, just like any other drug. Even though caffeine is legal, it is dangerous when taken in high doses or mixed with other substances, like, alcohol. Various health-threatening incidents and deaths have occurred among students due to the overconsumption of caffeine, therefore, universities should consider putting a ban on caffeine on campus. Ban of caffeinated beverages will allow students to opt for healthier solutions in order to meet the deadlines. Even though there hasn’t been a lot of research done on how the university can improve its educational system, universities can make students’ learning experience less demanding and healthy by setting a coherent assignment rather than giving multiple and time-consuming tasks. Hence, students will be able to focus on particular assignments and avoid working overnight.

The curriculum and workload of the university are not the only cause of students’ unhealthy habits, financial management has also been an issue for students. Tuition fees have been rising due to the increase in credit card debt by the students. Student loans are not enough to cover the cost of university expenses. Nowadays, an increasing number of students drop out of university because they cannot afford the fees, and it has been difficult for students to graduate debt-free. Therefore, the expenses at university force students to look for a part-time job, as everything from materials required for coursework to food costs money. Students opt for higher education and expect that the university courses will increase their academic prospects as well as allow them to become independent. However, students who are also working focus less on learning. Employed students attempt to do their assignments in order to merely complete them rather than engaging fully with and understanding the assignment. Thus, the expenditure makes it difficult for students to manage their time, as they have to be responsible for their assignments and jobs together, which often causes anxiety. To avoid financial anxiety among students, universities should present various options for financing student’s education and make them aware of the emotional impact of carrying the loan debt.

Conclusion

How do universities pressure students with workloads? To what extent is health affected by caffeine consumption, and what can the alternative to caffeine be, in order to help students manage their workload? Caffeine is treated as a boost in students’ lives, a study aid, and a motivator at work. Nowadays, having work piled up and working on an assignment overnight by consuming caffeine has been a rising issue. One of the healthier solutions to cope with this situation for students is to be aware of time management skills. The purpose of this paper is to inform students about the negative consequences of caffeine on health. Also, as prevention from the negative side effects of caffeine, the goal is to spread awareness of the healthier solutions possible for students to accomplish in managing their workload. For further research, a survey could be conducted on the amount of caffeine consumed by students in universities. To add on, the survey could reveal the reason behind the consumption of caffeine by students and the effect of it on their health. Furthermore, more research should be done in exploring better solutions for students to complete their tasks prior to the deadline and a suggestion on how a university can alter its culture in order to decrease the workload for students, hence, allowing students to have a smooth learning experience in the university.

References

    1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine – Association for Sleep Clinicians and Researchers. (2019). Retrieved from https://aasm.org/college-students-getting-enough-sleep-is-vital-to-academic-success/
    2. Caine-Bish, N. (2014). Sleep habits and caffeine use in college students. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior: Supplement, 46(4), 178. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2014.04.264
    3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
    4. Goodwin, M., & Califf, M. (2007). An assessment of the impact of time management training on student success in a time-intensive course. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 18(1), 19-41.
    5. Green, P., & Skinner, D. (2005). Does time management training work? an evaluation. International Journal of Training and Development, 9(2), 124-139. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2005.00226.
    6. Häfner et al.,(2015). Decreasing students’ stress through time management training: an intervention study. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 30(81).doi:10.1007/s10212-014-0229-2.
    7. Henriques, A. (2009). 118 sleep, daily habits, workload and academic success in technological university students. Sleep Medicine, 10, 33. doi:10.1016/S1389-9457(09)70120-0
    8. Kember, D. (2004). Interpreting student workload and the factors that shape students’ perceptions of their workload. Studies in Higher Education, 29(2), 165-184.
    9. Lyvers et al., (2014). Caffeine use and alexithymia in university students. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(4), 340-340.
    10. MacCann, C., Fogarty, G., & Roberts, R. (2012). Strategies for success in education: Time management is more important for part-time than full-time community college students. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(5), 618-623. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2011.09.015
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