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Students face sleep deprivation as they head back to school

Studies find kids who get 30 minutes more sleep score much higher on tests than their sleep deprived counterparts (AP Photo/file)

With kids heading back to school, the biggest challenge won’t be reading, writing or arithmetic. It’ll be staying awake.

“This is a national crisis because we need to have educated kids that need to be smart,” says KIRO co-host John Curley about studies finding the average American child who gets an hour of sleep less per night suffers significant learning and health problems.

“They have really found that an hour of lost sleep can account for ADD, obesity and a grade going from an A to a C,” says Curley.

In a conversation on Seattle’s Morning News, Curley called for a change in school schedules to allow kids more sleep each night.

“They tested kids given 30 minutes of additional sleep, and they scored about average for themselves and their age group. Those that got 30 minutes less went from a sixth grade level to a fourth grade level,” says Curley.

But co-host Linda Thomas says the problem is greater than school start times. She points to the workload her daughter faces nightly.

“With high school students, they generally have so much homework to do from the moment they get home. My daughter is working on her homework, it can be until like 12:00, 1:00 in the morning,” Thomas says.

And co-host Tom Tangney argues even a reduced workload might not solve any problems.

“You can’t force kids [to sleep]. I think if you give them an extra hour, there’s no telling if they would take that hour to actually sleep,” Tangney says.

Studies find teens need 9 to 11 hours of sleep nightly for optimal health. But as school demands increase in many districts, sleep is likely to become an even rarer commodity for young people.

“Don’t you see how ridiculous that is? Add more work to a kid who gets less sleep so their brain functions less efficiently, so their grade is not good, so you give them more work. I mean it is a downward spiral of failure,” Curley says.

About the Author

Josh Kerns

Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news. Email Josh at


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