The Visual Scoring of Sleep in Infants 0 to 2 Months of Age

J Clin Sleep Med. 2016 Mar;12(3):429-45. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.5600.


In March 2014, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Board of Directors requested the Scoring Manual Editorial Board develop rules, terminology, and technical specifications for scoring sleep/wake states in full-term infants from birth to 2 mo of age, cognizant of the 1971 Anders, Emde, and Parmelee Manual for Scoring Sleep in Newborns. On July 1, 2015, the AASM published rules for scoring sleep in infants, ages 0-2 mo. This evidence-based review summarizes the background information provided to the Scoring Manual Editorial Board to write these rules. The Anders Manual only provided criteria for coding physiological and behavioral state characteristics in polysomnograms (PSG) of infants, leaving specific sleep scoring criteria to the individual investigator. Other infant scoring criteria have been published, none widely accepted or used. The AASM Scoring Manual infant scoring criteria incorporate modern concepts, digital PSG recording techniques, practicalities, and compromises. Important tenets are: (1) sleep/wake should be scored in 30-sec epochs as either wakefulness (W), rapid eye movement, REM (R), nonrapid eye movement, NREM (N) and transitional (T) sleep; (2) an electroencephalographic (EEG) montage that permits adequate display of young infant EEG is: F3-M2, F4-M1, C3-M2, C4-M1, O1-M2, O2-M1; additionally, recording C3-Cz, Cz-C4 help detect early and asynchronous sleep spindles; (3) sleep onsets are more often R sleep until 2-3 mo postterm; (4) drowsiness is best characterized by visual observation (supplemented by later video review); (5) wide open eyes is the most crucial determinant of W; (6) regularity (or irregularity) of respiration is the single most useful PSG characteristic for scoring sleep stages at this age; (7) trace alternant (TA) is the only relatively distinctive EEG pattern, characteristic of N sleep, and usually disappears by 1 mo postterm replaced by high voltage slow (HVS); (8) sleep spindles first appear 44-48 w conceptional age (CA) and when present prompt scoring N; (9) score EEG activity in an epoch as "continuous" or "discontinuous" for inter-scorer reliability; (10) score R if four or more of the following conditions are present, including irregular respiration and rapid eye movement(s): (a) low chin EMG (for the majority of the epoch); (b) eyes closed with at least one rapid eye movement (concurrent with low chin tone); (c) irregular respiration; (d) mouthing, sucking, twitches, or brief head movements; and (e) EEG exhibits a continuous pattern without sleep spindles; (11) because rapid eye movements may not be seen on every page, epochs following an epoch of definite R in the absence of rapid eye movements may be scored if the EEG is continuous without TA or sleep spindles, chin muscle tone low for the majority of the epoch; and there is no intervening arousal; (12) Score N if four or more of the following conditions are present, including regular respiration, for the majority of the epoch: (a) eyes are closed with no eye movements; (b) chin EMG tone present; (c) regular respiration; and (d) EEG patterns of either TA, HVS, or sleep spindles are present; and (13) score T sleep if an epoch contains two or more discordant PSG state characteristics (either three NREM and two REM characteristics or two NREM and three REM characteristics). These criteria for ages 0-2 mo represent far more than baby steps. Like all the other AASM Manual rules and specifications none are fixed in stone, all open for debate, discussion and revision with the fundamental goal to provide standards for comparison of methods and results.

Commentary: A commentary on this article appears in this issue on page 291.

Keywords: infant sleep scoring; neonatal polysomnography; neonatal sleep scoring; polysomnography; sleep scoring criteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Polysomnography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages
  • Wakefulness / physiology*