Review of sleep-EEG in preterm and term neonates

Early Hum Dev. 2017 Oct:113:87-103. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2017.07.003. Epub 2017 Jul 12.


Neonatal sleep is a crucial state that involves endogenous driven brain activity, important for neuronal survival and guidance of brain networks. Sequential EEG-sleep analysis in preterm infants provides insights into functional brain integrity and can document deviations of the biologically pre-programmed process of sleep ontogenesis during the neonatal period. Visual assessment of neonatal sleep-EEG, with integration of both cerebral and non-cerebral measures to better define neonatal state, is still considered the gold standard. Electrographic patterns evolve over time and are gradually time locked with behavioural characteristics which allow classification of quiet sleep and active sleep periods during the last 10weeks of gestation. Near term age, the neonate expresses a short ultradian sleep cycle, with two distinct active and quiet sleep, as well as brief periods of transitional or indeterminate sleep. Qualitative assessment of neonatal sleep is however challenged by biological and environmental variables that influence the expression of EEG-sleep patterns and sleep organization. Developing normative EEG-sleep data with the aid of automated analytic methods, can further improve our understanding of extra-uterine brain development and state organization under stressful or pathological conditions. Based on those developmental biomarkers of normal and abnormal brain function, research can be conducted to support and optimise sleep in the NICU, with the ultimate goal to improve therapeutic interventions and neurodevelopmental outcome.

Keywords: Brain maturation; EEG-monitoring; Preterm neonate; Sleep ontogenesis; Sleep-wake cycle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Waves*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages*