Gender differences in adolescent sleep neurophysiology: a high-density sleep EEG study

Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 28;10(1):15935. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72802-0.

Abstract

During adolescence, differences between males and females in physiology, behavior and risk for psychopathology are accentuated. The goal of the current study was to examine gender differences in sleep neurophysiology using high-density sleep EEG in early adolescence. We examined gender differences in sleep EEG power and coherence across frequency bands for both NREM and REM sleep in a sample of 61 adolescents (31 girls and 30 boys; mean age = 12.48; SD = 1.34). In addition, sleep spindles were individually detected and characterized. Compared to boys, girls had significantly greater spindle activity, as reflected in higher NREM sigma power, spindle amplitude, spindle frequency and spindle density over widespread regions. Furthermore, power in higher frequency bands (16.2-44 Hz) was larger in girls than boys in a state independent manner. Oscillatory activity across frequency bands and sleep states was generally more coherent in females as compared to males, suggesting greater connectivity in females. An exception to this finding was the alpha band during NREM and REM sleep, where coherence was higher (NREM) or not different (REM) in boys compared to girls. Sleep spindles are generated through thalamocortical circuits, and thus, the greater spindle activity across regions in females may represent a stronger thalamocortical circuit in adolescent females as compared to males. Moreover, greater global connectivity in females may reflect functional brain differences with implications for cognition and mental health. Given the pronounced gender differences, our study highlights the importance of taking gender into account when designing and interpreting studies of sleep neurophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurophysiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sleep / physiology*