Sleep ontogenesis revisited: a longitudinal 24-hour home polygraphic study on 15 normal infants during the first two years of life

Sleep. 1997 May;20(5):323-33. doi: 10.1093/sleep/20.5.323.


The sleep organization of 15 normal infants (seven boys, eight girls) was studied at their homes during six 24-hour periods, i.e. at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months of age, using the Oxford Medical System. Sleep states and stages were scored visually at 30-second intervals, according to Rechtschaffen and Kales' criteria, adapted for children by Guilleminault. All sleep parameters were analyzed for the entire 24-hour period, i.e. during both the nocturnal and the diurnal part of the nycthemere. The results showed a continuous decrease in total sleep time, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and indeterminate sleep, and also an increase in waking time, quiet sleep, and stages 1 and 2 sleep. Except for slow-wave sleep, which remained very stable for the different ages, analysis of variance applied to the data showed clear age and day-night effects on sleep ontogenesis. Modifications with age were more precocious and more pronounced for the diurnal part of the nycthemere, especially as regards REM sleep. For the nocturnal part, there was a significant increase in sleep efficiency and in the length of the REM period after 12 months of age, while total sleep duration and number of awakenings decreased. In addition to normative data for clinical use, this study provides three new interesting results related to the maturation of sleep mechanisms and functions: 1) the high stability of the percentage of slow-wave sleep along these 2 years, 2) the presence (from 12 months of age) of a stage 2/REM sleep ratio equal to one, and a sleep change occuring earlier, during the diurnal rather than the nocturnal part of the nycthemere. The first two points could be regarded as indexes of sleep maturation reflecting developmental and neurophysiological changes in central nervous system structures. The third point underlines the importance of the circadian rhythm and the concept of "experience" in the maturation of sleep.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Polysomnography*
  • Sleep, REM*