This study examines the developmental changes of sleep patterns as a function of gender and puberty and assesses the prevalence of sleep habits and sleep disturbances in early adolescence. It also investigates the relationship between sleep patterns, sleep habits and difficulty falling asleep and nocturnal awakenings. The present analyses are based on results available for 588 boys and 558 girls for whom mothers completed questions concerning demographics and sleep at annual intervals when their child was aged 10–13 years. The results indicated that nocturnal sleep times decreased, bedtimes were delayed and differences between weekend and school day sleep schedules progressively increased with age. Gender and puberty were both associated with the timing of sleep on weekends. Girls presented longer weekend time in bed (TIB) and later weekend wake time than boys. Similarly, subjects with higher pubertal status showed longer weekend TIB and later weekend wake time than subjects with lower pubertal status. Difficulty falling asleep was associated with later weekend wake time and with sleeping with a night light. In conclusion, the gender differences commonly reported in adolescents’ sleep patterns are most likely explained by girls’ higher pubertal status. This study emphasizes the link between puberty and a putative physiological need for more sleep, in presence of a general reduction of sleep times during adolescence. From age 10–13 years, the delay and lengthening of the sleep period on weekends in comparison to schooldays is associated with difficulty falling asleep.