Age-related modifications of NREM sleep EEG: from childhood to middle age


Dr Jacques Montplaisir, Centre d’étude du sommeil, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, 5400 Boul, Gouin Ouest, Montréal, Québec, H4J 1C5. Tel.: 514-338-2693; fax: 514-338-2531; e-mail:


This study investigated the modifications in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) power in 54 subjects, from children to middle-aged adults. Spectral analyses were performed on 5 h of NREM sleep. A marked decrease of absolute slow-wave activity (SWA) was observed with increasing age; children had significantly more SWA than adolescents, young and middle-aged adults. The decline of SWA across the night seems to level off with increasing age, suggesting an age-related attenuation of homeostatic sleep pressure. Absolute theta power was higher for children compared with the other three groups, and adolescents had more theta power than young and middle-aged adults. In comparison to young and middle-aged adults, alpha power was higher for children and adolescents. Children and adolescents had more sigma power than middle-aged adults. Absolute beta power was higher for children than for the other age groups. Therefore, the major alterations of NREM sleep EEG occurring between childhood and middle age are not restricted to SWA, but encompassed the theta, alpha, sigma and beta frequency bands.