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Sleep. 1992 Apr;15(2):143-9.

Sleep positions and position shifts in five age groups: an ontogenetic picture.

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School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


In an attempt to characterize the development of sleep positions and position shifts in the human, 10 subjects (5 males and 5 females) in each of the following five age groups were studied: 3-5, 8-12, 18-24, 35-45 and 65-80 years old. Subjects slept for four consecutive nights (except the 3-5 year olds who slept two nights) in the laboratory where standard polysomnography was recorded. On nights 3 and 4, sleep positions were recorded with a Super 8 Camera taking one frame every 8 seconds and were scored using four dimensions (head, trunk, legs and arms) each consisting of four categories. The results revealed a significant ontogenetic decrease in the number of position shifts with averages of 4.4, 4.7, 3.6, 2.7 and 2.1 changes per hour, respectively. There was a corresponding progressive increase in the duration of positions and in the number of periods of more than 30 minutes of postural immobility. Whereas in children, prone, supine and lateral positions were assumed to occupy an equal proportion of sleep time, trend analyses revealed a significant progressive ontogenetic disappearance of prone positions and a progressive preference, very marked in the elderly, for right-side positions.

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