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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2011 Dec;107(3):333-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2011.08.014. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

Growth and development of children with a special focus on sleep.

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Competence Center of Sleep Medicine, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


The first two decades of life are characterised complex biological processes involving growth and maturation as well as differentiation. The Central Nervous System (CNS) where among others internal and external stimuli are integrated and responses of the body are prepared starts to evolve quite early during ontogenesis. One of the complex behaviours, which are regulated by the brain, is the sleep-wake cycle. The discussion of age-related changes in sleep comprises changes at the physiological level (e.g. changes in the frequency and amplitude of EEG signal, as well as development and distribution of sleep stages), changes in the corresponding behaviour (e.g. changes in the absolute amount of sleep and its distribution in 24h perspective), and finally the subjective perception of sleep and sleep as a measure of well-being. Studies on the impact of a specific factor on sleep during childhood and adolescence have to consider chronological and biological age as well as sex as relevant biological parameters. Even when these factors are controlled for large interindividual differences persist, that is why prospective instead of cross-sectional approaches should be used whenever possible. Furthermore, it has to be distinguished between sleep assessed at the level of brain functioning (i.e. by polysomnography), which gives information on effects at the physiological level and at the level of self-assessment, which focuses on behaviour. Both, sleep at the subjective as well as at the objective level, can to a considerable degree be affected by life style factors, which hence have to be considered as potential confounders.

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