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Restricting Time in Bed in Early Adolescence Reduces Both NREM and REM Sleep but Does Not Increase Slow Wave EEG.


Study objectives

School night total sleep time decreases across adolescence (9-18 years) by 10 min/year. This decline is comprised entirely of a selective decrease in NREM sleep; REM sleep actually increases slightly. Decreasing sleep duration across adolescence is often attributed to insufficient time in bed. Here we tested whether sleep restriction in early adolescence produces the same sleep stage changes observed on school nights across adolescence.


All-night sleep EEG was recorded in 76 children ranging in age from 9.9 to 14.0 years. Each participant kept 3 different sleep schedules that consisted of 3 nights of 8.5 h in bed followed by 4 nights of either 7, 8.5, or 10 h in bed. Sleep stage durations and NREM delta EEG activity were compared across the 3 time in bed conditions.


Shortening time in bed from 10 to 7 hours reduced sleep duration by approximately 2 hours, roughly equal to the decrease in sleep duration we recorded longitudinally across adolescence. However, sleep restriction significantly reduced both NREM (by 83 min) and REM (by 47 min) sleep. Sleep restriction did not affect NREM delta EEG activity.


Our findings suggest that the selective NREM reduction and the small increase in REM we observed longitudinally across 9-18 years are not produced by sleep restriction. We hypothesize that the selective NREM decline reflects adolescent brain maturation (synaptic elimination) that reduces the need for the restorative processes of NREM sleep.

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