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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 6160959, 12 pages
Research Article

Developmental Changes in Sleep Oscillations during Early Childhood

1Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
2Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
3University Hospital of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
4Sleep and Development Laboratory, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
5The KEY Institute for Brain-Mind Research, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University Hospital of Psychiatry, Zurich, Switzerland
6Zurich Center for Interdisciplinary Sleep Research, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
7Neuroscience Center Zurich, University and ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Correspondence should be addressed to Eckehard Olbrich

Received 31 January 2017; Accepted 14 June 2017; Published 16 July 2017

Academic Editor: Preston E. Garraghty

Copyright © 2017 Eckehard Olbrich et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although quantitative analysis of the sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) has uncovered important aspects of brain activity during sleep in adolescents and adults, similar findings from preschool-age children remain scarce. This study utilized our time-frequency method to examine sleep oscillations as characteristic features of human sleep EEG. Data were collected from a longitudinal sample of young children (; 3 males) at ages 2, 3, and 5 years. Following sleep stage scoring, we detected and characterized oscillatory events across age and examined how their features corresponded to spectral changes in the sleep EEG. Results indicated a developmental decrease in the incidence of delta and theta oscillations. Spindle oscillations, however, were almost absent at 2 years but pronounced at 5 years. All oscillatory event changes were stronger during light sleep than slow-wave sleep. Large interindividual differences in sleep oscillations and their characteristics (e.g., “ultrafast” spindle-like oscillations, theta oscillation incidence/frequency) also existed. Changes in delta and spindle oscillations across early childhood may indicate early maturation of the thalamocortical system. Our analytic approach holds promise for revealing novel types of sleep oscillatory events that are specific to periods of rapid normal development across the lifespan and during other times of aberrant changes in neurobehavioral function.