Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 5-21

First online:

Changes in Sleep as a Function of Adolescent Development

  • Ian M. ColrainAffiliated withHuman Sleep Research Program, SRI InternationalDepartment of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne Email author 
  • , Fiona C. BakerAffiliated withHuman Sleep Research Program, SRI InternationalBrain Function Research Group, School of Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand

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Adolescence is marked by dramatic changes in sleep. Older adolescents go to bed later, have an increased preference for evening activities, and sleep less than younger adolescents. This behavior change is driven by external factors, notably increased pressures from academic, social, and extracurricular activities and by biological circadian factors. There are also substantial changes in sleep architecture across adolescence, with dramatic declines in slow wave sleep, and slow wave activity (delta, ~ 0.5–4.5 Hz). These changes are associated with underlying changes in brain structure and organization, with a decrease in synaptic density likely underlying the reduction in high amplitude slow waveforms. While changes in sleep across adolescence are a normal part of development, many adolescents are getting insufficient sleep and are consequently, less likely to perform well at school, more likely to develop mood-related disturbances, be obese, and are at greater risk for traffic accidents, alcohol and drug abuse.


Sleep Adolescence Sleepiness Circadian