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04.03.2019 | Review Article | Ausgabe 3/2019

World Journal of Pediatrics 3/2019

Sleep and prematurity: sleep outcomes in preterm children and influencing factors

World Journal of Pediatrics > Ausgabe 3/2019
Maria Gogou, Katerina Haidopoulou, Evangelos Pavlou
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Sleep undergoes changes from birth to adulthood, while sleep disorders are associated with various cognitive deficiencies in childhood. In parallel, prematurity is known to predispose to poor neurodevelopmental outcomes. Our aim is to provide literature data about factors influencing sleep in the premature infants and sleep outcomes in this population.


A systematic review was conducted using a variety of health-related databases. Original research papers were considered and no year-of-publication restriction was placed.


In total, 22 articles fulfilled our selection criteria. Available studies present remarkable heterogeneity in terms of methodological design. Compared to full term, premature infants exhibit significant differences in sleep structure, which mainly include differences in electroencephalographic spectral values, in total sleep time and in arousal threshold. Furthermore, prematurity seems to be a risk factor of sleep breathing disorders in childhood and adolescence. Data about the effect of methylxanthines and the environment of neonatal intensive care unit is controversial. With regard to the impact of prematurity-related sleep disorders on future neurodevelopment, available research papers are generally few.


The alterations in sleep patterns are an outcome of prematurity (immaturity of nervous system) as well as of postnatal factors and comorbidities. Sleep problems in this population of infants seems to be a missing piece of the puzzle of impaired neurodevelopment. Future studies should focus on interventions to improve sleep hygiene and limit neurodevelopmental problems.

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