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Volume 16/Issue 5, September 2020

Nocturnal sleep architecture of preterm infants in the NICU

Mary Anne Ryan, Sean Mathieson, Vicki Livingstone, Marc Paul O’Sullivan, Eugene Dempsey, Geraldine Boylan


Sleep is the main behavioural state of the preterm infant and a prerequisite for normal neuronal maturation and cortical development. Neonatal electroencephalography (EEG) is a useful cot-side tool providing a unique view of sleep state organisation. This observational study describes the sleep architecture of mid to late preterm infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) setting. As the preservation of sleep supports neuronal maturation, routine overnight disturbances are recorded and quantified.

Disturbances of nocturnal sleep in preterm infants were frequent in the NICU, predominantly for feeding. Infants who woke spontaneously, fed more efficiently within a shorter time-frame compared to infants who were disturbed from their sleep for feeding. Optimising sleep in the NICU will support the normal trajectory of development.
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