Objective. The main purpose of the present study was to calculate percentile curves for total sleep duration per 24 hours, for nighttime and for daytime sleep duration from early infancy to late adolescence to illustrate the developmental course and age-specific variability of these variables among subjects.
Methods. A total of 493 subjects from the Zurich Longitudinal Studies were followed using structured sleep-related questionnaires at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months after birth and then at annual intervals until 16 years of age. Gaussian percentiles for ages 3 months to 16 years were calculated for total sleep duration (time in bed) and nighttime and daytime sleep duration. The mean sleep duration for ages 1 to 16 years was estimated by generalized additive models based on the loess smoother; a cohort effect also had to be included. The standard deviation (SD) was estimated from the loess smoothed absolute residuals from the mean curve. For ages 3, 6, and 9 months, an alternative approach with a simple model linear in age was used. For age 1 month, empirical percentiles were calculated.
Results. Total sleep duration decreased from an average of 14.2 hours (SD: 1.9 hours) at 6 months of age to an average of 8.1 hours (SD: 0.8 hours) at 16 years of age. The variance showed the same declining trend: the interquartile range at 6 months after birth was 2.5 hours, whereas at 16 years of age, it was only 1.0 hours. Total sleep duration decreased across the studied cohorts (1974–1993) because of increasingly later bedtime but unchanged wake time across decades. Consolidation of nocturnal sleep occurred during the first 12 months after birth with a decreasing trend of daytime sleep. This resulted in a small increase of nighttime sleep duration by 1 year of age (mean 11.0 ± 1.1 hours at 1 month to 11.7 ± 1.0 hours at 1 year of age). The most prominent decline in napping habits occurred between 1.5 years of age (96.4% of all children) and 4 years of age (35.4%).
Conclusions. Percentile curves provide valuable information on developmental course and age-specific variability of sleep duration for the health care professional who deals with sleep problems in pediatric practice.