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Sleep changes throughout the lifespan, with particularly salient alterations occurring during the first few years of life, as well as during the transition from childhood to adolescence. Such changes are partly the result of brain maturation; complex changes in the organisation of the circadian system; as well as changes in daily routine, environmental demands and responsibilities. Despite the automaticity of sleep, given that it is governed by a host of complex mechanisms, there are times when sleep becomes disturbed. Sleep disturbances in childhood are common and may stem from behavioural difficulties or abnormalities in physiological processes-and, in some cases manifest into diagnosable sleep disorders. As well as occurring exclusively, childhood sleep disturbances often co-occur with other difficulties. The purpose of this chapter is to outline the neurobiology of typical sleep/wake processes, and describe changes in sleep physiology and architecture from birth to adulthood. Furthermore, common childhood sleep disorders are described as are their associations with other traits, including all of the syndromes presented in this handbook: ASDs, ADHD, schizophrenia and emotional/behavioural difficulties. Throughout, we attempt to explain possible mechanisms underlying these disorders and their associations.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Top Behav Neurosci

Publication Date





337 - 365


Adolescent, Brain, Child, Human Development, Humans, Sleep, Sleep Wake Disorders