According to the homeostatic regulation of sleep, sleep pressure accumulates during wakefulness, further increases during sleep deprivation and dissipates during subsequent sleep. Sleep pressure is electrophysiologically reflected by electroencephalogram slow‐wave activity during
non‐rapid eye movement sleep, and is thought to be stable across time. During childhood and adolescence the brain undergoes massive reorganization processes. Slow‐wave activity during these developmental periods has been shown in humans to follow an inverted U‐shaped trajectory,
which recently was replicated in rats. The goal of this study was to investigate in rats the diurnal changes of slow‐wave activity during the inverted U‐shaped developmental trajectory of slow‐wave activity. To do so, we performed longitudinal electrocorticogram recordings,
and compared the level of slow‐wave activity at the beginning with the slow‐wave activity level at the end of 24‐h baselines in two sets of Sprague–Dawley rats. In younger animals (n =17) we investigated specific postnatal days when overall
slow‐wave activity increases (postnatal day 26), peaks (postnatal day 28) and decreases (>postnatal day 28). The same analysis was performed in older animals (postnatal day 48, n =6). Our results show a gain of slow‐wave activity across 24 h on
postnatal day 26, followed by no net changes on postnatal day 28, which was then followed by a loss of slow‐wave activity during subsequent days (>postnatal day 28). Older animals did not show any net changes in slow‐wave activity across 24 h. These results cannot be
explained by differences in vigilance states. Thus, slow‐wave activity during this developmental period may not only reflect the trajectory of sleep pressure but may additionally reflect maturational processes.