The Codó Formation exposed in the eastern Grajaú Basin, northeastern Brazil, consists mostly of black shales, limestones and evaporites arranged into several shallowing-upward cycles formed by progradation of lake deposits. Three ranks of cycles are distinguished. The lower-rank cycles correspond to millimetric interbeddings of: bituminous black shales with evaporites, calcimudstones or peloidal wackestone–packstone; grey/green shale with calcimudstone, peloidal wackestone–packstone or ostracodal wackestone/grainstone; and ostracodal wackestone/grainstone and/or calcimudstones with cryptomicrobial mats and ooidal/pisoidal packstones. The intermediate-rank cycles average 1.7 m in thickness and are formed by complete and incomplete cycles. Complete cycles show a transition from central to intermediate and then to marginal facies associations and include two types: C1 cycle with central lake deposits consisting of evaporites and black shales; and C2 cycle with central lake deposits formed by grey/green shale. Complete cycles were produced by the upward gradation from central to marginal environments of the lake or saline pan–sabkha system. Incomplete cycles are those where at least one facies association is lacking, having been formed by successions either with central and intermediate facies associations (I1) or intermediate and marginal facies associations (I2). The higher-rank cycles are, on average, 5.2 m thick and consist of four depositional units that display shallowing-upward successions formed by complete and incomplete intermediate-rank cycles that vary their distribution upward in the section, and are bounded by sharp surfaces. While the lower-rank cycles display characteristics that reveal their seasonal signature, detailed sedimentological characterization and understanding of stratal stacking patterns related to the intermediate and higher-rank cycles support a genesis linked to syn-sedimentary tectonic activity. This is particularly suggested by the high facies variability, limited lateral extension, and frequent and random thickness changes of the intermediate-rank cycles. Additionally, the four higher-rank cycles recognized in the Codó Formation match with stratigraphic zones having different styles of soft-sediment deformation structures attributed to seismic activities. Therefore, the several episodes of lake shallowing recorded in the Codó Formation are linked to seismic pulses that alternated with sediment deposition. This process would have created significant changes in the lake water level and resulted in sharply bounded successions with upward gradation from deeper to relatively shallower facies associations.