Sleep, cerebrospinal fluid, and the glymphatic system: A systematic review

Pearlynne L.H. Chong, Dea Garic, Mark D. Shen, Iben Lundgaard, Amy J. Schwichtenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Current theories of the glymphatic system (GS) hypothesize that it relies on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) circulation to disseminate growth factors and remove metabolic waste from the brain with increased CSF production and circulation during sleep; thereby, linking sleep disturbance with elements of CSF circulation and GS exchange. However, our growing knowledge of the relations between sleep, CSF, and the GS are plagued by variability in sleep and CSF measures across a wide array of pathologies. Hence, this review aims to summarize the dynamic relationships between sleep, CSF-, and GS-related features in samples of typically developing individuals and those with autoimmune/inflammatory, neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, sleep-related, neurotraumatic, neuropsychiatric, and skull atypicalities. One hundred and ninety articles (total n = 19,129 participants) were identified and reviewed for pathology, CSF circulation and related metrics, GS function, and sleep. Numerous associations were documented between sleep problems and CSF metabolite concentrations (e.g., amyloid-beta, orexin, tau proteins) and increased CSF volumes or pressure. However, these relations were not universal, with marked differences across pathologies. It is clear that elements of CSF circulation/composition and GS exchange represent pathways influenced by sleep; however, carefully designed studies and advances in GS measurement are needed to delineate the nuanced relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101572
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurosciences

Free keywords

  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Glymphatic system
  • Neuropathology
  • Sleep
  • Typical population


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