The Bidirectional Relationship Between Sleep and Inflammation Links Traumatic Brain Injury and Alzheimer's Disease

Tabitha Green, J Bryce Ortiz, Sue Wonnacott, Robert J Williams, Rachel K Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are diseases during which the fine-tuned autoregulation of the brain is lost. Despite the stark contrast in their causal mechanisms, both TBI and AD are conditions which elicit a neuroinflammatory response that is coupled with physical, cognitive, and affective symptoms. One commonly reported symptom in both TBI and AD patients is disturbed sleep. Sleep is regulated by circadian and homeostatic processes such that pathological inflammation may disrupt the chemical signaling required to maintain a healthy sleep profile. In this way, immune system activation can influence sleep physiology. Conversely, sleep disturbances can exacerbate symptoms or increase the risk of inflammatory/neurodegenerative diseases. Both TBI and AD are worsened by a chronic pro-inflammatory microenvironment which exacerbates symptoms and worsens clinical outcome. Herein, a positive feedback loop of chronic inflammation and sleep disturbances is initiated. In this
review, the bidirectional relationship between sleep disturbances and inflammation is discussed, where chronic inflammation associated with TBI and AD can lead to sleep disturbances and exacerbated neuropathology. The role of microglia and cytokines in sleep disturbances associated with these diseases is highlighted. The proposed sleep and inflammation-mediated link between TBI and AD presents an opportunity for a multifaceted approach to clinical intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Article number894
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2020


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • concussion
  • cytokines
  • inflammation
  • microglia
  • neurodegeneration
  • sleep
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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