| Sleep disorders  

What Is the Role of the Cerebellum During Sleep?

The cerebellum is shown to be involved in sleep regulation by modulating sleep-wake cycles with the integrating sensory, motor, and cognitive information, with relevant research and clinical implications.

Compared with the advances in the elucidation of the role of brainstem and hypothalamus in the control of wakefulness and sleep stages, the functions of the cerebellum during sleep remain relatively unexplored.

However, the activity in the cerebellum changes concomitantly with that of the neocortex during distinct sleep stages, as shown, for example, with a simultaneous recoding of sleep EEG and regional blood flow or fMRI signals in the cerebellum in humans. Electrophysiologic studies show variation in the firing rate of Purkinje and cerebellar nuclear cells according to the neocortical sleep stage. Recent studies show hippocampal-cerebellar interactions both during non-REM (NREM) and REM sleep and suggest a cerebellar contribution to the generation of sleep spindles in the neocortex.

There are several potential pathways for the coordination of neocortical or hippocampal regions with cerebellar activity during sleep. This reciprocal communication may provide a potential basis for the consolidation of motor learning and other cognitive functions.

The cerebellum is affected in several disorders associated with sleep disturbances. However, the

contribution of the cerebellum to the normal regulation of sleep and its role in sleep disorders are still incompletely understood. Elucidating the role of the cerebellum in the control of arousal and sleep-wake cycle has potential clinical and therapeutic implications.

The function of the human cerebellum in controlling or fine tuning the sleep-wake cycle ay be difficult to fully elucidate on the basis of current electrophysiologic studies or the consequence of cerebellar loss resulting from large lesions or knockout models. Therefore, much is yet to be learned about the involvement of the cerebellum during sleep.

Key Points:

  • The study explores the role of the cerebellum in sleep and its relationship with other brain regions.
  • The cerebellum is traditionally associated with motor control, but recent research has shown its involvement in non-motor functions, including sleep regulation.
  • The cerebellum has reciprocal connections with the thalamus and other brain regions involved in sleep and arousal.
  • The cerebellum may modulate sleep-wake cycles by integrating sensory, motor, and cognitive information.
  • Understanding the role of the cerebellum in sleep may have implications for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and of disorders where the cerebellum is involved.


  1. Benarroch E. What Is the Involvement of the Cerebellum During Sleep? Neurology. 2023 Mar 21;100(12):572-577. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207161. PMID: 36941065; PMCID: PMC10033165.
  2. Canto CB, Onuki Y, Bruinsma B, van der Werf YD, De Zeeuw CI. The Sleeping Cerebellum. Trends Neurosci. 2017 May;40(5):309-323. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2017.03.001. Epub 2017 Apr 18. PMID: 28431742.
  3. Song B, Zhu JC. A Narrative Review of Cerebellar Malfunctions and Sleep Disturbances. Front Neurosci. 2021 Jun 25;15:590619. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.590619. PMID: 34248474; PMCID: PMC8267147.

Publish on behalf of the Scientific Panel on Sleep-wake disorders