Actigraphy in studies on insomnia: Worth the effort? Worth the effort?

Lara Rösler, Glenn van der Lande, Jeanne Leerssen, Roy Cox, Jennifer R. Ramautar, Eus J.W. van Someren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In the past decades, actigraphy has emerged as a promising, cost-effective, and easy-to-use tool for ambulatory sleep recording. Polysomnography (PSG) validation studies showed that actigraphic sleep estimates fare relatively well in healthy sleepers. Additionally, round-the-clock actigraphy recording has been used to study circadian rhythms in various populations. To this date, however, there is little evidence that the diagnosis, monitoring, or treatment of insomnia can significantly benefit from actigraphy recordings. Using a case–control design, we therefore critically examined whether mean or within-subject variability of actigraphy sleep estimates or circadian patterns add to the understanding of sleep complaints in insomnia. We acquired actigraphy recordings and sleep diaries of 37 controls and 167 patients with varying degrees of insomnia severity for up to 9 consecutive days in their home environment. Additionally, the participants spent one night in the laboratory, where actigraphy was recorded alongside PSG to check whether sleep, in principle, is well estimated. Despite moderate to strong agreement between actigraphy and PSG sleep scoring in the laboratory, ambulatory actigraphic estimates of average sleep and circadian rhythm variables failed to successfully differentiate patients with insomnia from controls in the home environment. Only total sleep time differed between the groups. Additionally, within-subject variability of sleep efficiency and wake after sleep onset was higher in patients. Insomnia research may therefore benefit from shifting attention from average sleep variables to day-to-day variability or from the development of non-motor home-assessed indicators of sleep quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13750
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of sleep research
Issue number1
Early online date11 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • actigraphy
  • insomnia
  • non-parametric circadian rhythm analysis
  • sleep
  • sleep scoring

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