Actigraphy in the assessment of insomnia: A quantitative approach

Vincenzo Natale, Giuseppe Plazzi, Monica Martoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objective: The lack of quantitative criteria for identifying insomnia using actigraphy represents an unresolved limit for the use of actigraphy in a clinical setting. The current study was conducted to evaluate the most efficient actigraphic parameter in the assessment of insomnia and to suggest preliminary quantitative actigraphic criteria (QAC). Participants and Measurements: Performing a retrospective study we recovered 408 actigraphic records from 3 sleep measure databases: 2 regarding insomnia patients (n = 126) and one normal sleepers (n = 282). We compared the 2 samples analyzing the following actigraphic sleep parameters: time in bed (TIB), sleep onset latency (SOL), total sleep time (TST), wake after sleep onset (WASO), sleep efficiency percentage (SE%), number of awakenings longer than 5 minutes (NA > 5) and mean motor activity (MA). Moreover, a linear discriminant function (LDF) was developed to identify and combine the most useful actigraphic sleep parameters to separate insomnia patients from normal sleepers. Using Youden index we calculated the preliminary QAC for each actigraphic sleep parameter and for LDF. Receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curves for classifying the accuracy of QAC were performed. Results: All sleep parameters recorded by actigraphy significantly differentiated the 2 groups, except TIB. An LDF analysis showed that the most useful combination of actigraphic sleep parameters to assess insomnia was TST, SOL, and NA > 5, which obtained the best ROC and the best balance between positive and negative predictive values compared to any single actigraphic parameter. Conclusion: Actigraphy provided a satisfactory objective measurement of sleep quality in insomnia patients. The combination of TST, SOL, and NA > 5 proved the best way to assess insomnia using actigraphy. Acknowledging that the lack of a technological standard and some methodological limitations prevent us generalizing our results, we recommend additional studies on larger populations using different actigraph models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-771
Number of pages5
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2009


  • Actigraphy
  • Insomnia patients
  • Normal sleepers
  • ROC analyses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Clinical Neurology


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