Validity, potential clinical utility and comparison of a consumer activity tracker and a research-grade activity tracker in insomnia disorder II: Outside the laboratory

Kellie Hamill, Ria Jumabhoy, Piyumi Kahawage, Massimiliano de Zambotti, Elizabeth M. Walters, Sean P.A. Drummond

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Accurate assessment of sleep can be fundamental for monitoring, managing and evaluating treatment outcomes within diseases. A proliferation of consumer activity trackers gives easy access to objective sleep. We evaluated the performance of a commercial device (Fitbit Alta HR) relative to a research-grade actigraph (Actiwatch Spectrum Pro) in measuring sleep before and after a cognitive behavioural intervention in insomnia disorder. Twenty-five individuals with DSM-5 insomnia disorder (M = 50.6 ± 15.9 years) wore Fitbit and Actiwatch and completed a sleep diary during an in-laboratory polysomnogram, and for 1 week preceding and following seven weekly sessions of cognitive-behavioural intervention for insomnia. Device performance was compared for sleep outcomes (total sleep time, sleep latency, sleep efficiency and wake after sleep onset). The analyses assessed (a) agreement between devices across days and pre- to post-treatment, and (b) whether pre- to post-treatment changes in sleep assessed by devices correlated with clinical measures of change. Devices generally did not significantly differ from each other on sleep variable estimates, either night to night, in response to sleep manipulation (pre- to post-treatment) or in response to changes in environment (in the laboratory versus at home). Change in sleep measures across time from each device showed some correlation with common clinical measures of change in insomnia, but not insomnia diagnosis as a categorical variable. Overall, the Fitbit provides similar estimates of sleep outside the laboratory to a research grade actigraph. Despite the similarity between Fitbit and Actiwatch performance, the use of consumer technology is still in its infancy and caution should be taken in its interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12944
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • actigraphy
  • activity monitor
  • consumer sleep tracker
  • night-to-night variability
  • wearables

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