Validity, potential clinical utility, and comparison of consumer and research-grade activity trackers in Insomnia Disorder I: In-lab validation against polysomnography

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Consumer activity trackers claiming to measure sleep/wake patterns are ubiquitous within clinical and consumer settings. However, validation of these devices in sleep disorder populations are lacking. We examined 1 night of sleep in 42 individuals with insomnia (mean = 49.14 ± 17.54 years) using polysomnography, a wrist actigraph (Actiwatch Spectrum Pro: AWS) and a consumer activity tracker (Fitbit Alta HR: FBA). Epoch-by-epoch analysis and Bland−Altman methods evaluated each device against polysomnography for sleep/wake detection, total sleep time, sleep efficiency, wake after sleep onset and sleep latency. FBA sleep stage classification of light sleep (N1 + N2), deep sleep (N3) and rapid eye movement was also compared with polysomnography. Compared with polysomnography, both activity trackers displayed high accuracy (81.12% versus 82.80%, AWS and FBA respectively; ns) and sensitivity (sleep detection; 96.66% versus 96.04%, respectively; ns) but low specificity (wake detection; 39.09% versus 44.76%, respectively; p =.037). Both trackers overestimated total sleep time and sleep efficiency, and underestimated sleep latency and wake after sleep onset. FBA demonstrated sleep stage sensitivity and specificity, respectively, of 79.39% and 58.77% (light), 49.04% and 95.54% (deep), 65.97% and 91.53% (rapid eye movement). Both devices were more accurate in detecting sleep than wake, with equivalent sensitivity, but statistically different specificity. FBA provided equivalent estimates as AWS for all traditional actigraphy sleep parameters. FBA also showed high specificity when identifying N3, and rapid eye movement, though sensitivity was modest. Thus, it underestimates these sleep stages and overestimates light sleep, demonstrating more shallow sleep than actually obtained. Whether FBA could serve as a low-cost substitute for actigraphy in insomnia requires further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12931
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • actigraphy
  • activity-monitor
  • consumer sleep tracker
  • wearables

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