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A Novel, Open Access Method to Assess Sleep Duration Using a Wrist-Worn Accelerometer

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Vincent van Hees, Dr Kirstie Anderson, Dr Sarah Charman, Professor Mike Catt, Professor Mike TrenellORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Wrist-worn accelerometers are increasingly being used for the assessment of physical activity in population studies, but little is known about their value for sleep assessment. We developed a novel method of assessing sleep duration using data from 4,094 Whitehall II Study (United Kingdom, 2012-2013) participants aged 60-83 who wore the accelerometer for 9 consecutive days, filled in a sleep log and reported sleep duration via questionnaire. Our sleep detection algorithm defined (nocturnal) sleep as a period of sustained inactivity, itself detected as the absence of change in arm angle greater than 5 degrees for 5 minutes or more, during a period recorded as sleep by the participant in their sleep log. The resulting estimate of sleep duration had a moderate (but similar to previous findings) agreement with questionnaire based measures for time in bed, defined as the difference between sleep onset and waking time (kappa = 0.32, 95%CI:0.29,0.34) and total sleep duration (kappa = 0.39, 0.36,0.42). This estimate was lower for time in bed for women, depressed participants, those reporting more insomnia symptoms, and on weekend days. No such group differences were found for total sleep duration. Our algorithm was validated against data from a polysomnography study on 28 persons which found a longer time window and lower angle threshold to have better sensitivity to wakefulness, while the reverse was true for sensitivity to sleep. The novelty of our method is the use of a generic algorithm that will allow comparison between studies rather than a "count" based, device specific method.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van Hees VT, Sabia S, Anderson KN, Denton SJ, Oliver J, Catt M, Abell JG, Kivimaki M, Trenell MI, Singh-Manoux A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLOS One

Year: 2015

Volume: 10

Issue: 11

Online publication date: 16/11/2015

Acceptance date: 22/10/2015

Date deposited: 25/01/2016

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142533


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Funder referenceFunder name
National Institute for Health Research
ES/J023299Economic and Social Research Council
K013351UK Medical Research Council
R01HL036310US National Institutes of Health
PG/29605British Heart Foundation
R01AG013196US National Institutes of Health
R01AG034454US National Institutes of Health