Wrist accelerometers help researchers link sleep quality to psychiatric illness

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Sleep Health | Sleep Review

Multiple measurements of sleep patterns and sleep efficiency are linked to lifelong diagnoses of mental illness, according to a new study using wrist accelerometer data to track sleep. The study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine by Shreejoy Tripathy, PhD, of the University of Toronto and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada, and colleagues.

Sleep problems are known to be both symptoms and modifiable risk factors for many psychiatric disorders. In the new study, researchers collected data from 89,205 people who participated in the UK biobank study who wore accelerometers on their wrist for 7 days between 2013 and 2015. The accelerometers were used to generate objective data on sleep time, duration, efficiency and variability. Data on psychiatric diagnoses – including schizophrenia spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorders – as well as other health and sociodemographic information were available for all participants ages 43 to 79, 56% of whom were female.

The researchers found striking trends when they examined the relationships between sleep measurements and inpatient psychiatric diagnoses. Each diagnosis was associated with a mean of 8.5 of the 10 accelerometer-derived sleep measurements. Measurements of sleep quality, such as sleep efficiency, were generally more influenced by psychiatric diagnoses than measurements of sleep duration. Effect sizes were small; the greatest effect was observed for the association between sleep efficiency and depressive disorders. Associations were replicated across ancestors and genders.

“Our results provide a comprehensive clinical portrait of the ways in which sleep can be disrupted in people with lifelong mental illness,” the authors say in a press release. “This work demonstrates the ability of accelerometry to provide detailed, objective sleep measurements on a large scale, even across cohorts of tens of thousands of people.

“This work demonstrates the power of portable devices to provide detailed information on how sleep is disrupted in mental illness.”

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