Psychomotor activity in depressed sleep

Timothy G Coffield, Fordham University


Sleep disturbance is among the most consistent and distressing features of the depressive disorders. Traditional methods of assessing sleep have relied on polysomnography studies in the laboratory. Problems with this method of assessment include the cost-intensive nature of the sleep laboratory, the obtrusive nature of the equipment, and the fact that subjects must sleep in an unfamiliar environment and cannot freely choose their time of sleep. For practical reasons, the number of sleep recordings that can be obtained from a single subject is usually limited. Actigraphy has proven to be a clinically useful alternative method of assessing sleep through the measurement of a subject' nighttime psychomotor activity. Advantages offered by actigraphy include its less obtrusive nature and that it is more practically utilized in the longitudinal study of sleep over long periods of time in the subject's natural environment. The following research demonstrated that wrist actigraphy was able to detect changes in sleep with reductions in Major Depressive Disorder. Nighttime psychomotor activity was examined in a group of inpatient psychiatric patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and was reexamined after treatment. At both pre-treatment and post-treatment assessment periods, these inpatients were compared to normal controls. This research confirmed that actigraphy can be used to evaluate the degree of sleep disorder and the extent to which the sleep disorder normalizes in depressed persons. Actigraphy is a viable alternative to polysomnography in measurement of sleep associated with depression. These findings hold many practical implications in that they support the future use of actigraphy in the longitudinal study of persons suffering from affective illnesses.

Subject Area

Psychology|Experiments|Behaviorial sciences|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Coffield, Timothy G, "Psychomotor activity in depressed sleep" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9715522.