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Actigraphy - What is out there?

·754 words·4 mins
Table of Contents

2024 Update: The first two sections of this post still hold value. However, the market might have changed, new products might available or older products might not be sold anymore.

Let me know here 💬

What is actigraphy?

Actigraphs are accelerometer-based devices that have been used to evaluate sleep and wake cyles in humans for nearly four decades. These come in the form of compact, lightweight, typically wrist-worn devices that may look like simple wrist-watch at first 1. Although polysomnography (PSG) continues to be the gold standard for sleep assessments, actigraphs are an attractive because of their ease of use, lower associated expenses, and the possibility to record continuous data over multiple days and in a subject’s home environment 1.

What considerations should be made when purchasing an actigraph?

AccelerometerAlways purchase an omnidirectional or triaxial accelerometer, with the ability to record in 30-second or 1 minute epochs. Flexible data collection parameters (e.g. epoch length) are a plus)
AppearanceTo consider. Bulky or heavy devices might be associated with less adherence to your study protocol
Event markersAlso called “event logging”. A useful plus! These can come in the form of a button that a subject needs to press to signal a specific event.
Light sensorsAlso recommended. If embedded in the device, these can help identify bed and wake times.
Battery typeWhether rechargeable or disposable, the battery needs to be able to record a minium of 3 days. Ideally, it should record up to 2 weeks of data.
Data storage and memoryNonvolatile memory that allows information to be stored even if the battery fails is recommended. Make sure you don’t lose data.
Data accessI always require access to the raw data and prefer open-source tools when it comes to software.
User supportWhen you run into issues with the device or software, you will probably want to talk to a human. What is the user support like?

What is out there?

For my own research, I did an extensive market research, which I reproduce and summarize here.


  • 👋: motion
  • 🔦: light
  • 🌡️: temperature

GENEactiv Original

  • Company 🏛️: Activinsights
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🔦, near-body 🌡️
  • Battery time 🪫: 45 days @ 10Hz, 7 days @ 100Hz
  • Raw data 💾: .bin & .csv
  • Free trial 💸: Yes
  • Other considerations 🔮: open-source software. Event logging. Analysis services are offered separately. Large list of publications. Waterproof. 1-year warranty.

ActiGraph wGT3X-BT

  • Company 🏛️: ActiGraph
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🔦
  • Battery time 🪫: 25 days (wireless disabled, 30 Hz sample rate)
  • Raw data 💾: .csv & .xlsx
  • Free trial 💸: nope.
  • Other considerations 🔮: No event logging. Not waterproof (should be removed if the participant goes swimming). Uses zero-crossing mode (not recommented). Other products (without 🔦 sensors) from Actigraph can be viewed here


  • Company 🏛️: Biofourmis
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🌡️, electrodermal activity, photoplethysmography
  • Battery time 🪫: ~32 hours
  • Raw data 💾: .json
  • Free trial 💸: ?
  • Other considerations 🔮: Worn on arm instead of wrist.


  • Company 🏛️: Fatigue Science
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🌡️, (wrist and ambient), 🔦
  • Battery time 🪫: >2 months (60s epoch)
  • Raw data 💾: .txt
  • Free trial 💸: ?
  • Other considerations 🔮: Event logging.

Move 4

  • Company 🏛️: Movisens
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🌡️
  • Battery time 🪫: ~ 7 days
  • Raw data 💾: unisens
  • Free trial 💸: Yes.
  • Other considerations 🔮: wear locations: Hip, Chest, Wrist, Upper Arm, Ankle, Thigh. Software license valid for one computer.

LightMove 4

  • Company 🏛️: Movisens
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🌡️, 🔦
  • Battery time 🪫: ~ 7 days
  • Raw data 💾: unisens
  • Free trial 💸: Yes.
  • Other considerations 🔮: Wear locations: Wrist. Software license valid for one computer.

Actiwatch Spectrum Plus & Pro

  • Company 🏛️: Philips
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🔦
  • Battery time 🪫: 50-60 days (1 min epochs)
  • Raw data 💾: no access.
  • Free trial 💸: Yes.
  • Other considerations 🔮: Very expensive. Waterproof. Event logging.

Motion Watch

  • Company 🏛️: Camntech
  • Sensors 👋: 👋, 🔦
  • Battery time 🪫: 22 days @ 15 sec epoch
  • Raw data 💾: .csv
  • Free trial 💸: yes.
  • Other considerations 🔮: Waterproof. Can be used in contact sports. Event logging. Offer support via phone/email. 2-year warranty. Paid software with limited user license

Closing remarks

I have definitely not used all of these devices myself and would be curious to hear thoughts from others who have! If I failed to list a device which should definitely be in this list, let me know!

  1. Ancoli-Israel et al. The SBSM Guide to Actigraphy Monitoring: Clinical and Research Applications, Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 2015 ↩︎ ↩︎