Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently complain of sleep disturbances such as insomnia and nightmares. Evaluation of sleep disturbances is often difficult due to the subjective nature of the complaints. Polysomnography (PSG) and other sleep studies are generally not indicated in the evaluation of insomnia or nightmares associated with PTSD. Actigraphy, (electronic activity monitoring) has been used in research to evaluate sleep disturbances in patients with PTSD. We reviewed the literature on the use of actigraphy in evaluation of sleep problems in patients with PTSD. Methods: A literature search for articles on the topic was conducted on PubMed using the search algorithm (actigraphy[Title/Abstract] OR actigraphic[Title/Abstract]) AND PTSD[Title/Abstract]. Out of 11 search results, 9 studies in which application of actigraphy had relevance to the primary objective and outcome in PTSD patients with sleep problems were selected for review. We also handpicked one additional article from personal communication with our colleagues who have done some of these studies. Conclusion: Actigraphy has been used to evaluate circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Use of actigraphy in psychiatry clinics is uncommon. There is no data to support that there are specific actigraphic sleep related findings in PTSD patients. However, it can be a useful tool to complement the use of sleep diaries when assessing sleep and wake patterns in patients with PTSD.
- Review article