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Background: Disruptions in rest and activity patterns are core features of bipolar disorder (BD). However, previous methods have been limited in fully characterizing the patterns. There is still a need to capture dysfunction in daily activity as well as rest patterns in order to more holistically understand the nature of 24-h rhythms in BD. Recent developments in the standardization, processing, and analyses of wearable digital actigraphy devices are advancing longitudinal investigation of rest-activity patterns in real time. The current systematic review aimed to summarize the literature on actigraphy measures of rest-activity patterns in BD to inform the future use of this technology. Methods: A comprehensive systematic review using PRISMA guidelines was conducted through PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and EMBASE databases, for papers published up to February 2021. Relevant articles utilizing actigraphy measures were extracted and summarized. These papers contributed to three research areas addressed, pertaining to the nature of rest-activity patterns in BD, and the effects of therapeutic interventions on these patterns. Results: Seventy articles were included. BD was associated with longer sleep onset latency and duration, particularly during depressive episodes and with predictive value for worsening of future manic symptoms. Lower overall daily activity was also associated with BD, especially during depressive episodes, while more variable activity patterns within a day were seen in mania. A small number of studies linked these disruptions with differential patterns of brain functioning and cognitive impairments, as well as more adverse outcomes including increased suicide risk. The stabilizing effect of therapeutic options, including pharmacotherapies and chronotherapies, on activity patterns was supported. Conclusion: The use of actigraphy provides valuable information about rest-activity patterns in BD. Although results suggest that variability in rhythms over time may be a specific feature of BD, definitive conclusions are limited by the small number of studies assessing longitudinal changes over days. Thus, there is an urgent need to extend this work to examine patterns of rhythmicity and regularity in BD. Actigraphy research holds great promise to identify a much-needed specific phenotypic marker for BD that will aid in the development of improved detection, treatment, and prevention options.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Psychiatry

Publication Date





actigraphy, bipolar disorder, circadian rhythms, digital technology, rest, sleep, treatment