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Study Links Black and White Instagram Photos to Depression

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Your Instagram habits reveal more than just your favorite brunch spots. According to new research reported by NPR, users experiencing depression are more likely to filter their photos in black and white.

For their study, which was posted to arXiv.org earlier this month [PDF], researchers from Harvard University and the University of Vermont analyzed 43,950 photos from 166 Instagram accounts. Participants were asked to state whether or not they were diagnosed with clinical depression before the study. After breaking down photos by the number of faces, filters, color and brightness, and the amount of comments and likes, researchers found that certain trends could be traced back to people with depression.

While subjects with the condition were less likely to use any filter to begin with, one was particularly popular when they did. The study showed that Inkwell, which makes a photo black and white, was disproportionately preferred by depressed participants. Healthy participants, on the other hand, favored the Valencia filter which makes photos lighter.

The data also revealed that photos with faces were posted more frequently by depressed users, but with fewer faces per photo. And even though Instagram pictures from users with depression garnered more comments, they tended to receive fewer likes.

Using this information, researchers plugged Instagram photos into a computer algorithm to see how good it was at spotting depression. When given data from 100 users, it correctly identified individuals with the mental illness 70 percent of the time.

The study has yet to be peer-reviewed, and while Instagram filters may seem like an odd tool for making medical diagnoses, the authors point out that it may not be any worse than our current methods. They write:

“Our model showed considerable improvement over the ability of unassisted general practitioners to correctly diagnose depression. On average, more than half of general practitioners’ depression diagnoses were false positives[…]Given that mental health services are unavailable or underfunded in many countries, this computational approach, requiring only patients’ digital consent to share their social media histories, may open avenues to care which are currently difficult or impossible to provide.”

Instagram is just one tech habit that could potentially be used to diagnose mental illness. A study published in 2015 found that frequent phone usage may also be an indicator of depression.

[h/t NPR]

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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REM-Fit

Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Want to Fall Asleep Faster? Add This Tweak To Your Bedtime Routine
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There are countless reasons people have trouble falling asleep. It could be physiological, as in the case of airway-obstructing sleep apnea, or it could be because you’ve had too much caffeine too late in the day. But some of us experience delayed slumber for a different reason: Our racing minds can’t quite shift into a lower gear. If you fall into this hyper-vigilant category, there’s a side effect-free way to try and resolve the problem.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that subjects who were tasked with writing out a to-do list for the following day (or days) before bed were able to fall asleep more quickly than other subjects who wrote about only what they had done that day.

The test, performed at Baylor University, recruited 57 people between the ages of 18 and 30 and kept them overnight in a sleep lab. Those who wrote down their planned tasks could use bullet points or paragraphs and fell asleep an average of nine minutes faster than subjects who didn’t. The more specific the list, the faster they were able to crash.

Researchers believe that the act of writing down responsibilities might be one way the brain can let go of a person’s obligations. (Thinking of what you have to do won’t have quite the same effect.) It was a small study, but considering how non-invasive it is, it might be worth trying if you're experiencing a lot of tossing and turning.

[h/t Travel+Leisure]

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