Skip to content Skip to navigation

Twitter Could Lead to Improved Research on Sleep Disorders

June 11, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
| Reprints

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital recently reported that important data on sleep disorders could be found in the Twittersphere.

The researchers built a "digital phenotype" of insomnia and other sleep disorders based on data from Twitter. The digital phenotype was a baseline profile of what a person suffering insomnia or other sleep disorders "looks" like on social media. They took publically available anonymized data from Twitter to create a virtual cohort of 896 active Twitter users whose tweets contained sleep-related words or the names of common sleep aids or medications. They then compared data from that cohort to those of a second group of 934 users who did not tweet using sleep-related terms.

With this data, they created a profile of a user with sleep issues with the following characteristics:

  • They have been active on Twitter for a relatively long time
  • They have fewer followers and follows fewer people
  • They post few tweets per day on average
  • They’re more active on Twitter between 6:00 pm and 5:59 am
  • They’re more active on Twitter on weekends and early weekdays
  • They’re more likely to post tweets with negative sentiment

The researchers, from Boston Children’s Informatics Program as well as researchers at the pharmaceutical company, Merck, say the social media data could help overcome traditional limitations of population-level research on sleep disorders. Those limitations are traditional data is time- and resource intensive, expensive, suffer from long lag times before reporting and can’t be expanded to the larger U.S. population.

"These findings are preliminary and observational only, and need to be studied further," stated John Brownstein, Ph.D. of the Informatics Program. "But they suggest that social media can be a useful addition to our toolkit for studying the patient experience and behavioral epidemiology of sleep disorders."

The research was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.



CMS Hospital Compare Website Updated with VA Data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the inclusion of Veterans Administration (VA) hospital performance data as part of the federal agency’s Hospital Compare website.

CMS Awards Funding to Special Innovation Projects

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded 20, two-year Special Innovation Projects (SIPs) aimed at local efforts to deliver better care at lower cost.

Center of Excellence in Genomic Science to be Established in Chicago

The National Human Genome Research Institute has awarded $10.6 million over five years for the establishment of a new research center in Chicago to advance genomic science.

EHNAC and HITRUST Combine HIPAA Security Criteria, CSF Framework

The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) and the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) announced plans to streamline their accreditation and certification programs.

Halamka on MACRA Final Rule: “CMS is Listening and I Thank Them”

Health IT notable expert John Halamka, M.D., CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, recently weighed in on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) final rule.

Texas Patient Care Clinic Hit with Ransomware Attack

Grand Prairie, Texas-based Rainbow Children's Clinic was the victim of a ransomware attack on its IT systems in August, affecting more than 33,000 patients, according to multiple news media reports this week.