Migraines, Headaches & Mood: Symptoms of EMF Exposure from Mobile Devices

Last Updated on October 4, 2023

Migraines, Headaches & Mood: Symptoms of EMF Exposure from Mobile Devices

These days, we have accepted a new standard of living, one ridden with poor sleep patterns, chronic back and neck pain, irritability, stress, headaches, mental illness, and declining overall health.

We think these daily aggravations are simply the norm, since so many of us seem to suffer from them. But many of these problems were not as universal as they are now.

Numerous factors come into play to cause the ailments we live with every day, such as not drinking enough water, poor diet, not enough exercise, and a sedentary sitting lifestyle.

But there is something else that may be causing our headaches and our insomnia, or even the aches and pains in our bodies: Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation emitting from mobile devices.

Research is establishing that the technology we use everyday and its low energy EMF radiation emissions can actually affect our cell health, cell communication, body performance, and the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in our brains. All these small changes can create an unhealthy environment in our bodies in which physical symptoms become noticeable, or even debilitating.

 At the extreme end, EMF radiation can lead to infertility, cancer, behavioral disorders, and many chronic illnesses. But many of us fail to realize that even if we don’t get cancer or a chronic disease, EMF radiation can still affect our bodies and health in many other ways.

That’s right: we can be disease-free and relatively healthy, but those headaches we’re getting– the irritability, the insomnia, the fatigue–might all be due to excess EMF radiation in our environment.

There’s no denying that technology can benefit our well-being. In terms of education, communication, and healthcare, many people are achieving greater health outcomes than they could have before technology.

However, the negative effects are ever-present, too.

For the everyday user–those who pop open their laptop for work or school, people who stream music via Bluetooth, and the countless number of people connected to their cell phone all day–a build-up of EMF exposure can affect daily living in a rather major way.

How EMF Can Affect Your Day-to-Day Life

Our environment is inundated with a wide spectrum of electromagnetic waves, many of which we have no control over.

Today, low-energy Radio Frequency (RF) waves and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) waves are emitted by mobile phone base stations, high voltage lines, radar and all the different types of electrical equipment inside and outside our homes.

Yes, these low levels of EMF frequencies have indeed been associated with a higher risk of certain types of cancer. The National Toxicology Program‘s landmark ten-year study on rats and mice found that exposure to high levels of RF, like that emitted by cell phones, caused a higher rate of brain tumors and tumors in the heart.

However, cancer is not affecting many technology users, or at least not yet. While it may take another 10-20 years of data to see a strong correlation with serious diseases, other more minor health troubles could also be the result of too much technology.

Hundreds of studies have shown a correlation between EMF exposure and a wide range of neuropsychiatric effects.

Common Symptoms of EMF Exposure

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue/Dizziness/Nausea
  • Body aches
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Tension/Stress/Irritability
  • Skin tingling or burning sensations
  • Allergies/Flu-like symptoms
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory/Concentration issues
  • Eye strain and vision loss
  • Tinnitus

Below we discuss a few common symptoms that you might not think to connect to EMF exposure. If these symptoms are chronic you might suffer from something called EHS, or Electrical Hypersensitivity Syndrome.

Electrical Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS)

Research now shows that electromagnetic fields can have a biological effect on people. To corroborate the research, more people are reporting the symptoms listed above when in close proximity to technology, as demographics and other potentially confounding variables are eliminated from the equation. An estimated 20% of individuals suffer from Electrical Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS), even if they are not aware of it.

Some don’t think EHS is a real illness because of the lack of an apparent biomechanism responsible for causing these symptoms.

And while the biomechanisms that create these associated neuropsychiatric symptoms might not be completely understood, EMF exposure is associated with many chain reactions in the body, such as VGCC activation and the Cellular Stress Response.

 VGCC Activation

Exposure to EMFs over-activates the sensitive Voltage-Gated Calcium Channels (VGCCs) in cells. Besides controlling many different physiological functions, these channels help the release of neurotransmitters in the brain and the release of hormones by neuroendocrine cells, through Calcium signaling. This also increases intracellular Calcium levels.

The result? These VGCCs–that are highly sensitive to EMFs–are in neurons throughout the nervous system, and according to Martin Pall, PhD., can therefore play a huge role in neurotransmitter and hormone release, as well as changes produced by the vast increase of Calcium ions in the cell. This includes putting cells in an Oxidative stress response, which could be responsible for many changes in the body.

Oxidative Damage through Cellular Stress Response

EMFs have been shown to multiply the amount of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the cell. This creates excessive free radicals, or oxidants, which leads to Oxidative damage in the cell. DNA strands in the nucleus break, sending the cell into a cellular stress response. The stress response activates HSP (Heat Shock Proteins) and Oxidative damage on cellular components.

Since the brain has such a high metabolic rate (EMF also increases blood-glucose levels in the brain, further increasing this rate), ROS and Oxidative damage can happen easier than in other organs. Oxidative damage in the brain causes nervous system impairment, meaning a disruption in brain hormones and neurotransmitters.

Headaches and Migraines

Research shows that a headache is the most frequent symptom induced by RF EMF exposure, and a symptom many with EHS suffer from. With a cell phone held so close to the head, electromagnetic emissions are more likely to interfere with many processes in the brain.

Scientists suggest that the electromagnetic waves can interact with human physiology on the cellular level, and disrupt brain function. The Dopamine-Opiate systems of the brain contribute to headaches, and low intensity electromagnetic energy exposure affects those systems through VGCC activation and Oxidative damage.

Studies have also shown that these waves influence regional cerebral blood flow and electroencephalographic (EEG) wave power. They can also open the blood-brain barrier, which separates the brain and cerebral spinal fluid from your blood, creating a breakdown in which toxins can leak into your brain. Research has shown the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier is involved in headaches (Concussions also create a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier!)

According to a study by Dr. Manuchehr Babaei in Iran, performed on 114 migraine patients, increased usage of mobile phones may be associated with higher rates of headache attacks due to the RF electromagnetic fields. Increase of mobile usage had a significant effect on the number of moderate headaches and the number of migraine attacks and the severity of the headaches. Fixed-line telephones had no significant relationship.

Three recent studies show that the timing of these headaches matched very closely with mobile phone usage, and that they occurred on the ipsilateral side of the head, which gets higher EMF exposure while talking on the phone.

In 2017, seven studies involving more than 20,000 subjects were compiled for a meta-analysis, by skeptical scientists who wanted a better understanding of conflicting research. They concluded that a mobile phone user had a 38% increased risk of headache when compared to a non-mobile phone user. They also found that headache risk increased with longer call duration and higher call frequency.

Depression, Mood, Stress, and Overall Mental Health

EMF radiation inhibits hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain, which directly affect mental health and happiness. There is considerable evidence that EMFs can affect neural functions in the human brain.

Both VGCC activation and Oxidative stress in the brain have a substantial effect on the nervous system.

Oxidative stress is associated with neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric diseases, such as Schizophrenia and major depressive disorder, as well as Anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors. According to researchers, a link between Oxidative stress in cells and emotional stress is not surprising.

VGCC activation can disrupt hormones and neurotransmitters, causing the brain to enter varying mental states, whether it be short-term moods or long-term mental illnesses.

In fact, in one study, researchers looked at the effects of EMF exposure on neurotransmitters in newborn rats. The results showed that increased cell phone radiation caused coinciding increases in Histamine, Dopamine, Adrenaline, and Noradrenaline. There was also a significant decrease in Serotonin and Melatonin.

High levels of Dopamine have been linked to ADHD and many mood disorders. Decreased Serotonin impacts mood levels, anxiety, and happiness, with links to depression and low self-esteem, and even poor memory. Decreased Melatonin levels affect your nightly sleep, and have also been observed in Dementia and mood disorders.

This 2006 study included 103 workers at High Voltage Substations in Tehran city to determine the relationship between psychological symptoms and occupational exposure to EMF. The study indicated increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, hostility, paranoia, interpersonal-sensitivity, and obsession-compulsion among exposed workers.

A study looking at differences in the social behavior of baboons exposed to 60 Hz electric fields showed that the exposed group had more frequent performances in passive affinity, tension, and stereotypy. The study concluded the changes reflect a stress response to the electric field.

Memory/Concentration Issues and ADHD

Dr. Andrew Goldsworthy linked excessive EMF exposure to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a decline in normal mental activity, published in his 2012 article “The Biological Effects of Weak Electromagnetic Fields.”

Similar to how EMF frequencies affect the nervous system and mental health, EMFs activating VGCCs can also cause ion channels to leak, increasing Calcium in cells. This cellular disruption can cause irreparable DNA damage, increasing cancer risk. In addition, this unscheduled Calcium leakage into cells can make cells hypersensitive and more likely to transmit random signals.

This may cloud normal mental activity, triggering random thoughts and contribute to a loss of concentration or focus, which is typical for those with ADHD. Children are thought to be especially at risk, as their brains are still developing.

In addition, cell phone radiation was found to reduce synaptic activity in the Hippocampus (memory) neurons, which could result in memory loss.

A Swiss study found that teens who held their phone to their right ears frequently scored worse on figural memory tests. This region of the brain on the right side deals with the ability to remember shapes. Changes in figural memory scores were negatively correlated with wireless phone calls and with the duration of phone calls.

Another study aimed to investigate the effects of chronic low-intensity microwave exposure on cognitive function, heat shock protein 70 (HSP70), and DNA damage in rats. The results showed that chronic low-intensity microwave exposure between 900 and 2450 MHz led to decreased cognitive function, elevated HSP70 level (associated with stress), and DNA damage in the brain.

Sleep Problems

EMF radiation and blue light both have been shown to delay the release of Melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is one of the primary hormones responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles.

A 2008 study conducted by researchers in Sweden and Wayne State University demonstrated that individuals who use their cell phones for more than three hours before going to bed experience disrupted sleep patterns, in addition to headaches and difficulties concentrating.

And while some people attribute the inability to sleep simply to the “blue light” emitted by devices, further research is pointing to EMF exposure (ie. from WiFi routers, smart meters, or technology on our nightstands) as a contributing factor, regardless of the blue light emissions.

In fact, a 2010 study showed that individuals exposed to EMFs had serious changes to their Pineal gland, specifically a disruption in the production of Melatonin. This study explained that because the Pineal gland can interpret EMFs as light, the result is a fairly significant decrease in Melatonin.

A disruption in Melatonin production doesn’t only impact sleep. It may also lead to possible long-term health issues, such as cancer, heart disease, and depression. Because Melatonin is a broad spectrum antioxidant, it prevents oxidative damage from harmful free radicals at the level of cells, tissues, organs and entire organisms.

In 2012, a study was conducted to investigate the effect of EMF exposure on sleep quality in high voltage substations in a suburban city. The cases comprised of 67 workers who had been exposed to EMF fields. They found that 90.5% of cases had poor-quality sleep in contrast to 85.3% of the control group.

Another study demonstrated that individuals exposed to EMF radiation for one hour a day over 30 days had a harder time getting into REM sleep. Without REM sleep, the body cannot repair its cells and muscles, short-term memory fails to transfer into long-term memory, and other processes in body systems fail to reset. This could explain why so many wake up feeling unrested, in addition to experiencing other problems with their body.

Ways to Combat EMF Symptoms

Given the ever-present nature of EMFs and their ability to produce harmful effects, conclusive investigations of health risks are critical. The exposure to our bodies on an everyday basis may seem harmless, but might affect us more than we think.

 Whether we are trying to protect our bodies from cancer or just trying to get rid of daily headaches, it never hurts to reduce the technology we are exposed to. We can also prime our bodies to better defend themselves against the effects of EMF radiation. Here are some tips on how to avoid the harmful effects of excessive EMF exposure:

  1. Drink enough water! EMF radiation can put your cells in a state of stress, causing many physical symptoms. Drinking water helps to keep the cells hydrated and better able to deal with stressors like EMF radiation.
  2. Maintain a tech-free sleep sanctuary in your bedroom at night. Not only will the absence of blue light and EMF radiation help you fall asleep faster and help you sleep better, but better sleep is essential for your body to heal and rebuild. Thus, it will be better equipped to fight off toxins like EMF radiation during the day! Sleep also helps reduce many other adverse symptoms like stress, irritability, fatigue, and memory problems.
  3. Getting outdoors and away from technology can help supply essential nutrients, like vitamin D, to your cells to keep them healthy and able to withstand toxins. Standing or walking barefoot on the Earth, or Grounding, fills your body with negative ions (antioxidants) that come from the Earth’s low magnetic field. These ions have a positive effect on cells.
  4. When using mobile devices, keep them a healthy distance away. If the device is at least one foot away from our bodies, EMF exposure drops by 80%!
  5. Using a radiation shield with your devices creates an EMF barrier when your device is touching your body.
  6. Rather than keeping your phone pressed against the side of your head, switch to speakerphone or video calling, or use a pair of air tube headphones that stop an electrical signal from reaching your ears and head.
  7. When possible, turn off Bluetooth and WiFi on your devices.
  8. Use a wired connection or an Ethernet cable when you do need to connect to other devices or the Internet.

Related Posts

None found

Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.