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Last Updated on October 3, 2023
Do you have trouble falling asleep at night?
Do you pull out your phone or iPad in bed to help you fall asleep? Perhaps you like to finish up work and tasks, connect with friends, read, watch TV, play games, etc. just until you feel tired enough to sleep, or to get your mind off something that is bothering you?
If so, recent research indicates your efforts may be highly counterproductive.
While looking at high-energy blue light, which comes from every digital screen, has its own effects on circadian rhythm and quality and length of sleep, it’s not the only reason that using your phone before bed makes it harder to drift off.
If you are one of those people who can’t fall asleep, and tries to tire themselves out by using mobile devices, you may be at risk for sleep deprivation caused by non-ionizing Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs), or EMF radiation.
Studies on the Effects of EMF Radiation on Sleep
Recently, the United States and Foreign Ministry in Egypt have collaborated to provide funding for studies on the influence of cell phone radiation on the central nervous system.
Out of this funding, a scientific paper was published describing the effects 900 MHz unmodulated wave and 900 MHz modulated at 8-16 Hz waves had on the brain of sleeping rats.
Exposure to radiation fields for one hour a day for one continuous month caused rats to experience a delay or latency period before they experienced deep sleep, known as REM sleep, which is necessary in humans for restful sleep.
Figure 1a. Rats Exposed to EMF Radiation
Figure 1b. Latency Period of REM Sleep
Source: Non-thermal continuous and modulated electromagnetic radiation fields effects on sleep EEG of rats.
Journal of Advanced Research, Volume 4, Issue 2, March 2013, Pages 181-187.
For another study, healthy, young subjects were exposed to a night of EMF in the 900 Hz range, alternating from 15 minute on to 15 minute off cycles.
These individuals were found able to wake faster from sleep at 12 minutes versus 18 minutes. Their non-REM eye sleep movement was also measured. From this experiment, they concluded that pulsed EMF radiation might promote sleep and modify the sleep cycle. However, it is notable that the experiment was only in short duration and REM was not analyzed.
In another short duration study, healthy young male volunteers underwent 2 nights of 0.25-0.8 Hz pulsed EMF exposure. Their EEG, electroencephalography or electrical activity along the scalp, was monitored and EMF radiation was shown to be capable of having some effect on EEG characteristics of sleep.
More Research Is Needed
While there is a wealth of information and research associating mobile phone use with poor sleep patterns, it is hard to pinpoint the proportion related exclusively to EMF radiation emissions coming from these mobile devices. As we said before, other variables such as blue light, as well as technology offering stimulating content for the brain, come into play. As review articles have highlighted, no definitive conclusions can be drawn due to the small database presently available on EMF radiation and sleep.
And unfortunately, only short duration studies have been conducted to evaluate EMF radiation effects on humans, because of the difficulty of studying subjects over a long period of time.
Many challenges exist to establishing irrefutable proof that EMF causes harm, such as a lack of overwhelming data and the need to establish the precise mechanism of action not just correlation. Meanwhile, epidemiological studies continue to suggest that there is considerable potential for injury and affliction caused by non-ionizing radiation.
Just in the past decade, with the explosion of consumer electronic devices, a number of public health advocates have been calling for more research to be done on the effects of EMF radiation exposure on living organisms.
Recent articles have highlighted the fact that non-ionizing radiation has been considered a relatively low research priority so unanswered questions remain as to what extent humans are impacted by EMFs.
Sleep experts have long recommended that you should minimize the time spent on electronic devices before bed. At first, this was because technology is known to stimulate your brain. Recently, research has shown blue light can stimulate your brain as well, and delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Now, EMFs might be another contributing factor. This means that even keeping electronic devices plugged in and nearby can cause harm and interfere with your sleep.
Regardless of what the chief cause is, keeping your phone and other technology out of bed and away from you at night will help you gain a better night’s sleep!
When you go to bed, consider turning off your cell phones, tablets, laptops, and WiFi routers or at least placing them several feet away to avoid unnecessary EMF radiation exposure. Keep your bedroom a tech-free space to ensure there are no distractions for when it’s time to tuck in for the night! Don’t dose yourself with EMFs when you don’t need to.