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How far away should your phone be when you sleep?
The simple answer: one meter (three feet), or better yet, put it in the next room.
Cell phones are now a component of daily life and seen by many as indispensable for keeping up with friends and family. Gone are the days when you would wait until morning to get that voice mail.
People now feel they must be connected 24/7 and it has completely changed our modern culture into one of constant connectivity. But there are some times when you just need to shut off and one of those times is when you sleep.
Despite this recommendation and the simple fact that you cannot check voice mail, email, or see WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger notifications in your sleep, many people insist on having their cell phones close by, just in case something big comes through.
Besides the constant nagging of your cell phone for attention, putting it away from you when you sleep is a good idea on many levels. For one, you will not be tempted to wake up and check it every 10 minutes.
For other reasons, there are issues with your health. Cell phones emit a significant amount of radiofrequency radiation despite the benign way they are portrayed by the telecommunications industry and governmental regulatory agencies.
Why? The usual reason is all about profits and not negatively affecting the growth industry.
Below, we will review the health risks associated with sleeping with your cell phone and provide recommendations to reduce your daily exposure risk.
Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMF)
Cell phones, as a consequence of how they operate, emit significant amounts of radiofrequency radiation. This radiation is emitted under normal circumstances when the phone is maintaining a communication link to the cell phone tower.
Under conditions where the phone is actively transmitting or receiving information, radiated energies are boosted to stabilize the signal transmissions. Although the harmfulness of this radiative energy is still debated, bear in mind that no long-term studies have really been conducted since cell phones are relatively new consumer devices.
Sure, cell phones existed in the late 1980s, but for most of us we did not get our first cell phone until the early 2000s. Even at that time, the devices were not widely used except in certain markets as the availability of cell tower receivers was still spotty.
With the increased use of cell phones by more and more people, the exposure levels to the general population have greatly increased. Radiation from these devices is suspected to cause cancers and there have been a few studies that concluded routine use increased the rate of benign acoustic neuromas and also may increase testicular cancers in men.
All of these issues relate to how phones are used and carried. Held to the head while talking, carried in the front or back pockets by men.
Reducing your overall level of exposure can be as basic as reducing the time you are exposed to cell phone EMF radiation. Simply placing your phone at least one meter (three feet) from you when you sleep can dramatically reduce your radiation exposure.
This is because electromagnetic spectra energies dissipate in intensity by the inverse square of the distance (via the inverse square law). Moving your phone to a distance of one meter can reduce your radiation exposure by about 90%.
Phones Can Get Hot
If you sleep with your cell phone, for example, to listen to music as you fall asleep, there exists the chance that you may roll over on the phone during the night. If the cell phone is encased between bedsheets and your body, it can quickly overheat.
Overheating leads to reductions in battery life and potentially can burst into fire. Many newer phones have an auto-shutdown feature when the phone overheats to prevent this issue.
Sleep Disturbances: Blue Light and Alert Sounds
The light spectra of cell phone screens are in the blue end of the visible light spectrum to boost picture sharpness. While this is great for viewing, blue light can trick your brain into believing it is daytime.
Extended viewing of your cell phone before bed exposes your eyes to blue light, which signals your brain to reduce the production of melatonin. The consequence of this is you are not sleepy when it is time to go to bed.
This can result in insomnia and sleep pattern disturbances, which can produce vision problems and headaches. Even if you do not use your cell phone for several hours before bedtime, placing it in the room with you while it is on can also disturb your sleep.
Alert notices, bells, and pings can cause you to briefly awaken, thus disrupting your sleep cycle. More importantly, even if you mute your phone or have a nighttime feature that mutes notifications, the phone screen will still awaken and light up with each notification, beaming blue light into the room.
You will detect that blue light through your eyelids and your brain will become convinced that it is dawn and attempt to pull you out of your sleep cycle. The best option is to just turn the phone off or if you use for an alarm, set up the phone to be completely silent and dimmed, only letting the alarm through.
Recommendations for Reducing Cell Phone Radiation
Before bedtime, place your phone on a hard surface like a table at least one meter (three feet) from where you will be sleeping. The hard surface will help keep the phone cool.
During the day, carry your cell phone in your backpack or purse, not your pocket. Yes, we know it is less convenient but that extra bit of distance will reduce your EMF exposure level on a regular basis.
If you must have the phone in your pocket because you need to hear an alarm, switch the phone to airplane mode.
Airplane mode is that handy mode where you can still see your photos and play a game, but there is no WiFi, Bluetooth, or cellular communication. Under this mode, there is no texting or calling that can be performed.
That means there is no electromagnetic radiation, either. All modern smartphones include this feature.
SMS and Speakerphone
Instead of always holding the phone next to your head, try using speakerphone the next time you send or receive a call. You will not look strange holding your cell phone away from you like a walkie-talkie as this way of doing a voice call is becoming very common.
Another great way to create some safe distance between your head and the cell phone is the use of a headset. Note that this section says “wired” headset, not a Bluetooth headset. Although they are less convenient, wired headsets do not transmit EMF radiation, whereas Bluetooth receivers in your ear certainly do, and using one to offset the effects of holding a cell phone to your head is pointless.
Make Sure You Have Bars
If you are in a service area with weak reception, move to a better location before using your phone. The amount of radiation emitted by your phone in a low signal environment is much more than if you have a full four bars.
Under weak signal conditions, the phone attempts to “reach out” to towers by boosting the signal output. This also will tend to reduce your battery time.
Turn It Off
When all else fails, just turn the phone off when you are not using it or do not expect to receive any calls or texts.