Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep.
Phone makers' own scientists discover that bedtime use can lead to
headaches, confusion and depression
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Published: 20 January 2008
Radiation from mobile phones delays and reduces sleep, and causes headaches and
confusion, according to a new study.
The research, sponsored by the mobile phone companies themselves, shows that using the
handsets before bed causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to
spend less time in them, interfering with the body's ability to repair damage suffered during the
The findings are especially alarming for children and teenagers, most of whom – surveys
suggest – use their phones late at night and who especially need sleep. Their failure to get
enough can lead to mood and personality changes, ADHD-like symptoms (Next-up: Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), depression, lack of concentration and poor academic performance.
The study – carried out by scientists from the blue-chip Karolinska Institute and Uppsala
University in Sweden and from Wayne State University in Michigan, USA – is thought to be the
most comprehensive of its kind.
Published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Progress in Electromagnetics
Research Symposium and funded by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, representing the main
handset companies, it has caused serious concern among top sleep experts, one of whom
said that there was now "more than sufficient evidence" to show that the radiation "affects
The scientists studied 35 men and 36 women aged between 18 and 45. Some were exposed
to radiation that exactly mimicked what is received when using mobile phones; others were
placed in precisely the same conditions, but given only "sham" exposure, receiving no
radiation at all.
The people who had received the radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of
sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one. The scientists concluded: "The study indicates
that during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals components of sleep believed to
be important for recovery from daily wear and tear are adversely affected."
The embarrassed Mobile Manufacturers Forum played down the results, insisting – at
apparent variance with this published conclusion – that its "results were inconclusive" and that
"the researchers did not claim that exposure caused sleep disturbance".
But Professor Bengt Arnetz, who led the study, says: "We did find an effect from mobile
phones from exposure scenarios that were realistic. This suggests that they have measurable
effects on the brain."
He believes that the radiation may activate the brain's stress system, "making people more
alert and more focused, and decreasing their ability to wind down and fall asleep".
About half of the people studied believed themselves to be "electrosensitive", reporting
symptoms such as headaches and impaired cognitive function from mobile phone use. But
they proved to be unable to tell if they had been exposed to the radiation in the test.
This strengthens the conclusion of the study, as it disposes of any suggestion that knowledge
of exposure influenced sleeping patterns. Even more significantly, it throws into doubt the
relevance of studies the industry relies on to maintain that the radiation has no measurable
A series of them – most notably a recent highly publicised study at Essex University – have
similarly found that people claiming to be electrosensitive could not distinguish when the
radiation was turned on in laboratory conditions, suggesting that they were not affected.
Critics have attacked the studies' methodology, but the new findings deal them a serious blow.
For they show that the radiation did have an effect, even though people could not tell when
they were exposed.
It also complements other recent research. A massive study, following 1,656 Belgian
teenagers for a year, found most of them used their phones after going to bed. It concluded
that those who did this once a week were more than three times – and those who used them
more often more than five times – as likely to be "very tired".
Dr Chris Idzikowski, the director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, says: "There is now more than
sufficient evidence, from a large number of reputable investigators who are finding that mobile
phone exposure an hour before sleep adversely affects deep sleep."
Dr William Kohler of the Florida Sleep Institute added: "Anything that disrupts the integrity of
your sleep will potentially have adverse consequences in functioning during the day, such as
grouchiness, difficulty concentrating, and in children hyperactivity and behaviour problems."
David Schick, the chief executive of Exradia, which manufactures protective devices against
the radiation, called on ministers to conduct "a formal public inquiry" into the effects of mobile
For more information on electropollution visit www.electropollution.org
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