I Accidentally Slept on My Phone. What Are the (Health) Risks?
“I accidentally slept on my phone, will I get cancer?”
This is a common question that pops up in the mind when someone falls asleep with the phone next to the head.
If you have slept on top of your phone or fallen asleep with your phone next to your head, you are not alone.
Nearly 44 percent of mobile phone owners have reported to sleep with the phone next to the bed, according to a Pew Internet report.
But is sleeping next to phone bad for health? Is it bad to sleep with your phone charging next to you? Can sleeping with a cell phone on nightstand cause cancer? These are some of the questions that will be addressed here.
Health Risks of Sleeping with Your Phone
A lot of studies have been conducted to find out the health risks associated with cell phone usage.
While no conclusive evidence has been found regarding the health risk of using cell phones, a number of studies have discovered that cell phones emit a small amount of electromagnetic radiation.
When you turn on the phone, it sends a signal to find a carrier signal. A high-frequency electromagnetic wave is created when your phone looks for a connection. The energy created is a type of non-ionizing radiation.
More electromagnetic radiation is released with faster connections such as 4G or 5G as compared to slower connections like 2G or 3G.
The radiation emitted by cell phones is in the form of microwaves and X-Rays. Frequent exposure to these electromagnetic waves has been linked to tumor formation.
As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that cell phones usage may be carcinogenic, particularly for children whose skulls and scalps are thinner as compared to adults.
Here are five health risks of mobile phone verified by studies, which show that you should never sleep with your mobile phone.
1. Risk of Cancer
According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), a number of laboratory experiments have found a possible link between certain types of cancer and long-term cell phone usage.
Electromagnetic waves emitted by cell phones can cause cellular damage. A study by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks found a possible link between leukemia risk and exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
Some scientists also speculate that the waves generated by mobile phones can cause cancer by reducing a hormone called melatonin. This hormone is important for defending your body against cancerous cells.
The melatonin level is disrupted when exposed to non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation from cell phones. While exposure to the radiation for one night will not pose a serious threat, chronic nighttime exposure can increase the risk of damage to the cells.
Many people feel a headache after sleeping next to the phone. The cell phones emit radio waves of nearly 900 MHz from the antennas to a nearby tower.
Keeping your cell phone next to you for a long period of time can result in headaches. Various studies have found a clear relationship between headache and excessive mobile phone usage.
One study carried out in 2017 found a link between headache in both children and adults and cell phone usage.
Another study analyzed more than 52,000 children to find out the effect of exposure to a cell phone. The scholars had found that children exposed to cell phone radiation had a higher risk of migraines and other types of headaches.
3. Impaired Cognition
Waves emitted by phones can change the activity levels of the brain. A number of studies have found a clear link between exposure to 2G and 3G and impaired cognitive functions.
Communication between human brain cells takes place through electrical impulses. The impulses can be measured using an EEG measurement device.
One study carried out by the scholars at an institute in the Netherlands used EEG to find out how cell phone radiation affects the electrical impulses. They found that the radiation emitted by the phone is detected by the brain.
Exposure to the waves invokes an inflammatory response. The signals can travel through human tissue causing damage to the brain cells. Human tissues absorb the radiation resulting in many negative effects such as:
- Change in brain waves,
- Reversed polarity of the cell membrane,
- Disruption of brain activity,
- Damage to the brain and head tissues,
- Alteration in brain chemistry.
4. Negative Effect on Memory
Sleeping next to a mobile phone can also impair the memory.
A group of scholars at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) discovered that exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones can damage memory.
The scholars examined about 700 young adults in Switzerland, and their findings were published in the Journal of Environmental Perspectives. The scholars found that long-term exposure to the radiation can affect figural memory performance.
Figural memory is located in the right part of the brain. The memory refers to the ability of the brain to recall shapes and figures. Chronic exposure to electromagnetic radiation can damage figural memory.
Since the mobile phones emit radiation even when not in use, sleeping with the phone next to the bed will negatively affect the memory.
5. Reduced Sperm Count
Sleeping next to a phone can also affect fertility levels. One comprehensive review published by the Environmental Working Group found that exposure to cell phone radiation resulted in a variety of changes to the sperm.
Men who carried the mobiles phones in a pocket or on the belt, or snoozed on top of the phone were more likely to have less active sperm. Radiation from cell phones led to reduced sperm count and vitality.
The findings are in accordance with similar studies on animals. Scholars found that exposure to cell phone radiation resulted in reduced sperm mobility, count, and vitality in animals.
In addition, studies have found that cell phone radiation can increase the indicators of sperm damage. These include DNA damage, high levels of reactive oxygen molecules, oxidative stress, and changes in the morphology of sperm.
In short, if you habitually sleep next to your phone, it can result in a change in the size and shape of the sperm leading to infertility.
How Can I Protect Myself from Cell Phone Radiation?
Now that you know about the dangers of cell phone radiation, the important question is how far away your cell phone should be when you sleep.
Keep a Safe Distance
Researchers have not yet identified a safe distance from a cell phone while sleeping. However, experts recommend a distance of at least 12 inches from the phone.
The likelihood of exposure to radiation can be reduced every inch you keep the phone away from you.
Avoid using your phone while in bed
You should not keep the phone near the body such as on a bedside table or under the bedside. This is particularly important for pregnant women.
A number of researchers have also suggested that children are most likely to suffer the health risks of exposure to cell phone radiation. They are highly likely to experience headaches, sleeping disorders, memory loss, and impaired memory function.
That’s the reason many countries such as Germany, Russia, Israel, Finland, France, and the UK have issued warnings about the negative health effects of cell phones on children.
Turn Off the Phone to Avoid Exposure
If you are not using your mobile phone, you should consider turning it off.
When going to sleep, you should turn off the mobile phone or at least put your phone in “airplane” or “flight” mode.
Putting your phone offline will shut down the cellular function of the phone. This will stop the emission of electromagnetic radiation. In addition, you should consider turning off the Wi-Fi to be on the safe side when sleeping.
Don’t Use the Phone when Signal is Weak
You should not use the phone when the signal is weak. When the signal is weak, your phone will make repeated attempts to connect with the tower.
Position the Handset with the Keypad Towards You
You should position the handset in a way that the keypad is towards you. The back of the phone should be position away from you.
Positioning the handset in this way will ensure that the cell’s electromagnetic waves move away from you instead of through you. This will reduce the negative health effects of mobile phone usage.
Use Wired Headset
When you need to answer calls before sleeping at night, you should consider using a wired headset of the speakerphone feature. This will allow you to make calls with the phone placed at a safe distance.
While you won’t experience negative health effects if you accidentally slept on your phone once, sleeping with your phone daily can lead to serious health problems. To be on the safe side, never use your phone when in bed.