One effective solution to free your mind from the stress over tomorrow’s meeting or shopping lists or whether you remembered to lock the back door, is to not keep your cell phone on the bedside table, instead moving it outside the room. According to Ofcom, cell phones are kept on overnight by as much as 8 out of 10 people and 50% substitute their phones with alarm clocks.
This does have some consequences. Keeping a cell phone near you at night makes you hypervigilant, resulting in a more disturbed sleep and increases the chances of sleeping disorders, including insomnia. Dr. Guy Meadows, an insomnia specialist at The Sleep School, London, believes that sleeping in a bedroom without a cell phone helps one sleep better, which is why Dr. Meadows keeps his mobile phone in the kitchen while he sleeps.
There are doubts about cell phones causing dizziness and headaches if placed near the bed at night. The rationale for it is that the light produced by the cell phones interferes with the body’s natural rhythm, making our body believe that it’s daytime. Cells in the retina are stimulated by the light, informing our body what time it is. Dr. Meadows says, ‘This controls the release of the hormone melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy, and the waking hormone, cortisol.’ The light that is released from the light bulbs or fluorescent strips and all other lights that are artificial keeps us awake for a long time because it hinders the release of melatonin.
However, the effect of cell phones is greater. We all know that white light is made of a variety of colors with different wavelengths. On the other hand, devices like phones, tablets and e-readers emit a blue light, which has a greater stimulating impact. ‘We know that because of a pigment called melanopsin, the cells in the retina are most sensitive to blue light,’ says Professor Skene. This explains why it is difficult falling asleep when you have used a cell phone or tablet before going to bed. For this very reason, it is advised to not use any such device 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
Although, blue light is also emitted by TVs, but a cell phone screen is nearer to the eyes. Professor Skene believes that the type of light is not of essence, only. Things like brightness, duration, time of day and the closeness to the screen are important in creating different levels of effects on the body. Holding a mobile phone close to the face in the late hours of night will keep you highly alert. Exposure to screen light for long durations is not necessarily required to create an effect, as much as reading a message or checking your phone can produce an equal effect.
A study designed to observe the effect of 0.12 seconds of light exposure during the night, was conducted at Stanford University in the U.S. It involved exposing the participants to pulses of light for 2 milliseconds for an hour. Consequently, the participants felt more alert. “This, along with other studies comparing intermittent and continuous light, suggests the first part of any light exposure is more effective on making the body more alert than the later part of light exposure,” says Professor Skene.
According to Dr. Meadows, humans have a sleep cycle of 1.5-2 hours in between there are brief moments of waking in. If in those moments, something distracting happens like a text message comes in or a flash of light, we are likely to become conscious. A ratio of 4 to 10 people using smartphones check their cell phone if they wake up because of it. A lecturer in psychology and cognitive science at Sheffield University, Tom Stafford says that it is not necessary that we have a new message every time we check our messages, but there is a still a possibility.
Dr. Neil Stanley believes that it is necessary to be free from any worries to have a sound sleep. With your mobile phone by your side, there is a subconscious urge to use it. This also raises a question about how the cell phone signals may be affecting the brain while a person is asleep. ‘We can now say that exposure to radiation before bed – at a level equivalent to making a call on a mobile for 30 minutes – does seem to lead to a small increase in electrical activity in the brain. This happens mainly in the stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep that occurs either side of deep sleep. We don’t yet know what these findings may mean,’says Dr Sarah Loughran of the Australian centre for electromagnetic bioeffects research at the University of Wollongong.
Another study revealed that after being exposed to cell phone radiation, it took participants 6 more minutes to reach deep sleep and in the deepest stage of sleep which is the most refreshing part of sleep, they spent an average of 8 minutes less.
Electrosensitivity is an effect on the brain that causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus and sleep disorders that are related to the electromagnetic radiation from wifi, cell phones, etc. The patients of disturbed sleep or headaches found their problem to be greatly solved when they kept their cell phones switched off in their bedroom. Dr. Tresidder, a Somerset GP and now a trustee of the campaign group Electrosensitivity UK explain that cells in our body are sensitive to different types of waves, including sound and light, which is why our body being sensitive to radio waves is not a surprise.
A research on mobile phone exposure and how people felt about their sleep has been reviewed by Dr. James Rubin of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College. The research comprised 11 studies in which while the participants slept, they were being exposed either to radiation or a sham form. In the morning, they were quizzed on how they felt. Dr. Rubin states, “No effect on sleep quality can be seen, however, this does not mean that the symptoms of electrosensitivity do not have a reality. They have disturbing consequences. But, this case is not caused by an electromagnetic field.”
The director of medical physics and clinical engineering at the Royal Berkshire hospital, Professor Malcolm Sperrin says that there is a lack of evidence in proving that a cell phone radiation can have any such effects on health. When it comes to electro-magnetic fields, charging your phone would be worse – as the transformer plugged into the mains would be giving a more intense field.
It is agreed by all experts that you will be unable to sleep if you take your phone to bed. It is better to keep it switched off.