Do you sleep with your phone to ensure that you don’t miss a call, text, email, or social media update? Well, I have some news for you. Sleeping with your phone is ruining your sleep. And here’s why.
Many People Sleep with Their Phones: And It’s Bad
A 2015 survey from Bank of America found that “71 percent of survey respondents say they sleep with or next to their smartphones”.
Today, a staggering number of Americans — including children — sleep with their phones. And the younger you are, the more likely you are to engage in this risky behavior.
A 2010 study from Pew Research Center concluded that “nearly all young adults (ages 18-29) make sure their phones are never too far away at night; fully 90% sleep with their cell phone on or right next to their bed.”
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Yes, you read that right. 90%!
That’s nine out of every 10 Americans sleeping with their phone in or next to their bed.
That’s a huge number of us who sleep with our phones at night.
But why do people do this?
Why Do People Sleep with Their Phone?
There are many reasons people sleep with their phones at night. Here are a few common ones.
One obvious and practical reason many people sleep with their cell phones is to use them as alarm clocks.
The Sense of Socializing
Logically, people keep their phones nearby so others can reach them, especially in emergencies.
But that’s just part of the reason. There’s a deep-rooted psychological need dating back thousands of years that compels you to keep your phone with you at all times.
Inarguably, today cell phones have become a significant part of our lives. We use them to keep in touch with each other, socialize, be entertained, and more. But this dependency on our phones has also made us think that it’s the most (and probably the only) efficient way to be in touch with people.
See, for millennia, we humans lived in groups. We helped each other hunt, protect, and evolve. Being in a group and liked by all meant that you’d be safe in case of a foreign threat. So, even though we aren’t facing similar threats to our lives today, the evolutionary need still exists.
This is also one of the reasons why people experience FOMO. See my in-depth post on fear of missing out for more information.
Unconsciously, we see our phones as a tool to stay connected with a group in case of unpleasant situations. And that’s why most people keep their phones in convenient places, to be able to reach their devices within seconds.
A lot of people scroll through social media, play Candy Crush or watch Netflix until they – eventually – fall asleep. And whether they realize it or not, many of these people are actually addicted to their tech.
See my post “Tech Addiction” for more information.
Health Risks of Sleeping with Your Phone
Though convenient, sleeping with your phone comes with several risks that can severely deteriorate your health and wellbeing. Have a look.
Prolonged EMF Exposure
Cell phones, like all wireless technology, communicate to the network source or other devices using EMF or electromagnetic fields. So, when you use your cell phone, you get exposed to this energy.
And according to thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies from around the world, prolonged EMF exposure results in numerous negative health outcomes, including cancer, infertility, sleep disruption, and more.
When you sleep with your phone next to your bed, it exposes your head and body to EMF radiation all night long. For most people, that’s 6 to 9 hours, or 25% to 38% of your life, where you’re needlessly being exposed to cell phone radiation.
And the more you are exposed to EMF, the more your health risks increase.
The American Cancer Institute warns of several studies showing how cell phone radiation contributes to the development of multiple types of malignant tumors. And many other studies also link cell phone EMF exposure to diseases like skin and testicular cancers.
In fact, in 2018, the World Health Organization listed cell phone radiation as a Class 2B Carcinogen.
As ABC says:
“…the World Health Organization warned in 2011 that usage may be possibly carcinogenic to humans, especially in children, whose scalps and skulls are thinner than adults’ and more vulnerable to radiation.”
And as CBS reports:
“Some people are so attached to their cell phones that they sleep with them on their nightstand or even under their pillow. Bad idea. Cell phones pump out electromagnetic radiation whenever they’re on – which means sleeping with one nearby boosts your exposure all night long.”
And HuffPost informs us:
“And a review of studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that such transmissions were “possibly carcinogenic,” and that risk becomes far more relevant during the times you’re holding the phone to your body. The risk is minimal and insignificant when the phone is disconnected from WiFi — or better yet, turned off completely — but let’s face it, most people who sleep with their phones don’t do so with it in airplane mode.”
Sleep Disruption from EMF
There are two main forces that link cell phones and sleep deprivation. The first one is EMF radiation.
Research studies have demonstrated that cell phone radiation disrupts sleep, among many health effects.
As CNET explains:
“…cell phone radiation can interfere with your sleep, which makes the argument for keeping your phone farther away from you while you sleep more compelling.”
A 2008 scientific study from Wayne State University, Sweden, showed that those using cell phones for more than three hours before bed experience sleep disruption, diminished mental acuity and reduced concentration ability.
And that’s just from using your phone before bed. Sleeping with your cell phone exposes you to more risks.
Sleep Disruption from Blue Light
The other sleep-disrupting force that cell phones emit is called blue light.
Blue light is, as the name suggests, is a form of visible light. It resides in the middle of the visible light spectrum and mimics the light from the sun.
Almost all digital screens (smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs) emit a large amount of blue light. And studies have found that it heavily interferes with your circadian rhythm.
Blue Light, Circadian Rhythm & Melatonin Production
The evolution-based circadian rhythm in your body is dependent on blue light from the sun. This means that when you see the sun in the morning, your body triggers the activity mode. And as the sun goes down in the evening, your brain tells your body it’s time to rest.
Your body then starts producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, which makes you drowsy, eventually causing you to fall asleep.
The Mirror UK, in a 2020 article, said that not only has the number of patients with insomnia trebled in the last five years but that insomniacs are also entering hospitals with other conditions – like high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, or a stroke – only to then mention that they have trouble sleeping.
Lack of adequate sleep has adverse effects on human health, and these conditions can worsen over time. Experts say that the night use of smartphones is a big contributor to this problem.
Learn more about blue light, its effects, and appropriate actions in my post, “What is Blue Light?”.
Notifications Kill Sleep
Besides blue light, phone notifications are one of the potent sleep killers. There are two reasons for this. First, the sound from notifications, the constant pings, can heavily disrupt your sleep. And even if you turn off the notification sounds, if your phone is nearby, the anticipation of notifications can also have the same effect.
This is because your mind – consciously or not – is thinking about the possibility of notifications. Part of you is listening for an alert or an update and expecting one at any minute – which further contributes to poor sleep.
This fragments your sleep quality and leaves you feeling more tired when you eventually wake up. It’s also the reason why the most common advice given to people who have trouble falling asleep is to power off electronics before bed. That’s, of course, besides staying away from caffeine at night.
Brain Reactivation from Checking your Phone
“Checking your phone stimulates the brain, so we’re more active and awake,” says Dr. Harneet Walia from the Cleveland Clinic. “Even just a quick check can engage your brain and prolong sleep.”
When you have your phone in bed with you, it’s natural to feel the compulsion to check the news or your social feeds. And this makes it harder to fall asleep.
It also makes it harder to fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Many of us wake up in the night, whether to go to the bathroom or maybe for no real reason at all. If you have your phone next to you, it’s easy to succumb to the desire to load up sites like Facebook or BuzzFeed. And after you do this little checking in on the world, you’ll have a hard time falling back asleep. Also, the effect intensifies if you read something exciting or upsetting.
If your phone isn’t nearby, you’re much more likely to just close your eyes and go back to sleep.
It may be difficult to believe, but there have been multiple reports of phones exploding or setting ablaze in bed. (There’s a reason airlines no longer allow you to put lithium-ion batteries in your checked luggage.)
One 14-year-old girl fell asleep on top of her charging phone and died when her phone exploded under her pillow.
Another 13-year-old Texas teen’s cell phone caught on fire while sleeping after her battery overheated.
And a Malaysian woman reported that her phone exploded in bed.
These are just three examples. If you search the news, you’ll find many more, going back years.
Even the New York Police Department (NYPD) wants you to stop putting your cell phone under your pillow because of incidents like these. There’s simply no doubt that sleeping with your phone charging next to you is a bad idea.
What Can You Do?
So, you see, there are many ways that sleeping with your cell phone can harm you. There’s cell phone radiation, blue light, and the psychological effects that deteriorate your mental health.
But luckily, there is a solution to this problem. You just need to make a few changes to your routine. Have a look.
Stop Using Electronics One to Two Hours Before Bed
Experts recommend stopping the use of cell phones and other high-tech devices one to two hours before bed. This way, you’ll not only allow your body time to adjust to the evening environment, but you’ll also cut off your EMF exposure.
Besides that, doing this will also weaken the compulsion to check your email, scroll social media, or play Candy Crush in your bed— avoiding digital overstimulation of the brain.
But what do you do in those phone-less hours?
Well, you can replace your tech use with another positive activity. For example, you can talk with your family, read a book, or listen to music. As soon as you start doing this, you’ll notice a significant difference in your well-being.
Keep Your Phone in Another Room
Another way to avoid radiation from cell phones at night is to put your phone in another room while you sleep.
For example, you can plug your phone in to charge in the kitchen overnight. (This habit also makes it much safer to charge your phone, as the exploding phone examples above show.)
If you need to be able to be reached in an emergency, turn your ringer volume up so you’ll hear it. Or better yet, keep a landline phone.
Purchase a Simple, Battery Powered Alarm Clock
If you rely on your phone for your morning alarms, it’s easy to replace that with an old-school battery-powered alarm clock.
Why do I say it should be battery-powered? Because we tend to keep our alarm clocks near our heads. And the alarm clocks that plug into AC power can conduct a large amount of EMF radiation, including dirty electricity.
Also, avoid the models with red LED displays, as those can be a very large source of EMF.
A simple, very inexpensive low EMF alarm clock like this one is a great option.
Stop Using Sleep Tracking Apps
All of these sleep tracking apps require the use of connected devices and wireless radiation to function – which, as I’ve said, will disrupt your sleep and pose a risk to your health.
So, generally, we recommend against using sleep tracking applications and gadgets. However, since these devices and apps seem to help a lot, we were looking for a fitness tracker you can use without compromising your EMF safety. And that’s when we bumped into Oura Ring—a fitness tracker designed with your EMF safety in mind.
I have written a separate in-depth post on this product, its design, and its functionality. So, give it a read.
But What if You Need Your Phone in Your Room?
There are people who, for one reason or another, need to keep their phones in their bedroom at night. If that’s you, there are still steps you can take to improve your sleep quality and health – even when you feel the need to keep your phone with you when you go to bed.
Turn Your Phone into Airplane Mode – and Don’t Charge It
If you sleep with your phone in your bedroom, the best way to reduce your exposure to EMF radiation from your device is to turn on airplane mode. Sleeping with your phone on airplane mode will almost completely eliminate your phone’s harmful EMF radiation emissions.
And make sure that you are not charging your phone nearby while you sleep.
Keep Your Phone At Least 4-6 Feet Away from Your Body
If airplane mode isn’t an option for you (for example, if you’re a doctor-on-call or need to be available in an emergency), keep your phone at a safer distance while you sleep.
How far away should your phone be when you sleep? I recommend that you ensure your phone is at least 4 to 6 feet away from your body.
Turn Your Phone into ‘Night’ Mode
You may not realize it, but all modern cell phones include something called the “night mode.” This changes your display’s color to significantly reduce the blue light emissions from your phone. You can even set your phone to automatically enter night mode on a schedule.
On Apple devices, it’s called “Night Shift.” Here’s how to enable Night Shift on iPhones and iPads:
- Open Control Center. Firmly press the Brightness control icon, then tap to turn Night Shift on or off. Or,
- Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. You can schedule a time for Night Shift to turn on automatically and adjust the color temperature on the same screen.
On Android, this mode is called “Night Mode.” And here’s how to enable it on Android phones and tablets:
- Open the Settings app. Select Display > Night Light. You should now be able to activate Night Light mode, set times, and more.
Consider EMF Shielding Products
If none of the above options is feasible for you, and you absolutely need your phone to be turned on and close to your body while you sleep, you can consider purchasing an EMF radiation protection shield.
The SYB Picture Frame
Here at SYB, we offer the SYB Picture Frame, which is a great option to reduce your EMF exposure while you sleep. The SYB Picture Frame is designed to sit on your nightstand and offers EMF bedroom protection without interfering with your phone use!
Made right here in the USA, the SYB Picture Frame is exactly what it sounds like: an attractive 5×7”, semi-transparent picture frame. It’s light, portable, slim, self-supporting, and you can insert a picture onto each side of the frame.
Oh, and it shields you from EMF radiation at all times.
Just put your favorite photos in the frame, and place it on your nightstand. Then, when you’re ready to go to sleep, put your phone behind the frame. The frame will deflect your cell phone’s radiation away from your body while you sleep.
And because you put in your own favorite photographs, you won’t even know there’s a powerful EMF shielding device present, protecting you from harm.
Other Healthy Living Tips for Improved Sleep
We have dozens of tips on living a healthier life with less exposure to harmful EMF radiation.
If you’re looking for more ways to improve your sleep naturally, here are a few of our tips to help you get a better night of sleep.
SYB Healthy Living Tip #28: Turn Off Your WiFi at Night
WiFi routers are a relatively significant source of EMF radiation exposure in many homes. And most people keep their routers on 24 hours a day – leading to a significant level of cumulative non-stop exposure. So, one way to drastically reduce your EMF exposure is to turn off your WiFi router at night.
SYB Healthy Living Tip #23: Keep All Electronics (Not Just Cell Phones) Out of the Bedroom
Your bedroom should be a peaceful and serene area. After all, sleep is crucial for your overall health. That’s why it’s so important to keep electronics out of your bedroom – they can be an unnecessary distraction that disrupts your sleep habits.
SYB Healthy Living Tip #32: Don’t Sleep on a Metal Coil Mattress
EMF exposure can come from many sources throughout your home, such as your cellphone and tablet. But did you know that your box spring or mattress can expose you to EMF radiation? It’s like laying on a radiation antenna!
Cutting your exposure to your phone’s EMF emissions while you sleep may seem insignificant, but it makes a huge difference. Doing this will reduce your risk of multiple adverse health effects – from relatively minor ones like sleep disruption all the way up to cancer and infertility.
Though a significant hazard, EMF isn’t the only risk that comes with modern technology. This is why we recommend taking a holistic approach when it comes to making technology safer for you and your loved ones.
Listen to the “The Healthier Tech Podcast” to learn more about using modern technology in a way that benefits you without facing the physical and mental health effects that tag along.