Is your microwave the reason you are tossing and turning all night? It could be, along with your cellphone, Bluetooth radio, electrical wires, and electronics. And not in the way you may think.
We’ve all heard the advice from sleep experts - put your phone away before bed because the blue light will disrupt your sleep. Well, technology could be impacting your sleep quality in other ways as well. Because of something called EMF you may experience persistent sleep troubles.
So, what is this ominous “EMF”? It stands for electromagnetic fields. They are invisible energy waves given off by everyday electronics, medical devices and the sun.
The sun’s EMF are so strong, if you were to look at it you may see EMFs radiating out (though it is advised not to look directly at it). Electromagnetic fields are all around you, but unlike the sun, you won’t see them. Power lines, indoor lighting, cellphones, microwaves, WIFI, computers, and medical devices like X-rays and MRIs give off EMFs. They surround us. About 87% of the world uses electricity, meaning there are EMFs nearly everywhere.
Although most of us are blissfully unaware and unaffected by these EMFs, there are some who are troubled by them. Especially when they can’t sleep at night despite laying on their supportive buckwheat pillow. Generally speaking, EMF exposure is considered safe at low levels, though some people are more sensitive than others.
We’ve answered some frequently asked questions below to tell you everything you need to know about EMF and how it affects your health and sleep quality.
Is EMF exposure harmful?
Once people learn about the constant radiation surrounding them, the first question they ask is if it’s safe or not. There is a substantial amount of research on the topic, and although the general consensus is that it’s safe, there are still some scientists who aren’t convinced.
There are two types of EMF exposure; low-level and high-level radiation. Low-level radiation, also known as non-ionizing radiation, is what you will find in your household items like microwaves, cellphones, and power lines. High-level radiation, also known as ionizing radiation, is the ultraviolet rays from the sun, X-rays, and MRIs. The further you are from the object, the fewer waves you are exposed to.
If you’ve ever been told not to stand too close to the microwave or not to keep your cellphone in your pocket – this is where that advice stems from. There are several studies that have looked at the link between cancer and EMF. The most notorious study was conducted in 2000 and looked at cancer rates and cellphone use in 5000 individuals. Their results discovered a slight connection between a type of brain cancer known as glioma and EMF. They found that this cancer was present more often on the same side of the head people held their phones. That said, this connection wasn’t strong enough to conclude that EMF from cellphone use had caused the cancer.
EMFs are measured by volts per meter (V/m), and it is believed that the higher the exposure, the more likely you could experience symptoms of EMF exposure.
What are the symptoms of EMF exposure?
Some believe that EMF, specifically high levels, can impact your nervous system and even cause cell damage. Although a formal diagnosis is rare, reports have cited individuals experiencing the following symptoms:
- Weight loss and a loss of appetite
- Memory difficulties
- Difficulty focusing
- Feelings of skin burning or tingling
- Increased fatigues
- A painful, itchy feeling known as dysesthesia
- Sleep disturbances
Does EMF affect sleep quality?
It may. As mentioned above, sleep disturbances and insomnia could occur. With very high levels of EMF exposure, you could find yourself tossing and turning on your millet pillow all night. Some studies have found that even low levels could impact sleep quality.
The disturbance in sleep is due to EMFs effect on melatonin production. Your pineal gland secretes melatonin which is what regulates your sleep-wake cycle. It is believed that your pineal gland interprets EMF as light, even when considered low-frequency. Because it sees it as light, it inhibits melatonin production, making you feel awake. Simply put, it has the same effect as looking at blue light before bed.
At the University of Melbourne, The Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering conducted a study on just this. The researchers concluded, “…the results show the significant of disruption of melatonin due to exposure to weak EMF’s which may possibly lead to long-term effects in humans.”
Another study investigated the effects of EMF of 0-60 Hz on melatonin synthesis in rats. The results of the study found that the rat's melatonin production had mildly increased when they were exposed to EMF. Further, they showed decreases in REM sleep when compared to the control group.
Yet another study found similar results when they looked at data from over 1000 humans and animals. The researchers were confident that even low-level EMF exposure significantly disrupted melatonin which could possibly lead to long-term health effects.
In sum, yes, EMF can affect the quality of your sleep, but it doesn’t appear to have the same effect on everyone. The research is inconclusive, and medical doctors rarely consider it when diagnosing sleep disorders. You can have EMF levels in your home and bedroom measured professionally or do it yourself with the proper tool. If you feel you are being exposed to high levels and that it may be disrupting your sleep, there are ways you can protect yourself.
How do I protect myself from EMF exposure?
Unless you go completely off-grid and stop using the internet and your phone, you will be exposed to some EMF. The EMF levels you are exposed to in your daily life, like cell phones and power lines, are considered very low. To reduce your risk, minimize the number of activities with high levels, such as X-rays or sun exposure.
That said, if you are sensitive or believe your sleep is being affected, you can make some modifications to your home. It is recommended to keep your cellphone out of your room and unplug your electronics at night.
If you need your phone because you use the alarm, turn it to airplane mode and turn off location services. If you can, turn the phone off. Many of us will plug in our phones beside our bed, leaving it to charge overnight. Doing this will increase your exposure. If you need to charge your phone, it is better to use a portable cell phone power bank. Another great way to reduce EMF, especially at night, is to turn your WIFI off. Some routers have timers that you can set so they will automatically shut off your electronics at night. You can also purchase special EMF switches that can make it easier to power down at night.
Consider the location of your bed and your bedding as well. Is your bed close to live wires or meters? If possible, use your breaker panel and turn off the power to our room. This will prevent you from having to unplug all of your electronics and makes it easier to flip the switch back on in the morning. There are also specific tools you can use to help. For example, an EMF protection bed canopy, sleeping bags, or earthing bedsheets. These provide your body with grounding frequencies to help counteract the EMF. There are also sleep pads available that create a static magnetic field using giant magnets to deflect the EMF in your home.
Another great option is to take a break and spend time camping or hiking in nature to reduce your exposure. There will likely still be some EMF present, but it will be significantly less. To further help you sleep at night, try a natural sleep aid and ensure you have a comfortable bed, complete with a millet pillow or buckwheat pillow. Having a pillow that supports your head and neck will prevent you from getting morning headaches and help you have a more restful sleep.
Over the past five years, a number of new products have been developed, claiming to offer protection against EMF. Everything from necklaces containing certain crystals to cell phone cases. Although they may work, there is still a lack of scientific research on some of these items.
More research needs to be done to fully understand the impact EMF has on our bodies and sleep. Although many studies show a relationship between EMF and the symptoms listed here, it is rarely enough to be considered a significant connection.
There is a lot we can’t see that can impact our quality of sleep! Sleep is a vital process that we need for our health and wellness, yet it doesn’t always come easy. If you are having trouble sleeping at night and don’t know why, try the tips listed here to reduce your EMF exposure, use a natural sleep aid and a buckwheat hulls pillow.