EMFs And Sleep: How Electromagnetic Radiation Affects Your Brain (2023)

Our ancestors would have never imagined the amount of everyday convenience today. Hungry in the middle of the night? There's no need to wait for daybreak when it's safe to go out and hunt for food; there's a slew of food delivery apps on your mobile phone that'll guarantee a piping hot meal in an hour–or less. The drastic technological advancements humanity has made in the past century have undoubtedly made life more convenient and enjoyable. But… There’s a worrying aspect to this modern-life convenience. Some experts believe that all the gadgets that make our lives easier may be making us sick. And it's all due to the stream of invisible waves–otherwise known as electromagnetic fields (EMFs)–they emit.

Admittedly, the concern about the effects of EMFs isn't a new thing. Researchers have been looking into EMFs exposure's safety since the 1970s when a study indicated a possible relationship between living near high-voltage power lines and childhood leukemia (1). Even though recent studies have shown a weak link between the two, many people are still apprehensive about EMFs’ influence on health–mainly since we're now living in an era where our exposure is higher than ever (2, 3, 4). Are they right? Should you be concerned about your EMF exposure? Let’s explore.

First Things First, What Is EMF?

EMFs And Sleep: How Electromagnetic Radiation Affects Your Brain (1)

To understand what EMF is, you first need to understand its 2 separate components: electric and magnetic fields. An electric field is produced by voltage; you can think of this as the pressure used to push electrons through a wire (much like water being pushed through a pipe) (5). An electric field's strength scales proportionately with the increase in voltage. On the contrary, a magnetic field results from the flow of current through wires or electric devices and increases in strength as the current increases (6, 7). That said, its strength decreases rapidly with increasing distance from its source.

Now, finally, the definition you’ve been waiting for with bated breath. Electric and magnetic fields, together, are defined as electromagnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs’ combination of electric and magnetic forces are caused by something known as electromagnetic radiation (8).

Major Sources Of EMFs In Everyday Life

Here’s something surprising. Not all EMFs are the same. For one, EMFs aren’t just a by-product of technology–the Earth creates them naturally, and human cells are known to use electromagnetic radiation to communicate with each other (9). But… Those aren’t EMFs sources you should be worried about. The ones that do pose a threat to your health are human-made EMFs (10). And these can be further broken down into 2 categories: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation.

Fields Of Ionizing Radiation

Fields of ionizing radiation have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies (11). These fields contain enough energy to break chemical bonds; worryingly, in the human body, high doses of ionizing radiation can lead to unstable atoms (i.e. free radicals) that cause oxidative damage. Worse still, studies have found evidence that these fields do increase cancer risk in low doses (12, 13). Examples of fields of ionizing radiation include X-rays and gamma rays. That said, as the risks of ionizing radiation are pretty well-known, the average individual is relatively protected against these fields (e.g. you'll get a lead apron when getting an X-ray or CT scan). This brings us fields of non-ionizing radiation.

Fields Of Non-Ionizing Radiation

Non-ionizing EMFs have longer wavelengths and lower frequencies (14, 15). Unlike ionizing EMFs, these fields do not have the energy to break chemical bonds. They are not known to damage DNA or cells directly. Although, as you'll see in just a bit, this still doesn't necessarily mean that they're safe. You can find common sources of non-ionizing EMFs in every corner of your house: your microwave oven, computer, house energy meter, Wi-Fi router, Bluetooth devices, power lines, and yes–cell phone.

How Does EMF Radiation Impact Health?

Because it’s well-established that ionizing EMFs are damaging to health, this section is solely going to focus on the discussion of non-ionizing EMFs’ health impacts.

Brain Tumor Risks

One of the greatest concerns scientists have is the increasing EMF exposure we're subjected to due to our cell phones. That's simply because of the mobile phone's proximity to the cranial nervous system in everyday life. Think about it: how do you call someone on your phone? You hold it right to your ear… Right? Worryingly, a 2007 epidemiological study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that using cell phones more than one hour a day for more than 10 years could increase the risk of brain tumors (16). Many other studies have also reported associations between mobile phone usage and brain tumors (17, 18, 19).

Neurological, Cognitive Disorders

As it turns out, the adverse effects of electromagnetic radiation on the brain aren’t limited to the manifestation of brain tumors, either; various studies have also shown that EMFs can cause various neurological effects related to sleep disturbances, including headaches, loss of memory, loss of concentration, and dizziness (20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25). But what is the relationship between EMF exposure (from your cell phone, for example) and sleep disturbance? While researchers aren't sure of the exact mechanism yet, they hypothesize that EMF exposure can mess with the brain's ability to stay in the slow-wave sleep stage–which, ultimately, impacts overall sleep quality (26).

Possible Eye Diseases

Remember how one of the major sources of EMF radiation is the microwave? Here's something that may shock you. Studies have suggested that your mobile phone carries the potential of heating your brain tissues–much like a microwave (27). Admittedly, some degree of temperature elevation in the brain can be lowered partially by blood circulation in the region, but this is not the case for tissues such as the human eye. And at exceptional risk is your cornea, for which there is no thermoregulatory system through blood circulation. Highlighting this is a 2003 study: when researchers exposed rabbit eyes to 2,450 MHz for 30 minutes, the lens increased in temperature, leading to cataracts (28).

Should You Be Concerned About Long-Term EMFs Exposure?

EMFs And Sleep: How Electromagnetic Radiation Affects Your Brain (2)

There's a lot that can be inferred from the International Agency for Research on Cancer's declaration of EMFs as possible human carcinogens (29). Ultimately, it appears that there is growing evidence of the adverse effects EMF exposure can bring about, including on sleep, brain tumor risks, and eye health.

Ways To Reduce Your Exposure To EMFs

And so, if you've been experiencing noticeable effects from EMF exposure (e.g. if you've noticed that your cell phone radiation disrupts your sleep), you may want to take a few precautionary measures to lower the amount you're subjected to daily.

Have Your Phone On Speaker If You Can

There's a slew of literature (that's increasing in number!) that shows the harmful effects of holding your mobile phone up to your ear. To reduce the risks of brain tumors and the possibility of overheated corneas, try to put your calls on speaker if you're able to. But if you're unable to do so, a good alternative would be to use a wireless earpiece. Or anything that enables you to have your call without holding your cell phone so close to your brain.

Set Your Mobile Phone To Airplane Mode When Sleeping

Notice that your mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep at night? Here's an easy solution. Set it to airplane mode right before you turn in for the night, so it's not emitting EMF radiation all night long; this is particularly crucial if you use your phone as an alarm clock and have it on your dressing table right beside your bed. Bonus tip: you can also choose to put your mobile phone on airplane mode whenever you do not need to stay in contact (e.g. during a commute or when enjoying a movie).

Invest In EMF-Blocking Sleep Gear

Of course, as mentioned earlier, your mobile phone is not the only source of EMF radiation. There’s also your power lines, Wi-Fi router, microwave, laptop, TV, and even power mains. Imaginably, setting your mobile phone to airplane mode will not provide you adequate protection against EMF while sleeping! Don't worry. You're not helpless against all the adverse health effects EMF radiation can cause. A great option available for you is that of EMF-blocking sleep gear. These are precisely what they sound like: bedroom products that'll help block electromagnetic fields.

Examples that'll help you get better quality sleep include the EMF-protection bed canopy and EMF-shielding sleeping bag. Oh, and avoid the sleep number and adjustable beds if you can–these types of plugged-in beds can emit high levels of EMFs. Just about the last thing you want!


While various government institutions' current consensus asserts that there is nothing to worry about, recent, emerging evidence suggests otherwise. Ultimately, it appears that electromagnetic radiation can indeed adversely impact your health–and particularly, your brain. So, it’d be wise for you to reduce your EMF exposure in your daily life whenever possible.

EMFs And Sleep: How Electromagnetic Radiation Affects Your Brain (3)


EMFs And Sleep: How Electromagnetic Radiation Affects Your Brain? ›

As it turns out, the adverse effects of electromagnetic radiation on the brain aren't limited to the manifestation of brain tumors, either; various studies have also shown that EMFs can cause various neurological effects related to sleep disturbances, including headaches, loss of memory, loss of concentration, and ...

How does EMF radiation affect the brain? ›

It has been found that RF-EMF can induce changes in central nervous system nerve cells, including neuronal cell apoptosis, changes in the function of the nerve myelin and ion channels; furthermore, RF-EMF act as a stress source in living creatures.

How does EMF radiation affect sleep? ›

How Can EMF Exposure Affect Sleep Quality? The main reason why EMFs can negatively affect our sleep quality is due to their interference with melatonin production in the body, namely disruptions in pineal melatonin production rhythm in the body, which are explored in the research papers here and here.

Can electromagnetic radiation cause brain damage? ›

According to many studies, RF-EMR exposure can induce the imbalance of amino acid neurotransmitters in various parts of the brain (9, 10). Neurotransmitters are synthesized by nerve cells and transported into the synaptic vesicles of presynaptic cells.

What are the symptoms of EMF sickness? ›

Sensitivity to EMF has been given the general name “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity” or EHS. It comprises nervous system symptoms like headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin symptoms like prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and many other health problems.

What are the side effects of EMF on humans? ›

Unlike high-energy (ionizing) radiation, EMFs in the non-ionizing part of the electromagnetic spectrum cannot damage DNA or cells directly. Some scientists have speculated that ELF-EMFs could cause cancer through other mechanisms, such as by reducing levels of the hormone melatonin.

What are the long term effects of EMF? ›

In that context, Hardell et al. suggested that long-term exposure to RF-EMF emitted by mobile phones may increase the risk of brain tumours, such as glioma and neuroma [6]. The morphological and biochemical alterations caused by RF-EMF exposures have been investigated in animal studies.

Can EMF radiation cause anxiety? ›

5. EMFs Increase Anxiety. Research clearly shows that radiation from wireless technology affects the autonomic nervous system and increases anxiety and stress. In particular, it can lead to neurotic disturbances by upregulating the sympathetic nervous and downregulating the parasympathetic nervous system (15, 17).

Does EMF cause memory loss? ›

12 recent occupational exposure assessments have found that people having occupational EMF exposures have higher Alzheimer's incidence. Some studies suggest that EMFs shorten the normal 25-year latency period of Alzheimer's disease.

Do cell phones emit EMF? ›

Is the radiation from cell phones harmful? Cell phones emit radiation in the radiofrequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Second-, third-, and fourth-generation cell phones (2G, 3G, 4G) emit radiofrequency in the frequency range of 0.7–2.7 GHz.

Does EMF affect mental health? ›

EMF exposure can cause neurobehavioral disorders, including circadian imbalance, headache, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Does EMF cause inflammation in the body? ›

EMFs can promote inflammatory state, increasing pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-α [25, 53, 54].

Is wifi router radiation harmful? ›

Health effects of Wi-Fi

There are no health risks from exposure to radiofrequency EMF from Wi-Fi devices in your home, in schools or other areas accessible to the public. These devices must meet standards to ensure they do not exceed radiofrequency EMF exposure limits.

Does EMF affect immune system? ›

EMFs disturb immune function through stimulation of various allergic and inflammatory responses, as well as effects on tissue repair processes. Such disturbances increase the risks for various diseases, including cancer.

How do you block electromagnetic waves? ›

Typical materials used for electromagnetic shielding include thin layer of metal, sheet metal, metal screen, and metal foam. Common sheet metals for shielding include copper, brass, nickel, silver, steel, and tin.

Does Apple Watch have EMF radiation? ›

The Apple Watch emits EMF radiation, just like any other electronic device. However, the levels of EMF radiation emitted by the watch are relatively low.

Can EMF cause psychosis? ›

Thus, EMF induced alterations in circadian rhythms might result in fatigue or psychosis.

Does EMF cause fatigue? ›

Fatigue, headache, decreased learning ability, and cognitive impairment are among the symptoms caused by EMF.

Do WIFI waves affect your brain? ›

The brain is sensitive to wireless radiation exposure. Scientists consider the nervous system to be one of the primary systems impacted by wireless and electromagnetic radiation.

Can EMF cause alzheimers? ›

Research has shown the involvement of two pathways that lead to Alzheimer's disease. Each of the two pathways producing pathophysiological effects following EMF exposure are important in Alzheimer's causation: the excessive calcium signaling pathway and the peroxynitrite/oxidative stress/inflammation pathway.

Can EMF cause heart problems? ›

This hypothesis was first investigated in high line electrical workers and an increased risk was observed between EMF exposure and acute myocardial infarcts and arrhythmias; however, no increased risk was observed for chronic coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis (Savitz et al.).

How far away should your phone be when you sleep? ›

Keep your cell phone at least 3 feet away from your bed to limit radio frequency exposure. Turn your cell phone off before you go to bed (if you don't rely on your phone's alarm clock)

Is it bad to sleep next to your phone? ›

Sleep quality may suffer if you keep your phone close to your head while trying to slumber because it emits electromagnetic radiation. Additionally, the blue light that phone screens produce can interfere with your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.

How can I prevent phone radiation while sleeping? ›

Don't sleep with your phone in your bed or near your head.

Unless the phone is off or in airplane mode, keep it at least a few feet away from your bed.

Do magnetic fields affect sleep? ›

Furthermore, Burch et al reported that increasing geomagnetic activity with elevated 60 Hz MF is associated with reduced nocturnal excretion of a melatonin metabolite in humans, meaning that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) affect the brain and sleep.

Does EMF cause hormonal imbalance? ›

Many studies have shown that electromagnetic fields can have destructive effects on sex hormones, gonadal function, fetal development, and pregnancy.

Can EMF affect hormones? ›

Exposure to EMF can affect the polarization state of the cell membrane. Therefore, damage to the Leydig cells by EMF may lead to lower testosterone levels, thereby reducing the response of Leydig cells to the LH pulse.

Is it bad to sleep next to a wireless router? ›

' While the radiation from your router isn't necessarily dangerous, Isabella explains that it is still a source of EMF radiation that could cause restlessness. 'Turning WiFi off overnight will help ensure that you get an uninterrupted night's sleep and wake up feeling refreshed,' she says.

How far away from Wi-Fi router is safe to sleep? ›

While EMF emissions from different routers vary, for most home WiFi routers, a distance of 40 feet (ideally, or 10 feet at a minimum) will help your body and shouldn't impact your WiFi connection too much.

How far away should you be from a Wi-Fi router? ›

The industry standard will usually be the same as above, and people should plan for about 150 feet indoors and about 300 feet outside from most quality routers. This is still what you can expect without obstructions and other problems that can limit your coverage.

What are the effects of EMF on mental health? ›

People can experience a wide range of brain and mental health symptoms from these EMFs, including EEG changes, sleep disturbance/insomnia, depression, headache, tinnitus, brain fog, dizziness, listlessness, irritability, malaise, restlessness/anxiety, fatigue/tiredness, concentration/attention dysfunction, memory and ...

Can cell phone radiation cause brain damage? ›

Cell phones emit low levels of radio frequency energy, a type of non-ionizing radiation. The available scientific data on exposure to radio frequency energy show no categorical proof of any adverse biological effects other than tissue heating.

Can magnetic fields affect the brain? ›

So, applying a magnetic field will cause current to flow through the neurons and this can alter their activity. To alter the activity of neurons, the electric field must be strong enough to generate an electrical current in the neurons as well as in the synapses in between them [1].

Is it bad to sleep next to cell phone? ›

Is it bad to sleep with your phone beside you? Yes, usually speaking, it's not a good idea to sleep with your phone nearby. Sleep quality may suffer if you keep your phone close to your head while trying to slumber because it emits electromagnetic radiation.

Which phone has highest radiation? ›

It turns out that the smartphone that emits the most radiation is actually the Motorola Edge. If you look at it in terms of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), the Motorola Edge emits 1.79 watts of radiation per kilogram.


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