It’s all about convenience and increased connectivity these days. Whatever you need, technology will have or do it for you. There’s no question as to how it has made our lives easier – but is it without negative health effects?
Let’s talk about how these technologies come about to understand how they’re affecting our well-being in ways we don’t notice.
The How: EMFs
The most ubiquitous of technologies – smartphones, WiFi, and home appliances – exist through Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs). These are invisible areas of energy that are either natural or man-made. When particles (electrons and protons) are charged, they create an electric field. Think wired electrical appliances. When these charged particles are in motion, they form a magnetic field. Examples are power lines and cell towers.
The higher the frequency of EMFs, the higher the energy, and the greater the potential biological effects.
Types of EMF
High-frequency EMFs/Ionising Radiation. These include ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and gamma rays. Being exposed to these is highly dangerous for continuous periods and can cause damage almost immediately – like exposing your skin to the harmful rays of the sun.
Low-frequency EMFs/Non-ionising Radiation. This encompasses the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to microwaves. This type of radiation supposedly doesn’t have adverse effects on human health, but some research has stated otherwise.
What Does Research Say About the Harmfulness of Low-Frequency EMFs?
While there isn’t black and white conclusive scientific evidence pointing to the gravity of the harmfulness of low-frequency EMFs, we cannot undermine laboratory studies that are consistent with claims about LF-EMFs having negative effects on the body.
Dr Martin Pall, PhD from Washington State University, was able to trace effects on the cellular level. He says continuous exposure to low-level radiation can have significant effects on our bodies before we even notice it.
We know that humans are also electrical beings – each cell has to connect through tiny electrical signals. According to Pall, our cells have mechanisms that detect LF-EMFs as outsiders thereby causing it to produce a stress response. This, in turn, can trigger a chain of chemical reactions that could result in possible cellular damage.
This stress response is manifested in headaches, dizziness, fatigue, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, and even itchy skin. In worst cases, studies have linked chronic low-frequency EMF exposure to anxiety, depression, and heart problems, thereby affecting overall sleep patterns. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that radiofrequency EMFs are possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Can EMFs Really Affect Sleep?
According to a study on the effect of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic field exposure on sleep quality, there is a positive correlation between occupational exposures to ELF electromagnetic fields and sleep quality score. This means that the impact of the fields on sleep quality cannot be ruled out. Findings indicated that weak electromagnetic fields can have biological effects.
The pineal gland secretes melatonin mainly to regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm. It’s also a powerful antioxidant for battling cancer, mental health disorders, and aging among others. However, EMF radiation is known to reduce the production of melatonin because it tends to see it as light thereby inhibiting melatonin production and eventually affecting the quality of sleep. In addition, it is attracted to blue light – just the thing our smartphones emit!
So, it’s possible that the pineal gland can detect these EMFs as light and not be able to carry out its normal production of melatonin. This makes us vulnerable not only to sleeping disorders but to other diseases its antioxidant properties protect us from.
In conclusion, daily occupational EMF exposure is positively associated with poor sleep quality. Rather than sleep duration, it is implied that EMF exposure may damage human sleep quality.
Common types of electronics we use before bedtime that can be avoided:
- Cell Phones emit a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation on body tissues that are near it. Constant usage of phones around bedtime will keep reducing melatonin, even in rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep), causing sleep time to be disrupted.
- Electrical Devices include TVs, stereos, and air conditioners. These wired, electrical devices emit strong electrical fields. According to Dr. Guy Meadows of the Sleep School, sleeping with the TV on can lead to depression. With these devices, we will have a hard time reaching our deep level of sleep which could lead to poor moods and a compromised immune system.
- WiFi is a common contributor to electromagnetic radiation. It continues to run throughout the house so it’s better to keep a distance from devices that are connected to wifi. Turning on airplane mode on your phone will reduce the EMF, so the effect will be minimal.
It’s Time to Lower your EMF Exposure
You’re probably most exposed to LF-EMFs in your bedroom. Your power outlets are all used, TVs there, smartphones, WiFi routers – you name it. And this is where you want EMF exposure at its very least because you need SLEEP.
Learn from a few tips to help you lower EMF exposure:
1. When possible, use fibre optics and not WiFi. It’s a more energy-efficient option that gives you internet access through FIBRE. No EMFs are involved here.
2. If fibre isn’t available yet, turn off your WiFi router at night instead. You can try the wired option, too (Ethernet).
3. Be wise with smartphone usage. Try to distance it a bit from you whenever you can. Try calling through a loudspeaker, or by using wireless earphones. Some mobile phone manuals even include warnings to stay a certain measurement away from your phone (e.g., 5-15mm).
4. If your bed is near a power outlet, move it so you’re not directly near it.
5. Locate your smart meter – these also use radiofrequency/wireless radiation. If it’s too near your bedroom, you might want to consider getting a cover for radiation protection.
The issue linking low-frequency EMFs to sleep disorders and other illnesses is still an ongoing debate. However, we can’t invalidate the fact that people still claim to go through some effects of exposure. Public health is of utmost importance and it’s good to be aware of these studies. At this point, we only know that it can potentially be harmful.
For now, let’s take a few steps in protecting ourselves from potential harm – especially if you experience symptoms – while we wait for scientists to clarify this issue once and for all.