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What danger does sleeping with a phone under your pillow pose to you?

Photo Credit: Wakingtimes.com 5 mins read

Claim: Sleeping with one’s phone under the pillow is dangerous to one’s health.

There is no medical evidence to prove that sleeping with a phone under a pillow is dangerous to one’s health. But it is advisable not to do so.

Full Text

The usual practice for most people, especially youths who fiddle with their phones the most, is to sleep with it close to them, especially underneath their pillows. This is because it aids easy access to the phone and enables them to hear when it rings.

However, an article by Pulseng recently was posted online on the reasons why one should not sleep with a phone under the pillow. The article is tagged “Why sleeping with one’s phone in bed can affect one’s health.”

And as such, people have now reacted to it, saying that sleeping with one’s phone under the pillow is dangerous.

Screenshot of the article

According to the article, sleeping with your phone near you can be harmful for your bodily functions and tends to limit the production of many significant hormones. It could even damage one’s brain.

The article advocates that it is better to place the phone several feet away from one’s bed if it is not going to be switched off.

Some Twitter users SG(@sgxphotos) and Redheaddevilchild (@redheaddevilch1) have reacted to the claim in different posts.

Screenshot of a Twitter post

So, is it then true that sleeping with one’s phone under the pillow is hazardous to one’s health?

Verification

This researcher discovered that this question has been raised a couple of times, especially on Quora, an American question and answer website.

A user of the website identified as Owen Saltvold while answering the question, said it is completely safe for one’s brain and health to leave the phone close when one sleeps.

Screenshot of the Quora post

While another user  Lieselotte Laura said putting her phone close to her head for use as an alarm clock caused her headache and as such that practice is not safe at all.

Screenshot of the second Quora post

This researcher also discovered a video on Facebook that spells the danger of sleeping with one’s phone underneath the pillow and it has so far garnered 226,000 views.

According to an IT education website Technopedia, a mobile phone is a wireless handheld device that allows users to make and receive calls.

While the earliest generation of mobile phones can only make and receive calls, today’s mobile phones do a lot more, accommodating web browsers, games, cameras, video players, extra voice and data services.

A mobile phone typically operates on a cellular network, which is composed of cell sites scattered throughout cities and even villages. However, the cellular network used for mobile phones now called ‘smart phones’ has also evolved.

Every day, we’re swimming in a sea of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) produced by electrical appliances, power lines, wiring in buildings, and a heap of other technologies that are part of modern life. From the dishwasher and microwave oven in the kitchen and the clock radio next to your bed to the cellular phone you hold to your ear—sometimes for hours each day—exposure to EMR is growing and is said to be becoming a serious health threat.

For some, it is the EMR from cellular phones–both the radiation from the handsets and from the tower-based antennas carrying the signals, which some studies have linked to development of brain tumours, genetic damage, and other exposure-related conditions.

Mobile phones are low-powered radio frequency transmitters, operating at frequencies between 450 and 2700 MHz with peak powers in the range of 0.1 to 2 watts. The handset only transmits power when it is turned on. The power (and hence the radiofrequency exposure to a user) falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the handset. 

A person using a mobile phone 30–40 cm away from their body – for example when text messaging, accessing the Internet, or using a “hands-free” device – will therefore have a much lower exposure to radiofrequency fields than someone holding the handset against their head.

A Consultant Radiologist with the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo (UNIMED), Dr Femi Akindeju, said it has not necessarily been proven that sleeping with a phone underneath a pillow is dangerous to one’s health, adding that phones however emit low radio waves that have little or no effect on one’s health.

He said, “when it comes to physics, phones use radio waves and in electromagnetic waves, we have so many in the spectrum, some with very low energy and others with very high energy and we know that all these smartphones use radio waves, but they are in the lower chain of the spectrum and to a large extent this shows that it has very low energy unlike those with high energy like X-ray and gamma ray.”

“The thing with electromagnetic waves is that it has the potential of causing Ionization, especially if it has high energy. However, radio waves do not have such power or effect as the energy is not enough so as to cause ionization of the cells. 

“I would however discourage the long exposure of people to their phones, but as for sleeping with phones under a pillow, I won’t actually say it is dangerous, because the length of time one will have to be in contact with one can usually not be reached as far as radio wave is concerned,” he said.

A radiographer with the University College Hospital (UCH), Dr Taiwo Orimogunje, said that sleeping with a phone under a pillow is dangerous.

Dr Orimogunje said “well, it’s been known that gadgets like mobile phones do emit some radiation, and this could readily affect one’s brain, especially children. It has also been said to cause tumours in the brain and so it is a risk factor for the development of some brain tumours like Meningioma which is a tumour that covers the brain and spinal cord just inside the skull.”

Meanwhile, a Consultant Neurologist, Dr Taofik Sunmonu with the Federal Medical Center (FMC), Owo, Ondo state, said there is no evidence to support such claims, adding that it is just what people have come to believe over time.

“We have been hearing about this claim before now, and this is due to the radiation which emits from the phones and other gadgets but the quantity varies. And it is also believed that if the phone is too close to a person for too long, then the amount of radiation will be different and could be dangerous- but that is basically what we know for now.”

“However, it is not the best practice to put phones close to one’s head, because anything that emits radiation over time can damage tissues in the body and as such when you want to sleep, it is better to put your phones away from you” he said.

Conclusion

Although there is no evidence to prove medically if indeed sleeping with a phone under a pillow is dangerous to one’s health, it has been proven that phones do emit a level of radiation. So, it is, therefore, advised that users prevent prolonged usage of the phone and always keep the phones away from themselves when going to bed.

The researcher produced this fact check article per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Crest FM to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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