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Sleeping Next to Your Phone Could Seriously Damage Your Health

by 
author image Leah Groth
Leah Groth is a writer and editor currently based in Philadelphia. She has covered topics such as entertainment, parenting, health & wellness for xoJane, Babble, Radar, Fit Pregnancy, Mommy Nearest, Living Healthy and PopDust.
Sleeping Next to Your Phone Could Seriously Damage Your Health
The radio frequency from your cellphone could be very hazardous to your health. Photo Credit: @natalie4160 via Twenty20

Bad news for those of us permanently attached to our cellphones (so pretty much all of us): Cuddling with your cellphone — or even sleeping with it on the nightstand next to you — could be hazardous to your health.

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The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) just issued some information and guidelines about cellphone safety, and what it reveals is pretty frightening. Because, honestly, who doesn’t at least have their phone on the nightstand, if not next to or underneath their pillow?

So what exactly is going on here? Well, cellphones emit radio frequency (RF) energy when they send and receive information from surrounding cell towers, and that RF may or may not be dangerous. Why the ambiguity? Well, since cellphones haven’t been around long enough, it’s difficult to determine the long-term repercussions of their use. As the CDPH explains, their danger is “still evolving.”

However, according to the guidelines, some studies have found that “long-term, high use of cellphones may be linked to certain types of cancer and other health effects.”

These “other health effects” include “brain cancer and tumors of the acoustic nerve (needed for hearing and balance) and salivary glands, lower sperm counts and inactive or less mobile sperm, headaches and effects on learning and memory, hearing, behavior and sleep.” So, yeah — potentially very dangerous.

Even though these links aren’t definitively proven yet, you may still want to reduce your exposure to RF, just to be on the safe side. That’s why the CDPH has issued the following recommendations:

Keep your phone away from your body: Even just a few feet will make a big difference. Use a Bluetooth headset as much as possible, send text messages instead of talking on the phone, keep the phone away from you while downloading or sending large files and carry your phone in a backpack or purse instead of a pocket, bra or belt holster.

Avoid using your cellphone when it’s sending out high levels of RF**:** This happens when only one or two bars of service are displayed (when your signal is weak), you’re in a fast-moving vehicle, you’re streaming audio or video or you’re downloading or sending large files.

Don’t sleep with your phone in your bed or near your head**:** Unless you switch it over to airplane mode, keep it at least a few feet away. Nope, no more sleeping with it under your pillow waiting for that call.

Take off the headset when you’re not on a call: Headsets release a small amount of RF even when you aren’t using your phone. So even though they’re better than holding the phone up to your head, you still want to limit RF exposure as much as possible.

Don’t rely on a “radiation shield” or other products claiming to block RF energy, electromagnetic fields or radiation from cellphones: According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, any product that interferes with the phone’s signal may make it work harder and possibly emit more RF energy in order to stay connected, which totally defeats their purpose.

The report also mentions that kids are at a greater risk than adults. Their brains and bodies are so much smaller and less developed that the same amount of RF will have a greater impact on them. Also, by the time they’re adults, they’ll have been exposed to more RF in their lifetime than those of us who haven’t been holding a smartphone since we were toddlers.

While there isn’t much research on the impact of RF on children, the few studies that have been done show that children or teens may suffer “hearing loss or ringing in the ears, headaches and decreased general well-being.” So it might be a good idea to keep cellphones away from your kids as long as possible.

Before you totally freak out and trade in your iPhone for a landline (you know, those old analog phones that people plugged into a jack?), keep in mind that the “science is still evolving.”

While more research is needed to identify short- and long-term health implications of cellphone use, exercise caution and common sense and try sleeping with your cellphone on the other side of the room.

Read more: The Scary Way Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by the potential health implications of cellphone use? Will you change the way you use your phone after this report? Have you noticed any personal health issues stemming from technology? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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