This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Is Sleeping In Close Proximity To Your Smartphone Bad For Your Health?

Woman sleeping in bed with smartphone in hand
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images
Woman sleeping in bed with smartphone in hand

We’ve all done it -- whether anxiously waiting on an overseas call or tracking your sleep with an app because you’re feeling #zen -- leaving your phone under your pillow while you kip is nothing new. Still, it begs the question -- just how bad is it for us?

A quick Google search will tell you there’s very little solid evidence to suggest smartphone usage is harmful to one’s health.

But what about when we’re sleeping in such close proximity to our device?

“While we haven’t found any functional or health consequences associated with sleeping next to your phone, what we can see is small changes in brain activity,” Dr Sarah Loughran from the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research told The Huffington Post Australia.

“The type of brain activity we’re seeing altered is what’s called the alpha and sleep spindle frequency ranges which occur in stage two sleep.”

“Sleep spindles are recurrent bursts of brain activity and are typically associated with memory consolidation,” she said.

Stage two sleep is the second stage of non-rem sleep and occurs not long after you’ve fallen asleep and continues, on and off, throughout the night.

That said, Loughran said there’ was nothing they could see that affected sleep quality, memory or general health from sleeping near your phone.

“We know that you’re getting electromagnetic field exposure when you’re on a phone call or texting -- and the way exposure works is through distance -- so, the closer you are to the device while it’s actively being used the more exposure you have.”

“When it’s not being used though, it will only give off a tiny amount of exposure intermittently -- of course not nearly as much as when you’re on a phone call -- and we haven’t found any evidence of this exposure being detrimental to one’s health,” she said.

What they have found though is that the light from our smartphones does affect sleep quality.

“The bright light and particularly blue wavelength light from smartphones can delay sleep onset,” she said.

“Exposure to this type of light can disrupt the body’s naturally occurring circadian rhythms (a daily rhythm your body goes through) and the way it does that is by suppressing the release of the hormone, melatonin, which is really important for the maintenance and regulation of our sleep and wake up patterns,” Loughran told HuffPost Australia.

The take away? Don't feel bad about sleeping with your phone under your pillow.

Do consciously make an effort to "switch off" at least an hour before bed. Put the phone down and cuddle with your partner. It's good for you. Promise.

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