Mobile Phones And Sleep Patterns

[BPSDB]In my last post I commented on the METRO quoting Philip Weeks as claiming that there was American research showing that having a mobile phone by ones bed disrupted sleep patterns. There was no reference given in either the print or online versions of the articles so I requested them from Weeks.

He emailed me last week saying that the research was “The Effects of 884 MHz GSM Wireless Communication Signals on Self-reported Symptom and Sleep (EEG)- An Experimental Provocation Study.”
PIERS Online Vol. 3 No. 7 2007 pp: 1148-1150.
Bengt B. Arnetz, Torbjorn Akerstedt, Lena Hillert, Arne Lowden, Niels Kuster, and Clairy Wiholm.

He further said it no longer appears to be online.

The full article does not in fact appear to be online as Philip Weeks warned me but the abstract is here.

It should be noted that this is a provocation study, not a study of having a mobile phone by the bed. This might be a meaningless quibble if the signals the subjects were exposed to were the same as they would receive from a mobile phone but they are not. According to the abstract theey were exposed to an average of 1.4 watts per kilogram. According to this handheld sets produce 0.75 to 1 watt so a 50kg teenager using one would be exposed to 15 to 20 milliwatts per kilogram – ie between 1 and 1.4% of the exposure received by the test subjects – so the reporting of headaches etc by the test subjects tell us nothing about the health effects of mobile phone use.

Even given the strength of the signals to which the test-subjects were exposed:

subjects were not able to detect the true exposure status more often than would have been expected by statistical chance alone

Weeks did give me this online reference to the research. It is an article from the Independent from 2008. This is a classic example of ‘churnalism’ where the press take their stories from each other without bothering to check the basic facts. A casual reader could not be blamed for believing that the METRO story confirms the Independent story but a few minutes investigation confirmed that it does nothing of the kind because it is the same story repackaged.

Furthermore, despite the scare heading “mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep”, the story suggests nothing of the kind as it discusses the fact that mobile phone use at night will disrupt a teenagers sleep. It will because said teenager will be awake having a conversation, not sleeping. Reading a book by torchlight under the covers (as I used to do when I were a lad) also disrupts sleep but I don’t recall anyone claiming the sleep disruption was caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the torch.

To any parents of teenagers who are still worried, this worked for me; if you overhear your teenager using his/her phone at night, bang on the door and shout “Turn that thing off and go to sleep or I’ll take it off you!” I guarantee normal sleep patterns will be restored.

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7 Responses to “Mobile Phones And Sleep Patterns”

  1. Tweets that mention Mobile Phones And Sleep Patterns « Letting Off Steam -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James and Press Not Sorry, Tim Ponting. Tim Ponting said: Mobile Phones And Sleep Patterns « Letting Off Steam: Mobile Phones And Sleep Patterns. By jaycueaitch. [BPSDB]I… […]

  2. Zeno Says:

    According to this handheld sets produce 0.75 to 1 watt so a 50kg teenager using one would be exposed to 15 to 20 milliwatts per kilogram

    Surely it’s even less than that? The 1 W is the total transmitted isotropically. A human would only be exposed to a small fraction of that, probably at most 1%, depending on the separation distance.

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      Good point. Even if the antenna was pressed right against the user’s head s/he would receive only 50% of the stated 0.75 to 1W. Actual usage would result in a much lower dosage than this. Which emphasises my point that mobile phone signal exposure is at least two orders of magnitude smaller than the dosage received by the test subjects.

  3. A Third Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    […] Letting Off Steam Venting my anger at the woos « Mobile Phones And Sleep Patterns […]

  4. Veronica Says:

    I find it entertaining when people who know absolutely nothing about the technology write irresponsible things like this. If you had a teenager who was having sleep disruptions and possible a whole slew of other things like heart palpitations, nausea and dizzy spells, I bet you would do some very serious research, and then you would be writing a whole different blog about Mobile Phones & Sleep Patterns” It might instead be called. “Use Your Common Sense People, The Technology Uses Microwave Radiation… Hmmm Of Course It Is Going To Have A Biological Effect… Duh” Your flashlight under your blanky is as comparable to a cell phone as a Qtip to a Drill.

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      If a teenager had “heart palpitations, nausea and dizzy spells” I’d be suspecting drug abuse, quite frankly.

      And my point about reading under the bedclothes was that it was staying awake that caused the sleep disruption. Similarly, teenagers who stay awake at night talking to their friends will have disrupted sleep. Teenagers who use their phones during the day only do not have disrupted sleep.

    • Zeno Says:


      Do you know if the Microwave Radiation is ionising or not?

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