This article was written for those of you out there who, despite trying “everything” to help improve your sleep, still find yourself having significant problems with insomnia (aka “sucky sleep”). I’m here to give you something else to try, something you have likely not tried before, and that I have had quite a bit of success with my patients with.
I run into people all the time who have sucky sleep patterns. Poor health and bad sleep spend a lot of time together, apparently. If you don’t know why sleep is necessary and important, please consult your nearby Google Machine or the past 180D articles on the topic. For this article, I’m talking to you if your time in bed looks like any of these:
- “Shallow” sleep interrupted by many small, short awakenings through the night.
- Not falling asleep at all until the wee hours of the morning, only then finally falling asleep due to sheer exhaustion.
- A common feature of both scenarios above involves never feeling well rested, despite being in bed for 8 hours or more.
Put simply, this fix involves cleaning up your bedroom area at night of excessive radiofrequency radiation (RFR) sources, as emitted by cell/smart phones and wireless internet toys. One little part involves other electromagnetic frequency (EMF) sources around your bed, not technically RFR, but related.
I’m not going to go into some big rant about how research is demonstrating that RFR causes health issues at what are considered “normal” exposure levels (I counted 135 studies in that linked doc, with 10 specific mentions of sleep disturbance). It is, and more research is coming out every day. A great summary of the concerns about RFR, including some pertinent research, has been done by the Environmental Working Group. At least read that one to get a handle on what you aren’t being told about your gadgets by the alphabet-soup agencies in charge of the stuff.
Maybe you don’t want to think about the possibility that your laptop or tablet is basically microwaving your reproductive organs, because you like your electronic toys, and damn anyone who tries to take them away from you! That’s fine, relax. For some people though, a good night’s sleep might be worth looking into some small changes.
Now we are going to go into how to facilitate this fix. It’s fairly simple, free, and only requires a bit of your time. It’s something that you try for 3 nights in a row and observe whether it works for you or not. If it doesn’t help, then continue looking elsewhere for the answer (it’s not my only trick in the sleep-trick-bag, either).
The gist is that we want to eliminate or maximize the distance between you and sources of RFR while you are in bed trying to sleep. An important thing to know is the other common terms we use for RFR-emitting devices: Wi-Fi, wireless, cellular, cordless, and DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications).
For those of you who are impatient and tend towards TL;DR, here’s the minimalist version of what to do before you hit the sack:
- If you sleep with your cell/smart phone in your room, either turn it on Airplane Mode while you sleep (that way itstops transmitting RFR and you can still use it as an alarm), or if you must leave it on, move it as far away from your sleeping area as you are willing (just turn up the ringer volume if you need to).
- If there is anything plugged in to the wall (including alarm clocks and cell/smart phone charger) within 6 feet of your head—this includes the entire cord and the item itself—move it so it is not within a 6 foot radius of your head while you are laying in bed.
Those two things above are the biggest bang-for-the-buck items. For those of you who either want to go whole hog with this the first time, or notice that the above helped your sleep, the following can help even more:
- Disable the RFR signals coming out of your modem/router, cordless phone, and anything else wireless-capable in your bedroom (or whole house, if you are so inclined). If you can get a Wi-Fi signal on your computer or use the cordless phone in your bedroom, then this could be affecting you. Not sure how to do this or think you can’t? Read on, I’ll tell you where to look. I try to give multiple options so that you can find something that will work for you (or your stubborn spouse, roommate, whatever).
The following are expansions on the above topics.
Cellular/smart phone. Many people (try to) sleep with their phone sitting on their nightstand, within a couple feet of their head. Your phone is constantly “pinging” base stations to check in, so just because you aren’t getting any calls/texts/emails doesn’t mean it isn’t working all night. I realize that many people don’t have land lines any more and feel the need to leave their phone on 24/7/365. Those folks should use option #2.
- Turn your phone to “Airplane Mode”. This stops all sending/receiving/RFR capabilities of your phone (this means your phone WILL NOT ring if someone calls you, so be aware). This setting allows you to continue using your phone as an alarm on your nightstand if necessary, while eliminating the RFR issue. Simply turning your phone “OFF” does not necessarily mean it stops sending/receiving. Seriously.
- If you are not comfortable with turning your phone to Airplane Mode, then the next best option is to move it as far away from your bed (particularly your head) as possible while you are sleeping. A minimum distance would be 6 feet, and more is definitely better. Simply turn up the ringer volume accordingly so you would be able to hear a call or alarm. This is not as beneficial as option #1.
Wireless modem/router. The “wireless” signal needs to be turned off. This can be done in several ways. If you can get a Wi-Fi signal to use laptops/tablets/whatever in your bedroom, then this could be affecting your sleep.
- The simplest way is to unplug the modem or router power cord while you are sleeping, and plug it back in when you wake up (or when you need to use the computer again).
- You could turn off the wireless function of the modem through your computer. This allows your modem to continue sending/receiving data through the hard line. To do this, google the make/model of your modem along with the words “turn wireless off”. That should give you instructions. I’ve never owned a router, and I’m no computer geek, so you’re on your own with that one. The unplug solution is guaranteed though! Be aware that some modems will turn the wireless function back on again when they auto-download updates. Again, the unplug solution stops that problem from occurring.
- If you know or suspect someone nearby has a modem/router close to where you sleep (on the other side of an apartment wall, for example), your only option is distance. Moving your bed or sleeping with your head at the other end of the bed are some ideas you could try.
Cordless (DECT) landline phones:
- The main base station of a cordless (DECT) phone is the major source of RFR—similar to a Wi-Fi modem or router—and that it constantly emits a high amount of EMF in a circular “cloud” around it. For the vast majority of cordless phones, the only solution is to unplug the main base station at night. The “extra” phone handsets and their bases are not an issue if the main base is unplugged.
Believe it or not, I won’t be losing any sleep over it. An interesting anecdote to wrap up…a patient of mine recently did a sleep study. He was told by the person doing the sleep study for him that it was obvious in the readings if there were any electronic items nearby the subject. That blew my mind.