Beyond Convenience: The Hidden Risks of Sleeping with Your Phone


Updated January 24, 2024

Studies consistently highlight a concerning correlation between keeping your phone nearby and experiencing potential adverse effects on sleep quality. This pervasive habit, adopted by many, has drawn attention due to its potential repercussions on our nightly rest.

As we delve into the research findings, it becomes evident that the proximity of phones during bedtime may contribute to sleep disturbances, leading to greater daytime dysfunction. The detrimental impact extends beyond mere inconvenience, as studies underscore the link between smartphone use at bedtime and disrupted sleep cycles.

This blog post aims to unravel the intricate relationship between smartphone proximity and sleep quality, offering insights from reputable studies and our guide with actionable steps for readers to lead a healthier bedtime routine. 

How Your Phone Impacts Your Sleep and Health

Cell phones utilize radiofrequency radiation (RFR) for communication with cell towers, a form of electromagnetic radiation deemed non-ionizing by the FDA, generally considered safe for humans.

Despite this classification, recent studies suggest potential risks associated with prolonged RFR exposure, particularly during sleep beside your phone.

For instance, the 2018 report from the National Toxicology Programs presented compelling evidence of male rats exposed to RFR having an elevated risk of heart tumors.

While this doesn't conclusively establish a link between RFR and cancer in humans, it emphasizes the need for further research into the long-term risks. Consequently, some experts advocate limiting cell phone usage, especially at night, when the body is in a state of rest and repair.

However, rest and repair isn’t always possible for those individuals who are always on their cell phones for long periods of time.  Whether it be work related, or just scrolling through social media - there is a possibility that one can be addicted to their cell.  In fact, having your cell phone (and other personal electronics such as your tablets and laptops), are a growing problem affecting people of all ages. 

Recent studies have found that around 75% of children and 70% of adults use electronic devices in their bedroom or in the bed while 66% of Americans admit to sleeping with their phone at night. Using electronic devices at night has health implications that can come with that. Let’s expand on this further.

If you are using these devices before you go to bed - you are delaying the time you actually go to sleep, therefore, reducing your overall sleep duration, quantity and quality of your sleep.  Using the devices in bed affects the brain as well since your mind is being stimulated, and as a result it makes it harder for you to fall asleep. Not to mention the possibility of falling asleep with your phone in bed with you. You could even end up sleeping on your phone which could lead to higher exposure of radiation. Having your phone next to your head or touching your skin shortens the distance between you and the electromagnetic frequencies emitted from your phone which can lead to higher levels of radiation exposure

Public Helath Experts warn that doing this increases exposure to radiofrequency radiation as well as risk of headache, body pain and stress.  

How Your Cell Phone Impacts Your Sleep

We've all experienced it: that moment when fatigue sets in after a lengthy day, yet upon settling into bed, a racing mind impedes the journey to sleep.

In response, the instinct is to grab the phone, believing a few minutes of scrolling will offer relaxation and mental clarity before bedtime. However, this prevalent routine might jeopardize your sleep in various ways. Some examples include the following: 

  1. Disruption of Sleep Cycle: Having a cell phone nearby can disrupt your sleep cycle due to exposure to artificial light emitted from screens. This light inhibits melatonin production, a crucial sleep-regulating hormone, leading to difficulties falling asleep and poor sleep quality. Specifically, the blue light emitted by phone screens has a pronounced impact, suppressing melatonin production more than other types of light. This increased suppression, especially when exposed close to bedtime, can result in delayed onset of sleep and a negative impact on the overall quality of rest.
  2. Increased Sleep Disturbances: Placing a mobile phone near the pillow during sleep is linked to heightened sleep disturbances. Studies indicate a positive correlation between the proximity of the phone while sleeping and various sleep issues, including increased daytime sleepiness and overall poor sleep quality. The presence of incoming notifications, such as ringing or vibrating, demands attention and can disrupt sleep when the phone is near the head or pillow. To mitigate these disturbances, it is recommended to establish a designated window during the night when incoming notifications are silenced completely.
  3. Impact on Mental Stimulation: Sleeping with your phone can stimulate your mind, making it challenging to unwind before bedtime. Engaging with the phone, especially through activities like browsing or messaging, can keep your brain active, hindering the natural process of winding down for sleep. A study showed more than 98% of the respondents owned a smartphone, and nine out of ten use their smartphones at bedtime. Social media was the most used service among participants. An increase in bedtime smartphone use, especially more than 60 minutes makes participants at great risk of having poor sleep quality.
  4. The Psychological Impact: In addition to the physical effects of cell phone radiation and blue light, there are also psychological factors to consider. Psychology Today notes that the need to stay connected can lead to anxiety and stress, which can make it harder to relax and fall asleep. The constant notifications from social media and other apps can also be a distraction, making it difficult to disconnect from our devices and get the rest we need.

Sleeping With A Phone Near Your Head - How Does It Impact Your Health?

Sleeping with your phone near your head, under a pillow, or in bed poses potential risks to your sleep quality and overall safety. Research indicates a positive correlation between proximity to a mobile phone during sleep and poorer sleep quality along with increased daytime sleepiness. To enhance your sleep hygiene, it is advisable to maintain a safe distance between your phone and your head while sleeping.

Additionally, placing your phone under a pillow raises concerns about overheating, a risk acknowledged by phone companies in their user guides. The lack of ventilation under the pillow can lead to heat accumulation, potentially causing damage to the phone's battery or, in extreme cases, resulting in a fire hazard. 

When determining a safe distance from your cell phone while sleeping, various recommendations exist. The FCC suggests a minimum of 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) away from your body. Some experts advise keeping the phone at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) away from your face to reduce exposure to blue light, which can interfere with your sleep. Additionally, to limit exposure to radiofrequency energy, it's recommended to place the phone at least three feet away from your bed. 

Actionable Tips To Sleep Better Without Giving Up Your Phone Time

If you’re someone who is still unwilling to go without your cell phone overnight, there are still measures you can take to minimize your exposure to Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) and safeguard your sleep quality. Here is what we recommend:

  • Activate your phone's airplane mode to deactivate wireless signals emitting RFR. By doing so, you'll avoid receiving calls or notifications, diminishing the likelihood of abrupt awakenings and promoting an uninterrupted night's sleep.
  • If your phone serves as your alarm clock, consider placing it a few feet away from your bed to create distance while sleeping. This practice not only prevents direct proximity but also discourages using the phone in the hour leading up to bedtime. This intentional break allows you to unwind and enables your body's natural melatonin production to take effect.
  • Designate a specific area in your bedroom where electronic devices, including phones, are not allowed. This helps in disconnecting from technology and fostering a sleep-friendly environment.
  • Turn off notifications or put your phone on silent mode to avoid distractions.
  • Use apps that block blue light or adjust the color temperature of your screen to reduce the impact of blue light. There are even blue light blocking screen protectors that protect you from blue light exposure and shield your phone screen from scratches and cracks. Blue light blocking glasses are also an option to protect your eyes.
  • Set screen time limits or use features that help you track your usage and reduce overall screen time. Minimize the use of all electronic devices, including phones, for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • If you frequently fall asleep with your cell phone and are unwilling to part with screen time before bed, consider using a SafeSleeve phone case to protect yourself from Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) exposure. SafeSleeve cases are designed to shield users from potential harm while preserving the convenience of phone usage. Engineered with materials that act as a barrier against EMF radiation, these cases effectively block excessive exposure, promoting a safer sleep environment.

Slumbering with your mobile device in close proximity is not advisable if you aim to safeguard your well-being and enjoy a restful night's sleep. Despite the incomplete comprehension of the potential hazards posed by cell phone radiation and blue light, it is evident that prolonged exposure to these elements may disrupt both sleep quality and overall health. Embracing the recommended strategies mentioned earlier allows you to diminish your vulnerability to cell phone radiation, fostering improved sleep practices and contributing to a more wholesome and joyful life.