Electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, are invisible areas of force around electricity that is flowing. EMFs are produced by power lines, transformers, electric wiring (especially where power comes into the building), televisions, radios, computers, cell phones, telephones with adapters, cordless phones, electric blankets, waterbeds, fluorescent lights, microwave ovens, airport and military radar, and so forth.

Electromagnetic fields are not always artificial. there is a natural field of the earth that results from earth radiation, and the body has an electromagnetic energy field of its own, transmitting about 3 volts of electricity (about half the energy of a night light).

These natural fields are not the problem. In human beings, complications arising out of continuous EMF exposure are known as electro hypersensitivity [EHS]. If you have insomnia (can’t sleep for 6 hours at a go), it might be the man-made EMFs that are interfering with your sleep.

How Can EMFs Affect the Body?

There are a number of studies that have been done regarding health and EMFs, with their resulting theories. To read about some of these studies, see the links at the end of the article.

Nerves, hearts and various biological processes in living organisms work on electrical impulses. It makes sense that electricity could affect these processes.

Our brain wave frequencies range between 0.5Hz and 30Hz (Hz is short for Hertz, or cycles per second), depending on whether we are relaxed or mentally active. The electrical grids produced by electric companies in most countries of the world run on a 50 cycle current, and those in the United States on a 60 cycle one. So, right away, the ubiquitous electrical currents are not in sync with our bodies.

Specifically related to sleep, some studies have shown that EMFs reduce the nocturnal emission of the hormone melatonin in the pineal gland. Melatonin causes drowsiness and lowers body temperature to help induce sleep. In further studies, when the EMFs were reduced or eliminated, the levels of nocturnal melatonin increased five to fifteen times.  (Studies by Anderson 1990, Wilson 1986).

High levels of electromagnetic frequencies have acted as one of the stresses of modern civilization. The adrenal glands, in reaction to stress, release the hormones cortisone and adrenaline, which can lead to adrenal exhaustion.

Since EMFs are present in all modern buildings, or any with electrical wiring, one could wonder if they contribute to Sick Building Syndrome.

Over the years since the introduction of electricity, power quality has deteriorated and more variable electromagnetic fields are produced. If electricity can be likened to water flowing in a pipe, then visualize an incandescent light bulb as an open tap allowing a constant rate of water to flow into the sink. Computers, on the other hand, use power in variable amount, analogous to turning the tap on and off repetitively, causing water pipes to clang.  This variability in the fields is unpredictable, not rhythmical and therefore difficult for our bodies to adapt to.

What To Do For Better Sleep:

It is chronic exposure that is of greatest concern when it comes to all kinds of toxic influences. Since we are asleep one-third of the time, we are vulnerable to chronic exposure during that time. Here are some of the EPA’s guidelines for “prudent avoidance” of EMFs, as related to sleep:

  • Measure your home environment with an EMF meter , both inside and outside. Avoid areas where the field is above 1 mG.  (The EPA has proposed a safety standard of 1 mG. Sweden has set a maximum safety limit of 1 mG.) Measure appliances when both on and off. Some appliances, such as televisions, are still drawing current when off. If anything in your bedroom is like that, unplug it at night.
  • Don’t sleep under an electric blanket, with an electrical heating pad, or on a waterbed. If you must have them, unplug them before sleep. When turned on, electric bedding devices create a magnetic field that penetrates about 6 –7 inches into the body. When merely turned off, there may still be a strong electric field.
  • If you watch TV at night, stay at least 6 ft. away, or use an EMF meter to determine the safest distance.
  • If there is a computer, TV, refrigerator, or other electric appliance in a room outside your bedroom, do not locate it on a wall shared with the bedroom, since fields do radiate from all sides of the computer and they do go through walls.
  • Back off from your computer as much as possible if you use it before sleep. Keep it at arm’s length whenever possible. The same goes for a microwave oven, electric oven, toaster or other electrical appliance.
  • Move electrical appliances permanently out of the bedroom, where possible. That includes televisions, radios, stereos, cell phones and chargers, laptops and chargers, computers, telephones, air conditioners, heaters, etc. If you can’t move them out, unplug them. If you can’t unplug them, move them at least 6 feet from your bed.
  • Electric clocks have a very high magnetic field, as much as 5 to 10 mG up to three feet away. If you are using a bedside clock, you are probably sleeping in an EMF equivalent to that of a power line.
  • Eliminate wires running under your bed or any chair or table you use in your bedroom or close to bedtime.
  • Eliminate dimmers and 3-way switches in your bedroom.
  • If you use a cordless toothbrush or razor, use it in the morning. Use the old-fashioned, manual models at bedtime.
  • If you wear a quartz-analog watch, take it off well before bedtime, because it radiates pulsating EMFs.
  • Take off metal jewelry, such as earrings, at night.
  • Eyeglass frames should ideally be made from plastic. If they are made of metal or have metal wires in them, they can serve as an antenna to focus the radio and cellular phone waves directly into your brain.
  • If at all possible, do not sleep in the room where the electrical wiring enters the house. At the least, move your bed away from the panel or fuse box.
  • Move the bed as far as possible from an electric heater.
  • Position your router antenna to point in a horizontal position or as close to it as possible. That is the next best to replacing it with a wired connection. Note: a broadband cable has an electromagnetic field and ideally would not be in your bedroom.
  • Upgrade your computer monitor to a flat screen LCD model that produces low electromagnetic radiations.
  • Never use a laptop on your lap while it is connected to the charger and using AC power.
  • Avoid charging your mobile phone or laptop in the bedroom.
  • Turn off the lights. Fluorescent lights produce radio frequencies from a tiny transformer that is used to excite the gas inside the tube to provide light.
  • If you have electric heating coils in walls, ceiling or floor, reduce their  fields by turning down the night-time thermostat.
  • If these measures are not enough, there may be faults in the electrical wiring or the wiring may be of the older knob-and-tube type that can generate high magnetic fields. You can even try shutting off the electrical circuit to your bedroom, at your fuse box or electric panel.

Detection and Measurement:

You can hear your wireless radiation with an electronic smog detector, and the sound is louder the closer you get to the device. If you live in an apartment, you can also detect wireless sources on the other side of your bedroom wall.

EMF meters measure electromagnetic fields. These meter can help you determine which appliances or wiring are causing the most trouble and how far you need to be from them to get a good night’s sleep.

Some measurements of human bodies in a resting state, using meters, have been in the range of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of millivolts, where they should be no more than 20 millivolts.


Day and Night:

As a last note, there are things other than EMFs that disturb our sleep. To feel really rested, get the most out of the hours you devote to sleeping (or trying to sleep), think of darkness as the signal to sleep and daylight as the signal to wake and get moving. Our bodies are geared to the light-dark cycle. It may be adventurous to stay up all night once in a while (I like to do it just to prove to myself that I still can), but not as a routine.

If you are a Night Owl, you may be able to gently move yourself into a more natural schedule by doing sleeping-type things at night and waking-type things during the day. If you have to work nights, out of necessity, make sure to keep your bedroom absolutely dark when you sleep during the day (blackout curtains may help). And if you read in bed and fall asleep with the light on (as I do), get a reading lamp or battery-powered booklight that you can turn off with little effort.

Take a Walk:

Another great tip is to take a walk before bed, or any time in the evening or late afternoon. This is not for exercise or to mull over the thorny problems of the day, but to simply look about yourself and notice how things are, right now.

Other Reading:


EMF: Home Truths

Definitions of Terms for Electromagnetic Fields

Body Electric