Azara Blog: Mobile phone use allegedly makes it harder to get to deep sleep

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Date published: 2008/01/21

The BBC says:

Using a mobile phone before going to bed could stop you getting a decent night's sleep, research suggests.

The study, funded by mobile phone companies, suggests radiation from the handset can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion.

It may also cut our amount of deep sleep - interfering with the body's ability to refresh itself.

The study was carried out by Sweden's Karolinska Institute and Wayne State University in the US.

Funded by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, the scientists studied 35 men and 36 women aged between 18 and 45.

Some were exposed to radiation equivalent to that received when using a mobile phone, others were placed in the same conditions, but given only "sham" exposure.

Those exposed to radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one.

The scientists concluded: "The study indicates that during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals components of sleep believed to be important for recovery from daily wear and tear are adversely affected."

Researcher Professor Bengt Arnetz said: "The study strongly suggests that mobile phone use is associated with specific changes in the areas of the brain responsible for activating and coordinating the stress system."

Another theory is that radiation may disrupt production of the hormone melatonin, which controls the body's internal rhythms.

About half the people in the study believed themselves to be "electrosensitive", reporting symptoms such as headaches and impaired cognitive function from mobile phone use.

But they proved to be unable to tell if they had been exposed to the radiation in the test.
Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association, said the study was inconsistent with other research.

He said: "It is really one small piece in a very large scientific jigsaw. It is a very small effect, one researcher likened it to less than the effect you would see from a cup of coffee."

Last September a major six-year study by the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHRP) concluded that mobile phone use posed no short-term risk to the brain.

However, the researchers said they could not rule out the possibility that long-term use may raise the risk of cancer.

Wow, a real study which seems to have a real (causal, rather than correlated) negative health effect from using mobile phones. Unfortunately, the Karolinska Institute has a track record of producing anti-mobile-phone studies (where previously the effect discovered was irrelevant), and (pretty much) nobody else ever does.

And the study has a ridiculously small sample. And half of the people in the study were pretty much proven to be hypochondriacs, so not really very representative of the general public (although the claim seems to be that there was no difference between them and the other people in the study, although this is not stated explicitly).

And unfortunately the BBC fails to state how near to sleep this radiation was given. And unfortunately the BBC fails to state how long the radiation was given.

So one has to take this all with a pinch of salt. Perhaps a larger study will be done, and by someone else. And a real physiological effect ought to be proven, not just hand-waving.

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