Is it Dangerous to Sleep With a Cell Phone Under Your Pillow?

We've heard for years that there is a possible connection between brain cancer and cell phone use, and lately it has been suggested - especially in social media - that sleeping with a cell phone under your pillow is especially dangerous. Is this true or merely an exaggerated online rumor?

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Most experts agree with the warnings to avoid sleeping with a cell phone under your pillow.

The “under the pillow” angle of cell phone radiation is just a subset of a larger discussion on the topic of cell phone radiation in general. Though there is some evidence to support harmful effects of cell phone use on the brain, the jury is out on brain cancer or brain tumors and cell phone use.

Though photos such as this look alarmist, in this case it’s probably best to heed the warning.

Nevertheless, most experts advise taking the safe route and limiting unnecessary extended exposure, such as sleeping with a cell phone next to your head.

Below are some links and comments about the specific subject of sleeping with a cell phone under your pillow:

A CBS Story wrote:
Some people are so attached to their cell phones that they sleep with them on their nightstand or even under their pillow. Bad idea. Cell phones pump out electromagnetic radiation whenever they’re on – which means sleeping with one nearby boosts your exposure all night long. What to do? Put the phone on “airplane mode” (which shuts down the transceiver) or turn it off. If you need to be available for calls, place the phone several feet away from your bed.

LivingFuel.com stated:
Avoid sleeping near a cell phone that is on.  It has been reported that an alarming number of kids sleep with a live cell phone under their pillow and text their friends in the middle of the night.  This is extremely dangerous!

NaturalNews reported in 2010 about a study by  International Electromagnetic Field Collaborative recommends that:

…parents not allow their children under the age of 18 to use mobile phones except in emergencies, or to sleep with cellular phones under their pillows.

CBS in Dallas reported in 2011, “…doctors frown on sleeping with a cell phone under your pillow or directly next to your bed.”

Joel Moskowitz, PhD, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health has suggested that it is best not to let kids sleep with their phones under their pillows and advises against carrying cell phones in front pockets, due to possible radiation exposure to the reproductive system.

In 2011, a Thailand consumer protection group issued a warning, urging people to stop sleeping with their cell phones.

From the sampling above, it would appear that most experts suggest avoiding sleeping with cell phones under your pillow, especially until more is known about the connection between cell phone exposure and brain tumors.

Ways to Reduce Cell Phone Radiation
While the debate rages, many people prefer to err on the side of caution and try to minimize their cell phone radiation exposure. Such steps include:

  • Keeping cell phone several feet away while sleeping.
  • Using speaker instead of talking directly into the handset.
  • Text instead of talking.
  • Use headphones or Bluetooth connectors.
  • If you are using your phone at night for its clock or alarm features, consider putting it in “airplane mode” which suspends the phone’s transmission functions.

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  • Jadene

    Can any doctors clarify PLEASE whether or not sleeping with a cell phone in airplane mode is dangerous, such as for the iPhone app Sleep Time, which graphs sleep brainwaves?!

    • Corbin healey

      Hi I’m dr.healey phD MD I have done a trial and is not harmful to sleep with a phone

      • janel f

        For some reason my phones screen stayed on and I accidentally woke up with it in my hand (screen still on) and my hand was under my pillow and my ear hurt when I woke up and my pillow my phone were extremely hot should I be worried??

  • Dr. Dre

    Sup I’m Dr Dre phd nwa I have done trial and found it is harmful to sleep with a phone even when on airplane mode. yea sucka

  • waffles

    That’s a very good article. It does end with a “Taking Precautions” section that offers essentially the same conclusion we do – to exercise caution pending further studies.

  • Omer

    I have a question: Is it safe to sleep with an iPhone next to my head while sleeping, charging and turning “airplane mode” on?

  • random25764

    Something funny started to happen. Every night that my phone spend time under my head, date and time gets mixed up, and i wake up to 2% battery, even if i charged it right before i went to sleep. Im not much woried about “radiation”, just wonder why this happens…

  • Noni Juice

    Some people have habit to take cellphone under pillow while sleeping. They people do not know that is so harmful for their health, because of cell phones release electromagnetic radiation.

  • Purple

    I think that its okay because their worried that something will happen to it its a sign of security and they obviously love their phone so its like sleeping with a teddy bear

  • Anna Williams

    I can speak from PERSONAL experience that I’ve been having headaches for years and wasn’t sure what’s going on. I’ve always slept with my phone next to my head for an alarm clock and after use just before bedtime and would almost always wake up with big headaches. One day I decided to put my smartphone on the floor and continued to do so from that day on and haven’t woken up with headaches since and I am grateful for the change and I don’t care what anybody else says but I know what worked for me.