This article has been written and medically reviewed by Dr. Darshan Shingala (M.D, MPH) – a qualified and practicing medical doctor – for maximum factual accuracy and reliability.
You may have heard conflicting reports about whether or not it’s safe to sleep with your cell phone next to you in bed – so here’s the conclusive answer based on scientific research:
It is not entirely safe to sleep with your cell phone whilst it’s charging because it can present a fire hazard. There is some weak scientific evidence that correlates sleeping next to a cell phone with an increased risk of headaches. There is no scientific evidence linking sleeping next to a cell phone with cancer.
So what should you do if you need to sleep with your phone nearby?
To sleep with your phone safely nearby, keep your cell phone at least 3 feet away, keep it out of where direct sunlight will shine in the morning, unplug the charger, and place the phone on a non-flammable surface away from external heat sources like radiators in order to reduce the risk of fire.
In the rest of this article, I have combined the knowledge gained as a practicing medical doctor with my access to scientific journals to further explain the potential dangers of sleeping with your cell phone and the precautions required to do so safely.
The Truth About Sleeping With Your Cell Phone
The main risk of sleeping with your cell phone is the chance that it could start a fire due to overheating whilst charging.
There is no scientific proof yet that sleeping with your cell phone – or cell phone use in general – causes cancer.
There are some reports that cell phone use and sleeping next to your phone can increase the incidence of headaches, but the correlation is weak.
More details below:
1: Sleeping Near Your Phone Does Not Cause Cancer
There is not enough scientific evidence to support the claim that mobile phone usage can be carcinogenic [3, 4, 5].
Mobile phones use a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, known as radio frequency waves, to send and receive signals from nearby cellular towers through SIM card transceivers [6, 7].
The second, third, and fourth generation mobile phones, also commonly known as 2G, 3G, and 4G respectively, emit radio frequency waves ranging from 0.7 to 2.7 GHz [6, 7].
The fifth generation mobile phones, also known as 5G phones, use a frequency of up to 80 GHz [6, 7].
All these frequencies are low energy, and within the non-ionizing range of the electromagnetic spectrum [6, 7].
The Energy Emitted From Cell Phones is Non-Ionizing and Can’t Cause Cancer
It is important to note that non-ionizing radiation, like radio frequency waves, is different from ionizing radiation, such as ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays.
Ionizing radiation has the potential to disintegrate the structural biochemical bonds of genetic material, like DNA and RNA, which can be harmful to our health, and even lead to cancer [8, 9].
However, the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phones is very weak in potency, and it is unlikely that it could directly alter the genetic material in our cells .
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analyzed the national trends in rates of cancer, and scientific literature published between 2008 and 2018, and reported the following:
“There is insufficient evidence to support a causal association between radio frequency radiation exposure and tumor formation.” .
Another type of radiation emission which people are often concerned about is the blue light emitted from the mobile phone screen.
However, there is a lack of evidence to conclude whether the blue light emitted from electronic devices can be carcinogenic .
In summary, mobile phone usage is unlikely to cause cancer, or increase the risk of cancer [13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19].
2: Sleeping Near a Phone May Cause Headaches
There is some evidence that radio frequency waves can influence the sleeping patterns in humans, as observed on EEG .
However, the clinical relevance of these EEG changes remains uncertain, and further research is needed to explore the possible underlying mechanisms .
A study conducted among migraine patients found that mobile phone usage is associated with increased duration and frequency of headaches, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness .
Some researchers believe that there are several factors that can influence whether or not sleeping next to a phone will cause headaches.
For instance, the type of mobile device you are using, the number of SIM card transceivers in your device, the distance between you and the device, and the intensity of light emitted from the screen can affect your sleep, and even cause headaches in some people.
People who are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation may complain of fatigue, dizziness, and concentration difficulties, along with headaches .
These symptoms can be triggered by exposure to radio frequency fields, and may sometimes worsen if the exposure is prolonged.
However, it is believed that these symptoms are uncommon, and they are more likely to be present in people who have a self-reported condition, called electromagnetic hypersensitivity .
3: Sleeping Near a Charging Phone Can Be a Fire Hazard
Sleeping with your phone charging next to you can be a fire hazard.
Charging a mobile phone overnight near a bed can be dangerous, because the phone’s battery expels heat as it charges, and if it comes into contact with bed linens, the dissipation of heat will be difficult, which could eventually cause a fire .
A survey conducted by Electrical Safety First reported that it is not uncommon for people to sleep next to a phone plugged in for charging.
53% of teenagers and young adults tend to indulge in this practice, and about 38% of them keep their charging phone under their pillow, which is a serious electrical fire hazard .
7 Ways to Sleep Safely Near Your Phone at Night
If you need to have your phone close by at night, then you should take the following precautions in order to limit the risk of fire and reduce the chance of your phone disrupting your sleep:
1: Maintain a Safe Distance of 3 Feet from Your Phone
It’s recommended that you maintain a safe distance of at least 3 feet from your phone while you are asleep [9, 11, 24].
Furthermore, even during the day, you might consider keeping your phone in your handbag or purse instead of your pocket – in order to maintain a safe distance between your phone and your body .
2: Turn On Airplane Mode
If you use your phone as an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, then I would suggest that you switch to a basic alarm clock.
Another option is to place your phone on a nightstand or bedside table which is a bit away from your bed, and turn on the airplane or do not disturb (DND) mode on your device.
Sleeping with airplane mode activated on your phone might be a good way to achieve an uninterrupted night’s sleep, as it would prevent you from waking up to any kind of distractions.
3: Use Speaker Mode or Headphones
If you like to listen to music before going to bed, or you need to attend to any important phone calls at night, then I would suggest that you keep your phone as far away as is practical from yourself, and turn on the speaker mode to answer your phone call or listen to music [1, 10, 12].
You can also use phone accessories, such as head phones and ear buds, in order to put more distance between your mobile phone and yourself.
4: Avoid Using Your Phone When the Signal is Weak
If you have electrosensitivity, it’s recommended that you avoid making calls when the signal on your device is weak, in order to reduce your exposure to the radio frequency waves and electromagnetic radiation emitted from your mobile phone.
The reason for this is that mobile phones are typically designed to boost the transmission power of radio frequency waves when the network is poor, or the signal for connectivity is weak [6, 9, 11].
5: Limit Your Digital Screen Time Before Bed
I usually advise my patients to limit their average mobile screen time, especially before going to sleep, to reduce their exposure to blue light radiation emitted from digital screens.
Studies show that the blue light emitted from electronic devices can unnecessarily stimulate the nervous system, and lead to unwanted disruptions in the sleep cycle [10, 24, 25].
A randomized controlled trial conducted in 2018 found that limiting exposure to blue light for 7 days, for the 2 hours prior to going to bed, caused an improvement in sleep among individuals exhibiting symptoms of insomnia .
The clinical trial concluded that using blue light emitting electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, before going to sleep may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems.
This is caused by the blue light suppressing the melatonin hormone, and interfering with the circadian rhythm of the body .
In addition to overstimulating the nervous system and contributing to sleep-related problems, chronic exposure to digital screens can also place unnecessary stress on the eyes, and lead to vision disturbances.
Hence, it is important to make sure that you always keep your phone screen at a sensible distance of about 16 to 18 inches away from your eyes.
You must avoid holding your phone too close to your face, and consider zooming in on your screen, rather than stressing your eyes.
6: Use the Blue Light Filter on Your Phone
Although it is strongly recommended that you avoid using your mobile phone for a few hours prior to going to bed, it is understandable that it might take some time for you to break this habit, and develop a new routine.
In the meantime, I would advise you to turn on the blue light filter or night mode on your smartphone, to prevent unnecessary exposure to blue light radiation [24, 25].
If your smartphone does not support this feature, you may consider using eyeglasses with a blue light filter.
However, you must make a consistent effort to break your habit of using your phone before going to bed, rather than considering eyeglasses or night mode as alternatives to no-screen time.
To break the habit of using your phone before going to sleep, you can try to unwind through non-screen habits; such as reading a book, practicing yoga or meditation, journaling, playing board games, listening to music, or simply talking to your partner.
Engaging in activities that do not involve a screen helps prevent overstimulation of the brain in an addictive or harmful fashion [24, 25].
7: Prevent Your Phone from Overheating
To prevent your phone from overheating, you should not charge your phone at night.
I would also recommend placing your mobile phone away from your bed, preferably on a tabletop with a cool surface, which will not receive direct sunlight in the morning after the sun rises.
Please make sure that you do not keep your phone in your bed while you sleep, as it can overheat and start a fire [11, 23].
You must also avoid keeping your mobile device close to any heat sources, such as a radiator or room heater .
If your phone is in a case or external cover, you can remove it in order to assist with better dissipation of heat .
It is important to ensure that your mobile phone is functioning properly, and is safe to use.
Contrary to the popular belief, sleeping near your phone does not cause or increase the risk of cancer.
In some people, especially those who have a self-reported condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, sleeping next to a phone can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and concentration difficulties.
To sleep safely near your phone at night, it is recommended that you maintain a safe distance of at least 3 feet between your phone and yourself, to minimize exposure to radiation, and to avoid any electrical or fire hazards.
Furthermore, you may consider using speaker mode or phone accessories to answer phone calls or listen to music while maintaining a safe distance from your phone.
It is essential that you limit your digital screen time, especially prior to bedtime, to reduce exposure to blue light that can disrupt your sleep.
You can also turn on the blue light filter or night mode on your phone, or even use eyeglasses with a blue light filter, to prevent unnecessary exposure to blue light radiation.
Last but not least, you must prevent your phone from overheating, and ensure that it is safe to use at all times.
1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Frequently Asked Questions about Cell Phones and Your Health. Accessed on March 25, 2020 at www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/cell_phones._FAQ.html
2: Federal Communications Commission, Office of Engineering and Technology. RF Safety FAQ. (2015). Accessed at https://www.fcc.gov/engineering-technology/electromagnetic-compatibility-division/radio-frequency-safety/faq/rf-safety on March 23, 2020.
3: International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. (2013). Volume 102. Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields. Accessed at https://publications.iarc.fr/126 on March 23, 2020.
4: International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). (2019). ICNIRP Note: Critical Evaluation of Two Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Field Animal Carcinogenicity Studies Published in 2018. Health Phys. [Epub ahead of print]
5: International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2020). Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 1: Static and Extremely Low-Frequency (ELF) Electric and Magnetic Fields. IARC Monograph – Vol 80.
6: Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (2019). Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) For Cell Phones: What It Means For You. Accessed at www.fcc.gov/guides/specific-absorption-rate-sar-cell-phones-what-it-means-you on March 25, 2020.
7: Dauda Usman, J., Isyaku, U., Magaji, R., & Fasanmade, A. (2020). Assessment of electromagnetic fields, vibration and sound exposure effects from multiple transceiver mobile phones on oxidative stress levels in serum, brain and heart tissue. Scientific African, 7, e00271. doi: 10.1016/j.sciaf.2020.e00271
8: Vijayalaxmi, Prihoda TJ. (2012). Genetic damage in human cells exposed to non-ionizing radiofrequency fields: A meta-analysis of the data from 88 publications (1990-2011). Mutat Res.;749:1-16.
9: International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2013). Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 2: radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. IARC Monograph – Vol 102.
10: Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (2019). Wireless Devices and Health Concerns. Accessed at https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-devices-and-health-concerns on March 25, 2020.
11: Food and Drug Administration. (2020). Review of Published Literature between 2008 and 2018 of Relevance to Radiofrequency Radiation and Cancer. Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/media/135043/download on March 19, 2020.
12: Food and Drug Administration. (2020). Do Cell Phones Pose a Health Hazard? Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/do-cell-phones-pose-health-hazard on March 25, 2020.
13: Frei P, Poulsen AH, Johansen C, et al. (2011). Use of mobile phones and risk of brain tumours: Update of Danish cohort study. BMJ.; 343:d6387.
14: INTERPHONE Study Group. (2010). Brain tumor risk in relation to mobile telephone use: Results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study. Int J Epidemiol. 2010;39:675-694.
15: National Cancer Institute. (2019). Cell Phones and Cancer Risk. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet on March 25, 2020.
16: Lagorio S, Roosli M. (2014). Mobile phone use and risk of intracranial tumors: A consistency analysis. Bioelectromagnetics.;35:79-90.
17: Benson VS, Pirie K, Schuz J, et al. (2013). Mobile phone use and risk of brain neoplasms and other cancers: Prospective study. Int J Epidemiol.;42:792-802.
18: Pettersson D, Mathiesen T, Prochazka M, et al. (2014). Long-term mobile phone use and acoustic neuroma risk. Epidemiology.;25:233-241.
19: Aydin D, Feychting M, Schuz J, et al. (2011). Mobile phone use and brain tumors in children and adolescents: A multicenter case-control study. J Natl Cancer Inst.;103:1264-1276.
20: Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks SCENIHR. (2009). Health Effects of Exposure to EMF. [online] Ec.europa.eu. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_o_022.pdf Accessed 28 March 2022.
21: Demir, Y. P., & Sumer, M. M. (2019). Effects of smartphone overuse on headache, sleep and quality of life in migraine patients. Neurosciences (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), 24(2), 115–121. https://doi.org/10.17712/nsj.2019.2.20180037
22: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2019). Cell Phone Radio Frequency Radiation Studies. Accessed at https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/cell_phone_radiofrequency_radiation_studies_508.pdf on March 23, 2020.
23: Electrical Safety First. (2016). 3 in 4 children have a potential electrical fire hazard in their room. Retrieved March 29, 2022, from https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2016/08/3-in-4-children-have-a-potential-electrical-fire-hazard-in-their-room/
24: Shechter, A., Kim, E. W., St-Onge, M. P., & Westwood, A. J. (2018). Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of psychiatric research, 96, 196–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.10.015
25: Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR). (2012). Comprehensive review on mobile phone technologies finds no solid evidence of health effects. Heal Prot Agency.
No part of this website offers medical advice – consult with your doctor for the best guidance.
Image Attribution and Licensing
Main image: ‘Young woman using phone in bed’ by LightFieldStudios (used with permission and commercially licensed through Envato Elements).
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.