Danker-Hopfe H, Dorn H, Bornkessel C, Sauter C. (2010). Do mobile phone base stations affect sleep of residents? Results from an experimental double-blind sham-controlled field study. Am J Hum Biol. 22(5):613-8.
Population surveys conducted in many European countries indicate that a considerable proportion of the population is concerned about the possible health effects of mobile phone base stations. Some survey participants attribute their symptoms, in particular sleep disorders, to electromagnetic field (EMF) emitted from base stations. Experimental studies of the possible effects on sleep from exposure to EMFs emitted by mobile phone base stations are scarce, and none of them confirmed any adverse effects from EMF exposure.
The objective of this experimental study was to investigate possible effects of EMF emitted by a mobile phone base station on subjective and objective parameters of sleep quality in a large rural population sample.
Participants of this double-blind sham-controlled cross-over study were 397 residents of 10 villages in various regions of Germany. Only villages with no mobile phone service, weak fields from other RF-EMF sources and “no emotional EMF-discussion” were eligible for inclusion. The participants were between 18 and 81 years of age (mean 45 years); 50.9% were females. Before the experimental phase, the subjects answered questionnaires on subjective sleep quality, and on fears and anxieties regarding possible health risks from mobile communication. Exposure to EMF (GSM 900 MHz; and 1800 MHz signal) was emitted from an experimental mobile phone base station. Sham and real exposure were applied in a randomized order for each 5 nights. Neither participants nor examiners were aware of the type of exposure applied. Individual levels of exposure were assessed before the study by frequency selective measurements in the bedrooms. During the experiments, the participants rated their subjective sleep quality. Objective sleep data were obtained by electro-encephalogram (EEG) and electro-oculogram (EOG) recordings.
Results and Interpretation
Thirty-two participants were concerned about the possible health risks related to mobile telecommunications; 13% believed they were impaired by these sources of EMFs. There was no evidence of a short-term effect of EMFs from the base station on sleep: no significant difference was seen between sham and real exposure either for subjective rating of sleep quality or for objective sleep parameters. On nights with sham exposure, objective and subjective sleep quality was worse in subjects who were concerned about possible effects of EMFs from base stations. No evidence for an effect of EMFs was observed when the two groups of participants (concerned about EMFs and not concerned) were analyzed separately.
The study provides no evidence for a short-term negative health effect of EMFs emitted from mobile phone base stations on sleep quality. The study does not answer the question about possible long-term effects of EMF on sleep. Concerns about possible health effects of EMFs may have negative impact on sleep.