Do mobile phone base stations affect sleep of residents? Results from an experimental double-blind sham-controlled field study

Am J Hum Biol. 2010 Sep-Oct;22(5):613-8. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.21053.


Objectives: The aim of the present double-blind, sham-controlled, balanced randomized cross-over study was to disentangle effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and non-EMF effects of mobile phone base stations on objective and subjective sleep quality.

Methods: In total 397 residents aged 18-81 years (50.9% female) from 10 German sites, where no mobile phone service was available, were exposed to sham and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications, 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz) base station signals by an experimental base station while their sleep was monitored at their homes during 12 nights. Participants were randomly exposed to real (GSM) or sham exposure for five nights each. Individual measurement of EMF exposure, questionnaires on sleep disorders, overall sleep quality, attitude towards mobile communication, and on subjective sleep quality (morning and evening protocols) as well as objective sleep data (frontal EEG and EOG recordings) were gathered.

Results: Analysis of the subjective and objective sleep data did not reveal any significant differences between the real and sham condition. During sham exposure nights, objective and subjective sleep efficiency, wake after sleep onset, and subjective sleep latency were significantly worse in participants with concerns about possible health risks resulting from base stations than in participants who were not concerned.

Conclusions: The study did not provide any evidence for short-term physiological effects of EMF emitted by mobile phone base stations on objective and subjective sleep quality. However, the results indicate that mobile phone base stations as such (not the electromagnetic fields) may have a significant negative impact on sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Phone*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography / radiation effects
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Electrooculography / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep / radiation effects*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult