An ever-growing number of electromagnetic (EM) emission sources elicits health concerns, particularly stemming from the ubiquitous low to extremely low frequency fields from power lines and appliances, and the radiofrequency fields emitted from telecommunication devices. In this article we review the state of knowledge regarding possible impacts of electromagnetic fields on melatonin secretion and on sleep structure and the electroencephalogram of humans. Most of the studies on the effects of melatonin on humans have been conducted in the presence of EM fields, focusing on the effects of occupational or residential exposures. While some of the earlier studies indicated that EM fields may have a suppressive effect on melatonin, the results cannot be generalized because of the large variability in exposure conditions and other factors that may influence melatonin. For instance, exposure to radiofrequency EM fields on sleep architecture show little or no effect. However, a number of studies show that pulsating radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted from cellular phones, can alter brain physiology, increasing the electroencephalogram power in selective bands when administered immediately prior to or during sleep. Additional research is necessary that would include older populations and evaluate the interactions of EM fields in different frequency ranges to examine their effects on sleep in humans.
Keywords: Electromagnetic fields; Melatonin; Sleep EEG; Sleep architecture.
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