back to article Mobile phone signals prevent sleep, claim boffins

If you’re wondering why you rarely get a good night’s sleep, then a group of boffins may have the answer: it’s because of your late-night mobile phone calls. A joint study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Wayne State University in the US studied small groups of men and women between the ages of 18 and 45. It found …


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  1. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Down

    Yeah, if you sit on a BTS transmitter you will have sleep problems

    Gawd... Awful reporting... They used 1.5W+ which is way above the power of a basestation in an urban environment. In fact nowdays even the countryside ones operate at lower levels. Phones use even less - in the milliwatt range.

    You have to be actually sitting on a stack of BTSes to get that level of radiation. Or have a whole array of them under your bed.

  2. Ginger

    In other news

    caffeine is also known to make it hard to sleep... Anyone made a comparison of the effects?

  3. Ash

    Good study!

    Nothing to do with some pillock friend sending you a text at 4am to tell you he's pulled a "slump buster" then?

  4. Steve

    Where's the methodology?

    I notice you say that they examined "small" groups. Until they get a decent sample size and run a double blind trial this proves precisely eff all.

    Did the media learn nothing from the Wakefield MMR debacle.

  5. Tom Hawkins

    Critically examined...

    ...and here:

    They gave the subjects a massive exposure and found tiny differences in sleep, and haven't published sufficient data to show that their analysis is statistically valid. Not surprising that the BBC and the newspapers are blowing it up into a major story complete with obligatory comment from the Powerwatch buffoon, but can't we hope for better from the Register please?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Scientifically disproved

    I have a professional mobile phone and it's never stopped me from dozing off at the desk! Headache and confusion sounds about right though

  7. Rick

    wheres my foil hat

    gonna need to stock up on some items...

  8. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re. bad science

    We published the story because we think it's of interest to our readers.

    Regarding the so-called "critical examination" of the paper on which it's based, it's no such thing. It's just statements from bloggers saying the science must be bad because the researchers have come up with a conclusion the 'examiners' don't like. It's no more rational an assessment than the newspaper reports they deride.

    The paper may indeed be example of poor science, but if you're going to say so, you have to say why, not just state that as a fact without giving any evidence.

    That's the difference between scientists and bloggers - and journalists, for that matter. The bloggers don't have to back up their opinions with details that others can use to verify or reject those results.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I could give you the number

    of a person that would put you to sleep if you talked to them on a mobile phone.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Power tested IS BELOW many cell phones (not even towers)

    Check out this link:

    Several cell phone models have power ratings higher than the ones tested at. Not sure what Anton Ivanov was talking about. Perhaps they needed to be in Register units instead of W/kg.

    Paris icon because she is this good at science.

  11. Alan Jenney

    Content of call rather than the radiation

    Having worked on-call support, I've always found that it's the CONTENT of the call that leaves you stressed, disoriented and unable to sleep at night rather than any electromagnetic radiation involved in receiving the call. Interesting to read that it could be the phone itself causing some of the problem.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    I don't know about you...

    ...but I'd probably have trouble sleeping after spending three hours with that thing strapped to my noggin, too.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    and as expected....

    the usual morons come out with all their stupid comments, and without any real experience or facts to back their comments up! All they have is the 'knowledge' they have picked up from other morons making similar comments all over the web, who themselves have only regurgitated comments from other sites.

    How about just taking this information on its own merits, and for once giving some thought before you make a comment, negative or not! And hey, how about actually having an open mind about it (seeing as there are more and more people becoming affected as we use more and more wireless technology) rather than blindly sticking to your pre-existing biased views.

    It is no wonder that people shy away from admitting openly that they are affected by mobiles and even more so by wi-fi, when everywhere you look there are idiots making comments like the above.

    And no wonder there are so many journalists who are wary of making positive statements about these studies. The Reg' is right to publish information like this otherwise you would only have 1 side of the story, and I applaud it for doing so.

  14. Ted Powell

    Measurement Units

    According to the PDF, the power level used was "an average of 1.4 W/kg" yet neither the article nor any previous comment has questioned this!

    I mass just under 100kg, so for me 1.4 W/kg works out to 140 Watts!

    Is this for real?

  15. Andy Bright


    more stories like this please, they're funny and help lighten the mood brought about by the stress of sleeplessness caused by owning a mobile phone.

  16. Andy Bright

    And in further news

    A similar cause sleeplessness has been discovered in humans exposed owning a nail gun.

    Rather than sleeping next to an actual nail gun, participants had 6" nails hammered into their brains for 3 hours. Researchers were stunned to discover these individuals slept less deeply than those who ran away.

    So having a transmitter strapped to your head for 3 hours and bombarded with some random radio frequency is just like having a mobile phone sitting in the next room? Makes you wonder if at any point they thought of something the rest of us are thinking right now.

  17. Andy Worth


    The only thing that stops me sleeping is Restless Legs Syndrome, which seems to run in my family. I doubt that a mobile phone signal will make any difference to me.

    I do think it is important that you should mention in the story here that all of the subjects were strapped into the equipment but only some were actually "dosed up" with a signal. From a couple of the comments it seems like certain people believe that only the chosen ones were strapped into the equipment.

    So given that there's little to no chance of the mobile phone network going away, what is the answer? Tin foil hats on the NHS?

    Oh and if this was market research, the sample of people they used would be considered too small to get any meaningful data on. This experiment needs to be done on a much larger scale in order to prove of any REAL scientific value. If however this paper fuels a larger experiement then I'd be interested to see the results based on a larger sample "audience"

  18. Andy Worth

    Just re-read the paper

    This part interested me - the NG is the group who have not previously reported symptoms regarding mobile phone usage, whereas the SG are people who claim to be symptomatic.

    "The NG reported less headache during sham exposure

    compared to the SG. The proportion of subjects who reported headache was higher during RF

    exposure than during sham exposure in the NG but not the SG group."

    So in fact, the "symptomatic" group reported as having more headaches period and couldn't tell the difference between real exposure and fake exposure. The "non-symptomatic" group actually did experience a real increase in headaches with real exposure.

    If anything, this proves that the "symptomatic" group actually make themselves feel worse. By assuming that they have the symptom, they conjure up a headache regardless of exposure (or not) to a signal, so eventually the signal itself becomes meaningless in the wake of their own imagination. Really then, that part of the experiment holds no value when performed on "symptomatic" people, as they will develop their own headache just from thinking they may have had exposure to a signal.

    Of course, the non-symptomatic crowd did show an increase in headaches with a real signal, which would lend weight to the argument of real effects.

    Though my view has not changed that this test group was too small to get any definitive result.

  19. Tom Hawkins

    Rationality and confusion

    Tony, I'm having trouble understanding your response because the sites I linked to identified specific shortcomings in the study and data analysis, as presented in the full paper, which undermine the reliability of the study's conclusions. Maybe the study authors have answers to all those questions, but they haven't published the data that would provide them - and as you rightly say, until they have, it isn't science. Granted, you have steered clear of newspaper hype in your story, use the word 'claim' in the headline, and you did link to the actual paper - full marks there. But your first sentence implies a degree of support to the claims, and even if you aren't in a position to verify that they've done their statistics properly you should at least have picked up from the paper that (a) the size of the effect is indeed small compared to the uncertainty (standard deviation) in the data, and (b) no data is presented to back up the finding of increased headaches, just the statement that it's significant. And where did you get 'confusion' from? It's not mentioned anywhere in the paper!

    Of course you can publish stories about interesting science without having to unpick every detail of every claim, but you'd never dream of writing up Microsoft or Home Office press releases without some, ahem, 'analysis', so why let this one off the hook?

    Anonymous alien, I, and the other commentators, have taken this information on its own merits - and we've found that on face value, it doesn't have very many merits.

  20. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)


    My point was essentially why trust a bizarrely-named blogger and not a bunch of scientists who've put their names to a published paper?

    What I read in relation to the claims of bad science all stated the conclusion as fact without providing any evidence whatsoever of (a) why it was a fact or an opinion, or (b) to what extent the poster is qualified to state that the conclusion is a fact.

    So if poster A - let's call him 'squidgy' - says the science is bad because the radiation exposure was way higher than what anyone would get off a mobile phone, we're supposed to treat that on the same basis as poster B - let's call him Cornelius Skrifney, Professor of Electromagnetic Exposure Experimentation, Imperial College - says that the science is bad because the radiation exposure was xxW/kg, higher than the yyW/kg users would get off a mobile phone?

    As I said, I'm not arguing that the study was an example of good science, rather that I'm not going to damn it as bad simply because an anonymous blogger claims it is because (s)he says so.

    More to the point, perhaps, what most commentators have failed to notice is that the study looking into the effect of making a call and instead assumed it was an investigation of having a phone on in the bedroom while you're sleeping. These are clearly not the same things. So there :-)

  21. Eddie Carmine

    Did you read the critical examinations?

    "Regarding the so-called "critical examination" of the paper on which it's based, it's no such thing."

    Nice assertion, Tony. How exactly did you come to the conclusion that the critical examinations were no such thing? You're just upset that you've been caught out publishing bollocks, aren't you?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust no-one!

    Tony: You ask why we should trust a blogger over a group of scientists. The question seems to be suggesting we should trust the scientists because of their positions and, essentially /who they are/. This isn't how science ought to work though: we should believe what they say because they present convincing evidence, not because they are saying it.

    Sure, some of the material Tom linked to does seem to be people who came to the party with their opinions ready-formed, but others make valid points: if the study doesn't include enough info to assess the significance of the results, we are essentially relying on the authority of the paper's authors. Not a good thing.

  23. gimpy

    To the editor

    Tony Smith, I am Dr Gimpy if that makes any difference to the validity of my opinion, which it shouldn't. I'm happy to admit my blog article isn't my finest as i knocked up a quick rehash of the opinions discussed on badscience.

    However, you don't need a PhD to know this paper is dubious, if nothing else the fact that the authors don't provide most of their data makes it obvious this is preliminary weak research not worthy of public debate. An accusation often made of the media is that they are so scientifically illiterate they cannot judge the quality of science before reporting on it so any old crap gets reported with the same seriousness as a Nature paper, the reporting of this story across the media reinforces this.

  24. Tom Hawkins

    We still seem to be...

    ...talking at cross purposes. I'm not saying you should trust a blogger over a scientist, I'm saying The Register could have identified some of the same doubts over this paper as have been spotted by the bloggers.

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