Anxiety, depression, back pain, sleep disturbances, nausea, loss of hearing. This concoction of symptoms is not some bizarre medical condition but some of the side-effects reported from the technology and devices we are surrounded by and use every day.
Lyn McLean, Director of EMR Australia and the author of The Force – Living Safely in a World of Electromagnetic Pollution and Wireless-Wise Kids says many people are still oblivious to the fact they are being exposed to as much radiation as they are.
“Every wireless device emits radio-frequency radiation and the closer you are to this device, the more radiation you’re exposed to. When you hold a mobile or cordless phone against your head, your brain absorbs that radiation, and children’s brains absorb more than adults. When you carry a mobile phone that’s turned on in a bra or a trouser pocket or you sit a tablet or laptop on your abdomen, vital organs are also exposed.”
McLean, who has more than 20 years’ experience working alongside individuals and businesses throughout Australia who experience EMR-related issues, says consumers have been reporting the harmful effects from mobile phones, phone towers, smart meters and Wi-Fi for as long as these technologies have been in place.
McLean says thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies have found that radiofrequency radiation can have harmful effects on the body.
“Some of the most common symptoms reported to us from EMR are headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, pain, nausea, memory and concentration problems, anxiety and depression,” she says.
Help counter the effects of EMR (electromagnetic radiation)
- Don’t hold a mobile phone directly against your head or body
- Don’t use wireless tablets or laptops against the body
- Don’t give children wireless devices to play with
- Use wired phones and computer connections
- Consider the use of antioxidants which help fight free-radical damage
For Child and Adolescent Psychologist Rebecca Summers, disturbed sleep patterns are one of the biggest side-effects she has noticed as a result of extended social media, internet and gaming usage. “During my 15 years of practice, the impact of social media/ gaming use on clients’ sleep patterns is presenting in greater numbers,” she says.
“Sleep is vital in order for the body to function properly and when interfered with, can lead on to issues such as moodiness or low moods, poor concentration and more. Being in front of a lit screen at night can also affect melatonin release (the hormone that signals the body to prepare for sleep) and hence interfere with sleepiness and getting to sleep.”
Summers says technology is also sometimes used in excessive ways to cope with underlying mental health conditions. Signs that there may be an underlying problem with a person using social media or technology to excess include sleep disturbances, agitated behaviour, isolation from other family members, an inability to cut back on internet use or using the internet to relieve negative moods or escape problems.
Tips for a better slumber
- Stop internet/gaming use at least one hour prior to bedtime
- Keep devices our of bedrooms at night
- For adolescents, set up a time limit for internet/gaming use
- For adults, try magnesium or valerian supplements or chamomile tea to help reset sleep patterns
Turn it down
According to Dr Elizabeth Beach, a HEARing Cooperative Research Centre Researcher based at the National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney, even some of our smallest technological devices can cause damage.
“Testing at the National Acoustic Laboratories has recorded maximum volume levels from iPods/MP3s that exceed 100 dB, which is just as loud as a nightclub or rock concert where live music is played. Both earbuds and headphones direct that sound into the ears – so if someone is exposed to it repeatedly, at high volume levels, for long periods of time, they have a higher risk of damaging their hearing,” she says.
Last year, the WHO estimated that 1.1 billion teenagers and young people were at risk of hearing loss due to damaging sound levels from various activities, including the unsafe use of portable music devices.
So is there a safe volume and length of time a person can listen to music through headphones? “A good evidence-based rule of thumb is to keep your volume below 80 percent and limit your listening time to no more than 1 and a half hours per a day,” says Dr Beach.
To help minimise damage, Dr Beach recommends:
- Using quality, well-fitting, noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones
- Set your device’s volume limiter to around 80 percent
- Take regular breaks.
What else can you do?
- To help prevent eye strain, have regular eye breaks away from the screen – every 10 minutes or so
- Try bilberry extract for eye health
- Take regular breaks from your workstation and stretch
- Ask for a variable workstation so you can sit or stand while you work
- Try soaking in a bath with Epsom salts to help relive muscular stress
- If you spend long hours in an office, try to get 10 minutes in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun to help top up vitamin D levels.
- If you’re in an at-risk group for low vitamin D levels, consider a vitamin D supplement.
If you feel you or a family member is spending more time on devices and demonstrating an increase in negative mood, contact your GP to seek psychological support.
For more information on how to reduce your risk of acquiring a noise-induced hearing loss, go to hearsmart.org