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Our phones and gadgets are now endangering the planet
United Kingdom Created: 31 Jul 2018
It was just another moment in this long, increasingly strange summer. I was on a train home from Paddington station, and the carriage’s air-conditioning was just about fighting off the heat outside. Most people seemed to be staring at their phones – in many cases, they were trying to stream a World Cup match, as the 4G signal came and went, and Great Western Railway’s onboard wifi proved to be maddeningly erratic. The trebly chatter of headphone leakage was constant. And thousands of miles and a few time zones away in Loudoun County, Virginia, one of the world’s largest concentrations of computing power was playing its part in keeping everything I saw ticking over, as data from around the world passed back and forth from its vast buildings.

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Dec 2009, Denmark: Mobile-phone technology is a Carbon-emissions Whopper!

Most of us communicate with this small and wealthy corner of the US every day. Thanks to a combination of factors – its proximity to Washington DC, competitive electricity prices, and its low susceptibility to natural disasters – the county is the home of data centres used by about 3,000 tech companies: huge agglomerations of circuitry, cables and cooling systems that sit in corners of the world most of us rarely see, but that are now at the core of how we live. About 70% of the world’s online traffic is reckoned to pass through Loudoun County.

But there is a big problem, centred on a power company called Dominion, which supplies the vast majority of Loudoun County’s electricity. According to a 2017 Greenpeace report, only 1% of Dominion’s total electricity comes from credibly renewable sources: 2% originates in hydroelectric plants, and the rest is split evenly between coal, gas and nuclear power. Dominion is also in the middle of a huge regional controversy about a proposed pipeline that will carry fracked gas to its power plants, which it says is partly driven by data centres’ insatiable appetite for electricity. Clearly, then, the video streams, digital photographs and messaging that pour out of all those servers come with a price.

I was reminded of all this by the recently published book New Dark Age, by the British writer James Bridle. He cites a study in Japan that suggests that by 2030, the power requirements of digital services will outstrip the nation’s entire current generation capacity. He quotes an American report from 2013 – ironically enough, commissioned by coal industry lobbyists – that pointed out that using either a tablet or smartphone to wirelessly watch an hour of video a week used roughly the same amount of electricity (largely consumed at the data-centre end of the process) as two new domestic fridges.

If you worry about climate change and a cause celebre such as the expansion of Heathrow airport, it is worth considering that data centres are set to soon have a bigger carbon footprint than the entire aviation industry. Yet as Bridle points out, even that statistic doesn’t quite do justice to some huge potential problems. He mentions the vast amounts of electricity consumed by the operations of the online currency Bitcoin – which, at the height of the speculative frenzies earlier this year, was set to produce an annual amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to 1m transatlantic flights. And he’s anxious about what will happen next: “In response to vast increases in data storage and computational capacity in the last decade, the amount of energy used by data centres has doubled every four years, and is expected to triple in the next 10 years.”

These changes are partly being driven by the so-called internet of things: the increasing array of everyday devices – from TVs, through domestic security devices, to lighting systems, and countless modes of transport – that constantly emit and receive data. If driverless cars ever arrive in our lives, those same flows will increase hugely. At the same time, the accelerating rollout of the internet and its associated technologies in the developing world will add to the load.

About a decade ago, we were being told to fight climate change by switching off our TVs and stereos. If the battle is now even more urgent, how does it fit with a world in which router lights constantly flicker, and all the devices we own will be in constant, energy-intensive communication with distant mega-computers?

But some good news. Whatever its other ethical contortions, Silicon Valley has an environmental conscience. Facebook has pledged to, sooner or later, power its operations using “100% clean and renewable energy”. Google says it has already achieved that goal. So does Apple. Yet even if you factor in efficiency improvements, beneath many of these claims lies a reality in which the vast and constant demand for power means such companies inevitably use energy generated by fossil fuels, and then atone for it using the often questionable practice of carbon offsetting.

And among the big tech corporations, there is one big focus of worry: Amazon, whose ever-expanding cloud computing wing, Amazon Web Services, offers “the on-demand delivery of computer power, database storage … and other IT resources” and provides most of the computing power behind Netflix. This sits at the heart of data centres’ relentless expansion. Green campaigners bemoan the fact that the details of AWS’s electricity consumption and its carbon footprint remain under wraps; on its corporate website, the story of its use of renewable energy suddenly stops in 2016.

Besides, for all their power, even the most enlightened US giants obviously command only part of a global industry. To quote from that Greenpeace report: “Among emerging Chinese internet giants such as Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, the silence on energy performance still remains. Neither the public nor customers are able to obtain any information about their electricity use and CO2 target.” Irrespective of the good work carried out by some tech giants, and whether or not you take seriously projections that the entire communication technology industry could account for up to 14% of carbon emissions by 2040, one stark fact remains: the vast majority of electricity used in the world’s data centres comes from non-renewable sources, and as their numbers rapidly increase, there are no guarantees that this will change.

On the fringes of the industry, a few voices have been heard describing the kind of future at which most of us – expecting everything streamed as a right – would balk. They talk about eventually rationing internet use, insisting that people send black and white images, or forcibly pushing them away from binge-streaming videos. Their basic point, it seems, chimes with those occasions when the smartphone in your pocket starts to suddenly heat up: a metaphor for our warming planet, and the fact that even the most well-intentioned corporations may yet find that their supposedly unlimited digital delights are, in the dictionary definition of the term, unsustainable.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist
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Source: The Guardian, John Harris, 17 Jul 2018

Unluckiest school in Britain: Boycott amid fears of DANGEROUS radiation levels
United Kingdom Created: 9 Jul 2018
PARENTS have withdrawn their children from a new £7million school after it was rebuilt – amid fears it is still too dangerous. Dartington primary, dubbed Britain’s unluckiest school, was billed as “zero carbon” and “visionary” when it originally opened in 2010.

But it was soon closed after water started leaking into the buildings. Teachers and 300 pupils were forced to have lessons in temporary accommodation.

Then in 2016 diggers and dumper trucks turned the school into rubble – and started building again.

The school reopened a few months ago, but parents recently staged a one-day boycott over the siting of a new mobile phone mast 50 yards from the classrooms.

Parents at the school in Totnes, Devon, claim radiation levels are 40 percent above the safe level in the playground and entrance area. And they insist the 33-foot Vodafone mast be removed. Chloe de Sousa, who has two children at the school, pointed out that the mast was also only yards away from Bidwell Brook special school and a college.

“We want the mast taken down,” she said.

We want it moved to another site that is not near housing or a school.”

Vodafone had originally wanted to put a 50-foot mast on the site but it was refused and they scaled down the request.

Governors have declared their opposition to the mast being set so close to the school.

In their latest newsletter, they say: “Our school community continues to be very proactive about voicing objections to the phone mast which has been placed so near to our school.

“This is something that we are all joining together to oppose and we are very grateful to everyone who has lodged their objections.”

A protest group has also been formed that says for many parents and grandparents, the mast has “shattered our confidence in frequenting the heart of the village where we educate and play with our children”.

County councillor Jacqi Hodgson, who took part in the protest, said: “I absolutely support the parents in their protest. The fact that this mast is in such close proximity to these schools is outrageous. It is highly intrusive and presents a huge health risk.”

Vodafone said customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel. A spokesman said the base stations are compliant and below the required radiation limits and there is “no evidence of adverse health effects”.
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Source: Express, Camilla Tominey, 08 Jul 2018

Devon primary school to walk-out over phone mast and fears of 'excessive radiation'
United Kingdom Created: 26 Jun 2018
Parents and students at a Devon primary school are planning a mass walk-out in protest of a controversial mobile phone mast.

The 10m high structure is located just 50 metres away from Dartington Primary School, Totnes, which has worried parents over suggested radiation readings at the school which apparently show the highest reading of ‘excessive radiation.’

Those involved in the protest want the mast located at least 1km away from the school, as well as the outdoor pool, a children’s playground and a school for children with additional needs that fall within a 100m radius of the Vodafone mast.

Some have claimed these masts emit levels of electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) and radiation that can lead to significant health issues.

Dr David Carpenter, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Albany, USA said:

"Children are more vulnerable to RF/MW radiation because of the susceptibility of their developing nervous systems.

"Children are largely unable to remove themselves from exposures to harmful substances in their environments. Their exposure is involuntary.

"There is a major legal difference between an exposure that an individual chooses to accept and one that is forced upon a person, especially a dependent, who can do nothing about it."

Michelle McHale, Director of Attachment Parenting UK whose girls attended Dartington Primary said she is astonished at the lack of precaution or care in siting the mast.

Locals agree that young children’s health is absolutely paramount. Mum Natascha, whose son has additional needs and has been thriving at Dartington Primary commented:

"We love our school and we agree with technological development but the mast’s closeness casts a dark shadow over our newly built school and many parents are seriously considering de-registering which could create a real conundrum for the council who own the small roadside verge where the mast is erected."

Mum of one, Leela, feels strongly that the mast needs to be located at a distance to both amenities and housing and that extensive consultation was sorely missing. Leela commented;

"Why would we risk subjecting our children to consistent radiation while other European Countries adhere to the EU's 'precautionary principle' when it comes to EMFs?

"I can see how phone companies could shatter our confidence in the safety of where we live by placing a 10m mast with permitted planning rights alongside a home or school and we have zero rights to appeal our involuntary radiation exposure. What does that mean for our human rights?"

Vodafone originally applied to South Hams District Council for the erection of a 15m mast, but this planning application was rejected amidst local opposition to the mast.

Since then, Vodafone has appealed to the Secretary of State to have the local council’s decision revoked.

The 10m mast was erected during the May half-term break.

The parent-led walk-out will take place at 1.30pm on Tuesday, June 26. The school's head teacher, Mrs Mahon, objects to the mast's proximity and school governors are working on the school's behalf to oppose the current location.

More than 620 have signed a petition to have the mast moved.
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Source: DevonLive, Jamie Hawkins, 25 Jun 2018

Top mobile phone firms warning shareholders over devices' possible cancer risks - but fail to tell customers
United Kingdom Created: 4 Jun 2018
Companies including Blackberry, EE, Nokia and Vodafone have told investors they could face legal action from device users if research eventually finds links between their products and cancer.

Top mobile firms are warning ­shareholders about the potential health risks of phones but keeping the information from customers.

Companies including Blackberry, EE, Nokia and Vodafone have told investors they could face legal action from device users if research eventually finds links between their products and cancer.

Yet they fail to warn users of any potential risk in their ads and packaging.

British Telecom, which owns EE, tells investors starkly in its 2017 annual report: “We can’t provide absolute ­assurance that research in the future won’t establish links between radio frequency emissions and health risks.”

And Nokia says: “There have been some research results that indicated the possibility that electromagnetic waves emitted from mobile devices and base stations have adverse health effects, such as increasing the risk of cancer.”

The news comes after we revealed brain cancer patient Neil Whitfield, 60, is the first Briton to sue a phone maker and could win up to £1million from Nokia if successful.

Mr Whitfield said: “If companies are warning investors there is a possible risk they should be warning people who use their phones and networks.

"They are being selective with the truth and have decided those with money are more important than the general public.”

The firms involved say they have a duty to warn shareholders of any risk, however unlikely.

A court in Italy recently ruled a link between tumours and mobiles and the International Agency for Research into Cancer says they are a “possible carcinogenic.”

And in France, Orange has recalled around 90,000 Hapi 30 phones because of the device’s radiation level.

Devra Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust, said: “Financial threats from litigation are growing in step with scientific evidence linking phones to health damages.

"Further still, the Italian court ­decision indicates any firm that requires mobile use as a ­condition of work faces major liability.”

Blackberry and Nokia warn shareholders of possible legal action in reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nokia says despite adhering to regulations “concerns over the adverse effects on health... could make it difficult to acquire and retain customers”.

Vodafone says there is “no evidence” of harm but adds: “A change to this view could result in... impacts.” Blackberry says “perceived risks” could affects sales and lead to legal battles.

Most studies find no link with cancer but others claim they increase the risk of brain cancer.

Mr Whitfield blames Nokia phones for giving him an acoustic neuroma on a nerve between his inner ear and brain.

"His case could open the floodgates and he said: “Phone companies don’t give a jot about health.

"I’m in the autumn of my life but I worry about the next generation who spend hours each day glued to their phones.”

Nokia is fighting his claim and said safety “has always been a key consideration”, adding: “All products comply with exposure guidelines and limits set by public health ­authorities.”
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Source: Mirror, Grace Macaskill, 02 Jun 2018

Simon Cowell ditches phone for 10 months - and counting
United Kingdom Created: 3 Jun 2018
Simon Cowell has revealed he hasn't used his mobile phone for 10 months - saying the change was "so good" for his mental health.

The media mogul told the Mail on Sunday he became irritated with how often he was using his phone.

The 58-year-old said he has "become way more focused" and "aware of the people around me" since giving up his device.

He said being without his phone was a "strange experience" but "has absolutely made me happier".

"I literally have not been on my phone for 10 months," he said.

"The thing I get irritated with is when you have a meeting, everyone's on their phone - and I was probably in that place too. You can't concentrate.

"It has been so good for my mental health. It's a very strange experience but it really is good for you and it has absolutely made me happier."

A survey by Deloitte in 2017 found 55% of phone users check their device within 15 minutes of waking up - while 41% believed their partner used a mobile too much.

And in March, it was announced that an app that rewards students for time spent away from their phones is being released at 170 universities in the UK after proving popular in Scandinavia.

Other celebrities to have reportedly shunned mobiles include Elton John, Tyra Banks, Tom Cruise and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Have you ditched your mobile phone? Has it made you happier? Please share your experience with us by emailing

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Source: BBC News, 03 Jun 2018

Cancer expert claims school wifi networks could put pupils at risk because they ‘absorb radiation’
United Kingdom Created: 27 May 2018
Dr Anthony Miller believes wireless internet should be considered as dangerous as tobacco and asbestos to schoolchildren.

A CANCER expert has claimed school wifi networks could put pupils at risk because they "absorb radiation".

Dr Anthony Miller, an adviser to the World Health Organisation, believes youngsters are at greater risk from radio waves because their smaller skulls can more easily be damaged by harmful rays.

He told Mirror Online: “Radiation from mobile phones and other wireless devices can cause changes in DNA and induce cancer in experimental animals.

“Children’s skulls are thinner and absorb much more of this radiation.

"We ignore this at our future peril.”

Dr Miller's warning comes as distraught mum Debra Fry says her daughter Jenny killed herself after developing the wifi "allergy".

The 15-year-old committed suicide after two years of horrendous tiredness, headaches and bladder problems.

Debra, 57, said: “I believe she just couldn’t take any more. She had overwhelming fatigue, headaches and ear pressure, difficulty finding words, itchy skin, dizziness and stiff joints.

“She was getting into trouble at school because she couldn’t concentrate and needed to urinate more than usual, so was always leaving class.

“She’d always been a very good student and a very healthy child.

“I made sure she got the right nutrients, the right influences, the right education. I had no idea we were exposing her to something so dangerous.”

Debra and her partner Charles Newman claim Jenny's health issues were directly related to the school installing wifi in 2012.

Debra maintains that her daughter's symptoms "eased or went away" when she was at home in Chadlington, Oxon, where they had taken out their home wifi router.

She added: "We wanted to take her to the GP but thought our fears would be dismissed.”

But Canadian Dr Miller believes WHO should increase the risk rating. Schools in France, Belgium and parts of America already ban or limit wifi use.

He said: “We know that when humans are exposed to cancer-causing agents, it’s usually quite a delay before you see the full effect. We’re concerned when those children become adults their risk of cancer will be much greater.

“We could be storing up higher cancer rates in the future. Since radio frequency radiation was graded 2B there have been more studies showing this increased risk.

“In my view it should be on the same level as tobacco and asbestos. It should not be allowed in school.”

Public Health England maintains that wifi is safe - and that their lower radio frequency is likely to be lower than those from mobile phones.

On their advisory page, they write: "On the basis of the published studies and those carried out in-house, PHE sees no reason why wifi should not continue to be used in schools and in other places."

But they do advise a "sensible precautionary approach" and to "keep the situation under review so that parents and others can have as much reassurance as possible."
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Source: The Sun, Phoebe Cooke, 26 May 2018

I wish mum's phone was never invented
United Kingdom Created: 24 May 2018
Mobile phones are bad for us - We know because every day there is a news story telling us so, or at least it can feel like that.

But no-one ever actually puts their phone down after hearing these reports, right?

What if children told you exactly how your WhatsApping, Instagramming, emailing and news-reading makes them feel?

"I hate my mum's phone and I wish she never had one," is what one primary school child wrote in a class assignment.

American school teacher Jen Adams Beason posted the comment on Facebook, and revealed that four out of 21 of her students said they wished mobile phones had never been invented.

Ms Beason, who lives in Louisiana, also posted a picture of the second grade (ages seven to eight) pupil's class work after she asked them to describe something they wish had never been created.

"I had my 2nd graders write about an invention that they wish had never been created. Out of 21 students, 4 of them wrote about this topic 😥 #getoffyourphone #listentoyourkids
Posted by Jen Adams Beason on Friday, 18 May 2018"

"I would say that I don't like the phone," one child wrote.

"I don't like the phone because my parents are on their phone every day. A phone is sometimes a really bad habit."

The student completed the work with a drawing of a mobile phone with a cross through it and a large sad face saying "I hate it".
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The picture was posted last Friday and has been shared almost 170,000 times since, including by shocked parents who are stopping to think twice about their technology habits.

"Wow. Out of the mouths of babes! We are all guilty!" responded one user, Tracy Jenkins.

"Strong words for a second grader! Listen parents," added Sylvia Burton.

Another wrote, "That is so sad and convicting. Great reminder for us all to put those phones down and engage with our kids more."

Other teachers also joined the discussion to add their own experience of children's reaction to their parents' internet use.

"We had a class discussion about Facebook and every single one of the students said their parents spend more time on Facebook then they do talking to their child. It was very eye opening for me," commented Abbey Fauntleroy.

Some parents offered their personal experience of trying to address the problem.

Beau Stermer wrote that he has seen his two-year-old son reacting negatively to his use of his mobile phone: "I've noticed if he and I are playing and my phone rings for something at work, he has nothing to do with me after I get off the phone.

"It kills me. I have made an agreement with myself that if I am playing with him everything else can wait."

However, one mum pointed out that her teenagers were just as bad, often choosing their phone over family time.

A survey carried out in the US in 2017 reported that half of parents surveyed found that using technology disrupted interactions with their child three or more times a day, a phenomenon named "technoference".
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Source: BBC News, Georgina Rannard, 23 May 2018

Electromagnetic radiation from power lines and phone masts poses 'credible' threat to wildlife, EU report finds
United Kingdom Created: 22 May 2018
Electromagnetic radiation from power lines, wi-fi, phone masts and broadcast transmitters poses a ‘credible’ threat to wildlife, a new report suggests, as environmentalists warned the 5G roll out could cause greater harm.

An analysis of 97 studies by the EU-funded review body EKLIPSE concluded that radiation is a potential risk to insect and bird orientation and plant health.

However the charity Buglife warned that despite good evidence of the harms there was little research ongoing to assess the impact, or apply pollution limits.

The charity said ‘serious impacts on the environment could not be ruled out’ and called for 5G transmitters to be placed away from street lights, which attract insects, or areas where they could harm wildlife.

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife said: “We apply limits to all types of pollution to protect the habitability of our environment, but as yet, even in Europe, the safe limits of electromagnetic radiation have not been determined, let alone applied.

“There is a credible risk that 5G could impact significantly on wildlife, and that placing transmitters on LED street lamps, which attract nocturnal insects such as moths increases exposure and thereby risk.

“Therefore we call for all 5G pilots to include detailed studies of their influence and impacts on wildlife, and for the results of those studies to be made public.”

As of March, 237 scientists have signed an appeal to the United Nations asking them to take the risks posed by electromagnetic radiation more seriously.

The EKLIPSE report found that the magnetic orientation of birds, mammals and invertebrates such as insects and spiders could be disrupted by electromagnetic radiation (EMR). It also found established that plant metabolism is also altered by EMR.

The authors of the review conclude that there is “an urgent need to strengthen the scientific basis of the knowledge on EMR and their potential impacts on wildlife.

“ In particular, there is a need to base future research on sound, high-quality, replicable experiments so that credible, transparent and easily accessible evidence can inform society and policy-makers to make decisions and frame their policies.”
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Source: Telegraph, Sarah Knapton, 18 May 2018

Brit dad sues Nokia for up to £1million claiming using his mobile phone caused his brain tumour
United Kingdom Created: 16 May 2018
Neil Whitfield, 60, says he developed an acoustic neuroma tumour due to heavy phone use for his job in the late 1990s.

A salesman who suffered a brain tumour is suing Nokia for ­“significant” compensation which could hit £1million – in a case that could cost mobile phone firms a fortune. Father-of-six Neil Whitfield, 60, claims heavy mobile phone use in the late 1990s caused a deadly growth.

He was left deaf in one ear after surgery in 2001 to remove a growth the size of a golf ball. He also suffers with balance problems. “I spent almost five years glued to my phone hours at a time until I was diagnosed. I could feel the heat coming off it.

Neil is the first Brit to sue a mobile phone company on these grounds and the case – six years in the making – could trigger hundreds of similar claims.

Solicitor Katrina Pope, of London Corporate Legal, in Mayfair, expects to make a “strong claim” by the end of 2018.

Katrina, who has been working unpaid on the case since 2012, said: “A win in the High Court could set a legal precedent for other cases which we are aware of and that are watching our progress.

“It is ultimately about justice for many people who have, akin to Neil, been victims of what some experts describe as the ‘smoking gun of the 21st century’.

“Neil’s personal injury claim is outside the legal time frame of three years. We argue it’s only now that the technology exists for radiation testing to allow us to bring the case – the first in Britain.”

Millions of Brits used Nokia phones in the 1990s. In 1995 just seven per cent of Brits had a cell phone but by 1999 one was sold every four seconds – and Nokia was the biggest manufacturer of mobiles.

Figures published last week show cases of a brain tumour called glioblastoma in England rose from 983 to 2,531 between 1995 and 2015. It is found in the forehead and side regions of the brain.

And a study in the Journal of Public Health and Environment found higher rates of tumours in the frontal ­tem-poral lobe which “raises the suspicion mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”.

The law firm has commissioned experts to carry out radiation tests on Nokia phones used by Neil, including the 5510. Katrina said: “The evidence is being collated.” The surgeon who removed Neil’s tumour at Manchester’s Royal ­Infirmary, Professor Shakeel Saeed, said of the case: “At a personal level one cannot rule out the risk based on the current evidence.”

Cancer Research moved to quell panic, saying there is no conclusive evidence that mobiles cause problems.

An Italian lawyer whose landmark case ruled a link between tumours and mobile phones said Neil’s battle would be watched by the world.

Stefano Bertone won a state-funded pension for Roberto Romeo, 57, after claiming excessive mobile use caused his acoustic neuroma tumour – the same type as Neil’s.

Roberto who used his phone for work for three to four hours every day for 15 years.

A court in Ivrea, Italy, awarded him £418 a month under a government workplace insurance scheme.

Stefano said: “We watch the UK case with interest. The argument required to prove causation in Roberto’s case against a government agency was less than would be required in a case against the manufacturer. The outcome in Mr Whitfield’s case will be used in other cases across the world.

“In America the class action is tied up in lengthy legal process, so Europe really is leading the field.”
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Source: Mirror, Grace Macaskill, 12 May 2018

You are probably not getting enough sleep, and it is killing you
United Kingdom Created: 30 Apr 2018
Rocker Warren Zevon is often credited with coining the mantra that’s been embraced by everyone from partying college kids to early-morning exercise evangelists: “You can sleep when you’re dead”.

Or as Bon Jovi put it, “Gonna live while I'm alive, I'll sleep when I'm dead.”

It’s an intoxicating thought, but the truth is that not getting enough sleep is literally killing us.

That’s what neuroscientist Matthew Walker, who directs the sleep and neuroimaging lab at UC Berkeley, says in his book, ‘Why We Sleep,’ which was published in October 2017.

Walker has dolled out sleep advice to the NBA, NFL and Pixar, among others. His first book is a deep dive into the latest research on the importance of sleep, as well as a how-to guide for getting better sleep.

He succinctly summed up his overall stance on snoozing for Business Insider: “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life,” Walker said.

It’s estimated that two thirds of adults around the world aren’t getting enough sleep. The World Health Organisation and Walker both recommend about eight hours a night as a good baseline.

Walker argues that routinely getting only six or seven hours of shut-eye per night can do serious long-term damage to your health, and in some cases even kill you. He insists on a strict eight hours of "sleep opportunity" for himself. That means he's in bed for at least eight hours a night, even if he spends a portion of that time falling asleep and waking up. He says that schedule helps keep him productive, as well as emotionally and physically fit.

Here are three of the key ways Walker says a lack of sleep can hurt your body and brain.

Lack of sleep puts the immune system at a disadvantage

When you haven't slept enough, it’s harder for the body to fight off illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer. Sleep deprivation depletes stores of your “natural killer cells,” a type of lymphocyte (white blood cell) that nix tumor and virus cells. A single 4- or 5-hour night of sleep could lower your body’s "natural killer" cell count by around 70%, Walker says.

Missing sleep can also put your body on a crash course for chronic disease. Insufficient sleep has been linked to increased instances of Alzheimer's, obesity, stroke, and diabetes. Lack of sleep changes how insulin operates in your body and how quickly your cells absorb sugar. After a week of short sleep nights (say, five or six hours), your doctor could diagnose you with pre-diabetes, Walker says. That means your blood sugar levels are elevated enough that you're on track to become a diabetic. Long-term damage to your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys could already be in motion in such circumstances.

It's true that some people, a "sleepless elite" as Walker calls them, are built to survive on less sleep and will sleep just six hours, even in laboratory sleep conditions. Such lucky individuals make up just a fraction of one percent of the population, Walker says, and share a gene (BHLHE41) that's incredibly rare. (If you think you have it, you probably don't.)

Just an hour of lost sleep can kill

Walker likes to say that "there is a global experiment performed on 1.6 billion people, twice a year." You probably call it Daylight Saving Time.

After we lose an hour of sleep every spring when the clocks get pushed forward, car accident rates jump. Walker's seen this play out in the lab too — after study participants spent two weeks sleeping for seven hours instead of nine, their reaction times slowed by half a second. That's a long lapse if you're cruising at 60 mph. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has studied car crashes in the US, and found that tired drivers kill about 6,400 people a year.

Heart attacks also spike 25% around Daylight Saving Time, since sleep deprivation puts more stress on the heart. Researchers have found that men in Japan who sleep less than six hours a night are 400-500% likelier to have a heart attack than their better-rested counterparts.

Sleep debt is carcinogenic

Insufficient sleep makes the body a better breeding ground for cancer. Sleepiness is now being blamed for cases of colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. An off-kilter sleep schedule may also give rise to cancer, since it causes melatonin to be suppressed. The World Health Organisation calls night work a "probable carcinogen."

Because of all these factors, scientists warn that hanging on to the idea that you'll sleep when your dead is truly deadly advice.

If you're not sleeping enough, "you will be both dead sooner, and the quality of your (now shorter) life will be significantly worse," Walker told Business Insider.
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Source: Independent, Hilary Brueck, 30 Apr 2018

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