Sleep is a basic and essential human need and we spend a third of our lives sleeping. A good night’s sleep allows us to recharge and refresh so that we are alert and ready to take on the next day. Adequate and healthy sleep is also important for our physical health. It keeps our body healthy and staves off diseases.
A single night of diminished sleep can make you tired and irritated the next day. Now imagine not being able to sleep frequently and consistently.
Sleep disorders, or sleep-wake disorders, are conditions that affect your normal nighttime sleep pattern. The quality, amount, and timing of your sleep are disturbed resulting in the impairment of bodily functioning and significant distress. They eventually affect your quality of life and overall health.
Insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea are some forms of sleep disorders.
Sleep-wake disorders are often associated with other medical or mental health conditions. Sleep deprivation leads to mood changes like emotional outbursts, anger, and depression. (1) It can affect cognition and overall brain performance. Pre-existing anxiety and depression can also worsen due to sleep disorders.
Apart from affecting our memory, creativity, and decision-making abilities, sleep disorders can also increase the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, cancers, infection, and sexual dysfunction. (2, 3)
Missing a few hours of sleep in a night, or a few times in a week is not alarming. This may be due to stress, jet lag, a new environment, or hectic schedules. But if your lack of sleep is affecting your day-to-day life, making you sleepy throughout the day, it may be a sign of sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders can be treated naturally or with medications. Sleeping pills may have short-term benefits in helping you fall asleep. Prolonged use of sleep-inducing medications can potentially lead to physical dependence, impaired memory and attention, and gastrointestinal problems. (4)
You have closed the blinds, eliminated all sound, and reduced the bedroom lights. Each night you go to bed hopeful you can get some shuteye. But each morning you wake up feeling like a zombie. So what’s next?
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, or PEMF therapy, is known to improve sleep disorders. In this article, we will discuss some important aspects of PEMF therapy for sleep and how this unique treatment can help you get a restful and peaceful sleep.
What Is PEMF Therapy?
PEMF is a medication-free, non-thermal, and non-invasive alternative therapeutic modality that catalyzes and encourages the body’s natural healing mechanism to promote sleep.
How Does PEMF Work?
PEMF therapy sends magnetic energy into the body. This energy recharges our cells and restores the cellular voltage to normal levels. This will allow a previously energy-depleted cell to regenerate by itself, expel harmful toxins, and restore its normal operations.
PEMF works by physical, biophysical, and purely biological mechanisms. The electromagnetic pulses generated by PEMF hits the target tissue. The cell membrane undergoes a transient depolarization, which is the movement of the membrane charge to a more positive value. This opens up Calcium channels present in the membrane, allowing Calcium ions to move inside the cells. The entry of Calcium triggers a whole set of biochemical cascades within the cells that eventually result in regeneration and restoration of injured tissue, reduction in swelling, pain, formation of new blood vessels, and remodeling of extracellular components. (5)
How Does A PEMF Sleep Device Help With Insomnia?
PEMF therapy can alter disruptive sleep wave patterns.
Our sleep is made up of several rounds of sleep cycles, each containing four stages. Stage 1 to 3 forms the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep and stage 4 forms the REM sleep.
Stage 3 sleep is the deepest stage of sleep where the brain produces electrical pulses known as the delta waves. This brain frequency ranges from 0.5 to 4 Hz.
Theta waves, on the other hand, occur when you’re drifting off to sleep, during the light phase of sleep, or just before you wake up. This brain frequency ranges from 4 to 7.5 Hz.
PEMF sleep devices emit delta or theta wave electromagnetic fields. When our brain is presented with an external resonating stimulus, it reacts to it by setting up a mutually resonant pattern. This is known as frequency following or neuro-entertainment. This results in speeding or slowing down of the brain waves.
PEMF devices synchronize the internal frequency of the brain waves with the external frequency waves generated by them. This can coax the brain into frequencies that enhance sleep. The best PEMF frequency for sleep ranges between theta and delta waves.
What Are The PEMF Therapy Benefits For Sleep?
A four-week double-blinded study evaluated the efficacy of magnetic-field therapy for insomnia. A matchbox-sized PEMF device was placed near the head of study participants or under their pillow. The study enrolled a total of 101 participants, who either received magnetic field therapy or a placebo. These people were suffering from primary sleep disorders.
Participants were assessed for sleep latency (the time taken to fall asleep after turning out the lights), frequency of sleep interruption, sleepiness on waking up in the morning, daytime sleepiness and headaches, and difficulty in concentrating.
The majority of the study participants who received active treatment experienced substantial or complete improvements in their symptoms. There were no side effects reported with the use of the magnetic-field therapy device. (7)
Magnetic stimulation can also help alleviate psychiatric symptoms that contribute to insomnia. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorders have shown clinically significant antidepressant responses to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation with comparable improvements in insomnia. (8)
Stress is a major contributory factor to disturbed sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, work stress can cause adjustment insomnia, which involves sleeplessness or disturbed sleep that can last for a few days to weeks. In a 2017 study, PEMF therapy was given to 96 workers with work-related chronic stress. Fatigue, stress, and quality of life showed comparable improvements with Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, all of which significantly impacts sleep. (9)
People can also suffer from insomnia, thanks to persistent and chronic pain. A randomized controlled clinical trial exposed people with chronic generalized or localized pain to PEMF therapy. The 40-minute treatment, done twice daily for seven days, resulted in pain reduction in these patients. (10)
How To Use PEMF Devices?
With so many benefits of PEMF in improving sleep, you may want to incorporate PEMF into your sleep-care routine. If you are confused about where to start, we will guide you through it!
PEMF devices are available in hospitals, clinics, wellness, and physiotherapy centers. These devices are also available for purchase for at-home use. They are portable, provided with easy-to-understand instructions, and come with a wide array of power and frequency options.
If you are keen to use one to help you sleep better, a PEMF mat is a good place to begin.
Another question that might pop in your head right about now is can I sleep on a PEMF mat?
Yes, certainly! PEMF mats are easy to set up and use. Just lay it down on the floor and sleep on it for as long as you want. They have adjustable heat controllers and timers and can be easily rolled back up. You can take your PEMF mat anywhere you like.
What’s more? PEMF mats can also be used for light exercises, meditation, and post-workout stretching.
Am I a Good Candidate For PEMF?
PEMF therapy is generally safe and can be used by most people. Only people will the following conditions should not seek out PEMF therapy:
- If you have a cochlear implant in your ear or a pacemaker or a defibrillator in your heart, or if you use insulin pumps, there are chances that the electromagnetic pulses generated from the PEMF therapy devices can interfere with it. It may lead to malfunctioning or even failure of the electrical implant device.
- If you are pregnant; there is not enough evidence of the therapy being safe for the developing fetus.
- If you are actively bleeding, have been diagnosed with any forms of bleeding disorders, or are currently having a heavy menstrual bleed.
- If you have had an organ transplant, the use of PEMF therapy may contribute to organ rejection.
Are There Any PEMF Therapy Side Effects?
Medical practitioners consider PEMF to be a safe therapy. Most side effects mentioned below reduce or disappear as the body becomes accustomed to PEMF.
- PEMF therapy increases blood flow which may persist even after the therapy has been stopped. While this is a good thing if you have poor circulation and non-healing wounds, it may sometimes lead to oxidative stress.
- Improved circulation may also temporarily increase the intensity of pain.
- PEMF therapy uses nutrients that may cause deficiency. You can combat this by taking supplements.
- It can also decrease blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure.
PEMF therapy is like a charger for reenergizing your internal battery. It can reboot the brain by administering low-frequency waves that mimic the brain's frequency during sleep. Anecdotal evidence and research have shown that PEMF therapy reduces stress, relieves fatigue, and increases relaxation. All of this can help attain deeper and restorative sleep.
1. Saghir, Zahid et al. “The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection?.” Cureus vol. 10,7 e2912. 2 Jul. 2018, doi:10.7759/cureus.2912
2. Ibarra-Coronado, Elizabeth G et al. “The Bidirectional Relationship between Sleep and Immunity against Infections.” Journal of immunology research vol. 2015 (2015): 678164. doi:10.1155/2015/678164
3. Lin, Chia-Ling et al. “The Association Between Sleep Disorders and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Patients: A Population-based Nested Case-Control Study.” In vivo (Athens, Greece) vol. 33,2 (2019): 573-579. doi:10.21873/invivo.11513
4. Fitzgerald, Timothy, and Jeffrey Vietri. “Residual Effects of Sleep Medications Are Commonly Reported and Associated with Impaired Patient-Reported Outcomes among Insomnia Patients in the United States.” Sleep disorders vol. 2015 (2015): 607148. doi:10.1155/2015/607148
5. Luigi, Cristiano, and Pratellesi Tiziano. “Mechanisms of Action And Effects of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields (PEMF) in Medicine.” Journal of Medical Research and Surgery, 2020, pp. 1–4. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.52916/jmrs204033.
6. Patel, Aakash K., et al. “Physiology, Sleep Stages.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 22 April 2021.
7. Pelka, R B et al. “Impulse magnetic-field therapy for insomnia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Advances in therapy vol. 18,4 (2001): 174-80. doi:10.1007/BF02850111
8. Rosenberg, Paul B et al. “Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression.” The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences vol. 14,3 (2002): 270-6. doi:10.1176/jnp.14.3.270
9. Schoutens, Antonius M C et al. “Design of a randomized controlled trial on the effect on return to work with coaching plus light therapy and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for workers with work-related chronic stress.” BMC public health vol. 16 597. 19 Jul. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3276-6
10. Thomas, Alex W., et al. “A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial Using a Low-Frequency Magnetic Field in the Treatment of Musculoskeletal Chronic Pain.” Pain Research and Management, vol. 12, no. 4, 2007, pp. 249–58. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1155/2007/626072.