Late night use of electronic media devices causes male infertility, claims study

Smartphone and tablet use in the evening and after bedtime can reduce sperm motility, sperm progressive motility and sperm concentration

By Dr Shweta Goswami

The next time your partner brings his smartphone or tablet to the bed at night, make him stop as it not only kills the mood, but may also cause harm to his sperms. A recent study, shared at the Virtual SLEEP 2020 meeting, has found a significant association between evening and late-night exposure to light from digital devices and poor sperm quality. The effect of cell phone radiation on healthy male sperm parameters and fertility is the subject of recent interest and investigations.

According to WHO, the prevalence of infertility in the general population is 15 to 20 per cent, and male infertility factor contributes 20 to 40 per cent to this rate. Moreover, the prevalence of male infertility in India is around 23 per cent.

It has become the need of the hour to understand the causes and then treating them. We already know many lifestyle and environmental factors may be causing male infertility — like smoking and alcohol consumption. But if recent studies are anything to go by, the use of electronic and digital media devices have a huge impact, too.

According to the study, smartphone and tablet use in the evening and after bedtime reduced sperm motility, sperm progressive motility and sperm concentration. The greater the exposure to the short-wavelength light (SWL) emitted from these devices, the higher the percentage of immotile sperm. Further, the study indicated that longer sleep duration is positively correlated with total sperm count and progressive motility.

In other words, exposure to light emitted from digital devices like phones, laptops, tablets and even digital television systems can not only lead to sleep disturbances, it can also prevent sperms from reaching their destination, thereby causing a surge in male infertility rates.

Different colours of light also affect the overall fertility — for example SWL’s usage in the evening or night, which is on the blue end of the spectrum reduces the secretion of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that makes people feel sleepy and helps them stay asleep. As a result, this exposure can have a negative impact on sleep quality and quantity, for both men and women, creating hindrances in fertility.

Unlimited use of smartphones, computers and wireless connections has not only made us fully dependent, but is also making us sick. The radiation causes harm to the DNA of a person, due to which cells start losing their ability to recover on their own. When these radiations reach the sperm and egg cells, they become a reason for abortion, too.

There’s no harm in using digital devices earlier in the evening, a few hours before bedtime. Until more research is done to tease out what’s happening to the sperm of men who use digital devices at night, try limiting their exposure; it’s best if you quit this habit altogether.

On the other hand, sleep is highly important for overall health, which should be recognised. Men who work late night shifts sometimes face significant disruption of hormones.

Men who use or depend on devices should consider other means to counter the effects of exposure with the consultation of healthcare professionals, in order to prevent infertility in future.

(The writer is the medical director of Zeeva fertility clinic and senior consultant IVF from Jaypee Hospital Noida)

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