Electric Fields and Insomnia

Several years ago, John was asked to investigate the house of a woman who claimed she had not slept well since moving in. Upon inspection of the bedroom, John noted that the electric fields registered over 5,000 millivolts on the meter. He explained that the goal for a healthy house is 20 millivolts or less. (These measurements are rela­tive, and are measured in the body using special equipmentand techniques.)

The elevated electric fields were a result of the electrical wiring in and near the bedroom. The fields were being concentrated in the metallic bed – springs, which acted as an antenna, redirecting the electric field upward toward the client. John explained that the easiest way for an electrician to lower the electric fields in the bed would be to in­stall a remote controlled switch on three of the cir­cuit breakers in the basement that controlled the electrical wiring in and around the bedroom. The client’s husband expressed his skepticism regard­ing the investigation and findings. He doubted that the electric fields could explain his wife’s sleeplessness since he did not experience similar symptoms. He was reluctant to follow John’s rec­ommendations.

John then suggested that the couple try an experiment to ensure that a remote switch would indeed be money well spent. They were instructed to turn off the three breakers in the basement ev­ery night before they went to bed to determine if the woman slept better. John reminded them that since there would be no power in the bedroom they should have a battery operated alarm clock and flashlight available.

A few weeks later, the client contacted John to report that she was sleeping soundly for the first time in years and that both she and her hus­band were elated. She related to John what had transpired after he left their home. When the time came to turn off the breakers on the first night, she could hear her husband grumbling with resent­ment and stomping loudly down the steps to the basement to turn off the breakers. That night she slept so long and soundly that she barely made it to the bathroom in time the following morn­ing. Her husband took note of her improvement and the second night went into the basement to shut off the breakers without saying a word. Again she slept soundly and awoke with the sun, feel­ing refreshed. By the third night she began to feel romantic, a feeling she had not experienced in a long time. By the fourth night her husband was whistling while he took the basement stairs two at a time. At this point the couple was eager to invest in a remote switching device.


Because of standard wiring practices, readings of 1,000 millivolts or higher in a home are typical. Wiring homes for low electric fields is much easier and more cost effective when this consideration is part of the initial building plans. Wiring paths, for example, can be situated to limit the number of circuits involved, and high-field emitters can be placed at a safe distance from the sleeping area. Electric fields in existing homes cannot always be controlled by simply shutting off the breakers. Sometimes expensive shielding is needed. Sensi- tivitytoelectricfieldsvariesfrom personto person. In the case described above, the client developed severe insomnia while her husband experienced no ill effects.

an outlet and a switch in the same unit and can be installed in a typical outlet box. The switch is designed to cut off power to the adjoining outlet and to all outlets downstream from it. When the switch is on, electricity flows through the hot wire and anything plugged into the controlled electrical line will function normally. When the switch is off, the electrical wiring from the switch and beyond is “dead” and no fields will be present in the rest of the circuit downstream from it.

This method of controlling fields may be inconvenient because the switch must be turned off at a distance from the items to be controlled and cannot be reached easily from the bedside. Kill switches can be wired into bedrooms and other chosen areas and placed more conveniently if the wires to the kill switch are run inside grounded metal conduit. When wired in this manner, the switch can be placed so that you can reach it without getting out of bed. The hot wire leading to the kill switch is still energized, but the field from it is shielded by the metal conduit. The room must be wired so that the kill switch is first on the circuit. When the switch is turned off, the fields are blocked and none of the electrical equipment plugged in along that run of wire will operate or produce fields.

Electrical runs from adjoining areas need to be carefully considered so that their fields do not enter areas designated to be free of fields. It is important that smoke detector and refrigerator/freezer circuits are never on a cir­cuit with a kill switch that might turn them off. All equipment that must operate twenty-four hours a day should be specially shielded or po­sitioned far enough away to prevent the fields from penetrating walls into the sleeping area. The electric fields generated by this type of household equipment generally do not extend more than 12 feet from the equipment.

A cut-off or demand switch can be installed as an alternative to a kill switch to eliminate unnecessary AC electric fields from dedicated rest and sleeping areas.

Cut-off or Demand Switches4

Automatic demand switches are readily avail­able in German-speaking countries, and have been introduced into North America. These switches are a convenient solution because they do not require any lifestyle changes. The automatic demand switch cuts off power from selected circuits when there is no need for power consumption. The switch is installed next to the circuit breaker at the electric panel, making use of the existing wiring to control the circuit. When the power is cut off, a 3-volt DC control voltage monitors the circuit to en­sure that it comes back on as soon as a switch is turned on demanding electricity.

For example, a demand switch can be in­stalled for the bedroom circuit in the main panel. The bedside lamp is usually the last thing turned off at night. Once it is switched off, the bedroom circuit will go into sleep mode because the demand switch senses that no current is flowing and therefore cuts off the power. Since no more AC electric fields ema­nate from this particular circuit, no body volt­ages can be induced. (Only the very low DC control voltage is still present.) As soon as the bedside lamp or any other device in this circuit is turned on, the required power (and with it the undesired fields) will reappear.

This type of demand switch works only when a bedroom is serviced by a single electri­cal circuit. Unfortunately, it is common prac­tice in the United States to connect the wall outlets of a given room to a different branch circuit than the ceiling light of the same room. Also the wiring for adjacent rooms with com­mon walls may be on still another energized branch circuit.

The successful operation of an automatic demand switch depends on its proper instal­lation. The selected electric circuit must not supply any electric appliances or electronic devices that draw power on a permanent basis, such as clock radios, video recorders, TV sets with stand-by mode, refrigerators, intercoms, antenna amplifiers, battery chargers, answer­ing machines, and cordless phones. These de­vices need to be either disconnected or, better yet, kept out of the bedroom. If they must re­main, they will need to be connected to other circuits not controlled by any demand switch. If one of these appliances were mistakenly connected to a protected circuit, it would ren­der the demand switch inoperative.

Sources for automatic demand switches in North America are:

• Breathing Easy

• Safe Living Technologies, Inc.

In North America, switch modules are offered by home automation specialists. The modules require either an additional bell wire to trans­mit the control signal, which would be suit­able only for new construction, or a dedicated regular circuit separate from the one you wish to control. There are also automatic wireless modules available, which we do not recom­mend because most of them emit radio fre­quency radiation while there is a load on the line.

Before you consider installing a cut-off or demand switch, you should have a Building Biology survey performed. A professional as­sessment will clarify whether a demand switch is necessary and, if so, on which circuit or cir­cuits it should be installed. Often it is not suffi­cient to cut off power only to the circuit for the bedroom you are concerned about because AC electric fields emanating from wiring of adjoining rooms beside, below, or above the bedroom may affect the room in question. A mistake in the installation of a demand switch may also become the source of elevated AC electric fields caused by the loss of the electric field from the shut-off circuit. Sometimes the elimination of a field has the unintended con­sequence of no longer canceling electric fields from other circuits in the area of concern. For example, if you cut off the power from the bed­room wiring running through the wall behind your head, it is possible that the AC electric fields from the wiring of an adjoining room in the same wall will extend even more intensely into the head area of your bed.

It is important to note that cut-off or de­mand switches might be installed either in the wrong panel or on the wrong circuit. The elec­tric field distribution of all circuits needs to be carefully surveyed by a qualified consultant in order to single out the circuits of concern and select the appropriate number of switch mod­ules. A preventive installation without a pro­fessional survey is never a good idea.

Another caution is that most voltage testers will not detect all electric circuits governed by an automatic demand switch, which operates with a low control voltage. However, if a person touches one of the electrical conductors, the automatic demand switch might be initiated to turn the power back on, with the potential risk of an electric shock. To ensure safe usage, all electric circuits controlled by an automatic demand switch must be clearly labeled in the

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