Is there any health risk from sleeping with a laptop?
August 11, 2008 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Is there any health risk from sleeping with a laptop?

In addition to my 9-5 job, I freelance from home very frequently. I end up working into the wee hours almost every night.

Usually, I'll be working on my laptop in bed. More often than not, I end up zonking out at some point and wake up with the laptop next to my head.

Are there any health risks from doing this? This has been going on for years now. I don't want to give myself brain cancer!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Plug1 at 8:15 AM on August 11, 2008


I would be concerned about the heat produced by the laptop...if you are putting it on a cushy surface like a pillow, I suppose it's possible that it could be a fire hazard.
posted by MsElaineous at 8:20 AM on August 11, 2008


I wouldn't worry about radiation or the like, but be sure to keep a flat surface underneath your laptop whenever working in your bed or using it on your lap. A lap desk is a good, cheap option. This prevents the laptop from overheating, which lowers hardware life a great deal. And there have been publicized cases of people burning their laps and, er, other parts of the body with overheating laptops (though those cases may involve actual hardware problems, I'm not sure).
posted by Ky at 8:22 AM on August 11, 2008


I think the health risk is to your laptop, not you. Blankets are full of lint that will gum up the fans.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:28 AM on August 11, 2008


I'm guessing that this isn't a problem based on your previous experience, but be sure not to toss and turn or things could get ugly/broken. For what it's worth, I do this all the time and I still seem fine. Just be aware of how your body is positioned pre-sleep because the biggest risk is probably a stiff neck or back in the morning.
posted by PixelatorOfTime at 8:30 AM on August 11, 2008


Seconding the hard, flat surface for the laptop. I forgot about this last week and my laptop automatically shut off because there was no air flow.
posted by perpetualstroll at 8:38 AM on August 11, 2008


I got an over-bed table (second-hand and therefore very cheap) to combat this problem. It's right at a comfortable level for using my laptop in bed, and when I fall asleep it's out of the way. Amazing! (Warning: this table has made me the Laziest Person Ever.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:51 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, if you are male there's a chance that you are killing sperm with the heat of the lappy.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2008


If you;re worried about it sitting on your lap you might want to consider a laptop tray (disclaimer: those ones are sold by my dad). That should keep your sperm safe. I'm not sure using the laptop as a pillow should have any ill effect - wifi is very weak, and it'll go into sleep mode anyway.
posted by Artw at 9:16 AM on August 11, 2008


Just set the laptop to go into hibernate mode after XX idle minutes (I'd say 20 would be a good number).

The bigger concern is the excess heat damage to the laptop - particularly the battery. Operating at high temperatures greatly reduces the life of the battery, so take that into consideration. You also have the slight risk of fire due to a faulty overheated battery.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:27 AM on August 11, 2008


As long as you're sure it doesn't have an STD...

But in all seriousness, I agree with the person that said that lint could gum up the fans. Other than that, I doubt it could do any serious damage to you. If I were you I'd also be more worried about knocking the laptop off my bed in the middle of the night, which is also another good reason to put your computer on hibernate mode so you don't damage the HD so badly just in case that does happen.
posted by azarbayejani at 11:22 AM on August 11, 2008


The first thing that comes to mind for me is that a lot of research shows that staring into a laptop screen is a lot like sitting in a well-lit room: it sort of keeps you awake. Seems you can fall asleep anyway, but it's probably not the best for your internal clock?

Seconding the others that say it's more the laptop than you: I'd be terrified of rolling over onto the screen and snapping it, or of blocking the fan and causing it to overheat. Though you say you've been doing it for years?

People get pretty close to their laptops in normal use, anyway. IANAD, but I don't think you're at any particularly elevated risk of anything.

I'd be slightly concerned about wireless if you use it: I wouldn't really want a radio transmitter next to my head all night, especially one at microwave frequencies. But as I went to type that, I realized that I spend more time with my cell phone (at similar-enough frequencies and probably greater power) pressed to my ear than with a laptop by my head, and I suspect you do the same.
posted by fogster at 11:38 AM on August 11, 2008


Due to the extra bright light keeping me up even longer than I want to, I've installed a utility (Shades) that allows to crank the brightness on my mac even lower than the lowest default setting.

I find that it keeps my brain from thinking its still day out.

If you are worried about the wireless, you can always do "poor man's wireless" and plus a very long ethernet cable in and turn off the wifi radio at night.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:36 PM on August 11, 2008


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