Should I Turn off My Wi-Fi Router at Night or When Not in Use?

a black Asus router with four antennas on a table

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What To Know

  • Low levels of RF waves, like those from Wi-Fi routers, have not been proven harmful to human health, as evidenced by long-term studies, including one by the National Toxicology Program.
  • While not health-related, turning off your router at night can extend its lifespan, prevent overheating, and reduce distractions from online notifications.
  • It’s safe to keep your Wi-Fi router on 24/7, offering convenience for device updates and receiving important notifications, without adverse health effects.

Wi-Fi uses radio waves to transmit data from a router to your network-enabled devices, but are these radio waves as strong as the ones used by microwaves?

Should you turn off your Wi-Fi router at night or whenever you’re not using it? Can a small amount of radio exposure harm you?

Keep reading to find out!

Can a Small Amount of Radio Exposure Harm Us?

No, there are no official scientific studies that prove that low levels of radio wave exposure can harm human beings or other animal species.

a man working on a table checking his router

The first appliance that usually comes to mind when discussing radio waves is a microwave oven. For years, we’ve been told by our mothers to avoid cooking our food in one and to certainly not stand in front of it while it’s on. Our cell phones also emit radio frequency (RF) waves, but instead of using them to cook food, they use them to communicate and send data between cell towers.

The main difference between these two devices is the amount of RF waves they emit. Microwaves emit high levels of RF waves to cook your food, which can be harmful to humans. However, low levels of RF waves (such as the ones emitted by your cellphone or Wi-Fi router) are not harmful to your health.

This was confirmed when the National Toxicology Program (NTP) did a study on rats. Although rats are much smaller than humans and were exposed to higher levels of RF waves for prolonged periods, they still demonstrated no health repercussions. You can read more about this study by heading to FDA’s article, Scientific Evidence for Cell Phone Safety.

Radio wave intensity is measured by W/m2 (watts per meter-squared). Higher wattages indicate stronger RF waves, which are associated with greater health risks. However, the distance between you and the RF-emitting appliance must also be taken into account. The farther you are from the RF-emitting device, the lower the health risks will become.

Microwaves operate with 600 to 1200W of power. On the other hand, a smartphone’s maximum operated wattage is a mere 2W, although they normally operate at about 0.2W.

Additionally, your phone is much farther away from the nearest cellphone tower than your food is from the microwave. This same logic applies to your phone’s RF waves’ effect on you since they’re so weak that they will not affect your health.

RF waves from a Wi-Fi router are even weaker than those from a cell phone, and consequently, will not negatively impact your health. 

Should I Turn off My Wi-Fi at Night or When Not in Use?

No, you do not have to turn off/unplug your Wi-Fi at night.

a bedroom at night

Since Wi-Fi routers pose no threat to our health, it is perfectly safe to leave them on 24/7.

However, there are a few non-health-related reasons why you may want to turn off your router at night or when you’re planning on not using it for long periods, like when you go on vacation.

  • Turning off your router for a few hours a day will allow it to refresh and give it a break. This may help extend your router’s lifespan, which saves you money on purchasing a replacement.
  • Depending on its model and how much data it’s transmitting on a daily basis, your router may be prone to overheating. This can decrease its lifespan and cause it to glitch. Leaving it unplugged at night will allow it to cool down and be ready to work at full speed the next morning.
  • Lastly, turning your router off gives you a break. Notifications popping up on your phone throughout the night can be distracting and negatively impact your sleep schedule. Nothing makes you procrastinate a good night’s sleep or those tedious household tasks like an available network connection. So, consider shutting your router off for a few hours to give yourself an opportunity to detox from technology.

If you’re worried about damaging your router’s power cable or your home’s wall outlet by frequently unplugging it, consider using a power strip or an outlet with a power switch. This will allow you to conveniently turn your router on and off without damaging any hardware.

a white power strip on a floor

All things considered, there are some upsides to keeping your router on all the time:

  • Your smart devices (e.g. TV, streaming stick, smartphone, etc.) can update automatically overnight via the internet. 
  • It’s certainly more convenient since you won’t have to turn your router on every morning or each time you want to use it. 
  • You’ll be able to receive important app notifications overnight (e.g. texts on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.). 
  • Lastly, routers are designed to be left on all the time. Unlike computers and TVs, routers don’t necessarily need to be shut down periodically if they’re working correctly. They should still work properly if they’re left on 24/7 for months (or years!) at a time. 

Wrapping Things Up

You can turn off your router at night, but you will not experience any adverse health risks by keeping it on all the time. It’s true that routers emit RF waves, but they are so weak that they will not affect your health.

Long-term studies done on rats prove that low levels of RF waves from cell phones will not harm humans. Given that routers’ RF waves are weaker than those from cellphones, we can safely assume the same thing about routers.

However, leaving your router on 24/7 can affect your mental health, since receiving constant notifications on your cellphone can negatively impact your sleep schedule.

If you do want to turn off your router regularly, consider plugging it into a power strip or an outlet with a power switch to avoid damaging the power cable.

Do you turn your router off at night? If so, why?

Let us know in the comments below!

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