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Do You Have Email Apnea?

February 15, 2018

By Sharon Yeskel, BA

Integrative Health Associate

About 10 years ago, Linda Stone, a writer, researcher and former Apple and Microsoft executive, was suffering from chronic respiratory infections. Her doctor prescribed breathing exercises which she would practice before getting on the computer.

She began noticing that when she finished her breathing exercises and started reading emails, she was holding her breath or shallow breathing. This continued to happen day after day. She called the phenomenon “Email apnea or screen apnea.” She spent seven months observing and talking to others about it and found that 80% of the people she interviewed had email apnea.

She describes email apnea as shallow breathing or holding your breath without realizing it while working or playing in front of a computer screen. It also happens when tweeting and texting, playing video games or watching an exciting movie or the 11 o’clock news. It seems people tend to hold their breath in anticipation of what they are about to read, see or do.

Ms. Stone says, “Our posture is often compromised, especially when we use laptops and smartphones. Arms forward, shoulders forward, we sit in a position where it’s impossible to get a healthy and full inhale and exhale. Further, anticipation is generally accompanied by an inhale—and email, texting, and viewing television shows generally includes a significant dose of anticipation. Meanwhile, the full exhale rarely follows.”

Why is shallow breathing or breath holding bad for us?

When breath holding is the norm day after day, hour after hour, it sabotages healthy breathing. The lungs don’t get enough exercise and can lose some of their function. If we don’t get enough oxygen into our lungs, we don’t get rid of enough carbon dioxide and toxins build up in our cells. Lack of oxygen can make us feel tired and weaken our immune systems. We feel stressed rather than relaxed.

What can we do?

Awareness is key. Check your posture when in front of a screen. Sit back in your chair. Drop your shoulders. Begin to take notice of your breathing throughout the day. Is your breathing full and deep or constricted and shallow? (Ladies, check your breathing next time you apply mascara!).

When you notice that you are holding your breath, think EXHALE. Breathe out slowly. After you exhale, you will automatically take a breath in. Inhale slowly and deeply, with awareness.

Try some healthy breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing or the 4-7-8 breath advocated by Dr. Andrew Weil. Watch two of our Integrative Nurse Health Coaches demonstrate this technique:

Happy breathing!

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