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Email Apnea; How desk-life effects your capacity to breathe...

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

Email or 'screen' apnea is a newly discovered phenomenon that occurs almost as soon as you sit down to your computer screen; you hold your breath. Your breath is stunted. It's shallow. It's inhibited. It's entirely unconscious and happens to as many as 80% of us, yet most of us are completely unaware of it.

So why is this a problem? Research by Dr. Margaret Chesney and Dr. David Anderson at National Institute of Health (NIH) demonstrated that holding the breath in this way contributes to stress-related diseases and disturbs the body’s delicate balance of our 3 key breath gases - oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide. This perfect balance when in harmony helps keep the immune system strong, fights infection, and helps reduce inflammation. It can affect our well-being and our cognition, and therefore our ability to work and think effectively.

Another serious effect shallow breathing has on the body is triggering a sympathetic “fight or flight” response in our nervous system. If we stay in this state of stress and hyper-arousal for extended periods of time, it can not only impact sleep, memory, the way we perform tasks, but it can also have a long-term effect on our mental wellbeing and exacerbate anxiety and depression.

So next time you sit down to open your emails, try these basic steps to tune in to the breath, and help recalibrate this vital body system to bring us back into balance, and out of our chronic stress state:

1) - Take a moment to actually notice how you're breathing naturally when at your desk. If you struggle with this there are apps that can help you discover your breathing rate when at your desk vs the rest of the day.

2) - When you first open your emails or sit down to your computer, take between 5-10 super conscious balanced breaths, breathing in for a count of 4, then out for a count of 4.

3) - Use a metronome or a breath timer app to breathe along with in the background. You won't be able to consistently follow it ALL day, but you can pop it on on the hour for a few minutes to refresh and recalibrate.

4) - As soon as you clock off for the day, spend a good 10-20 minutes 'switching off' your sympathetic nervous system with some relaxation-focussed breathwork. Try breathing in for 4, holding for 4, breathing out for 8, pausing for 4.

References -

Further Reading -

'Breath' James Nestor


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