How does screen time affect your breathing?

I’m writing this blog sitting in front of two screens with yet another one laying on the desk in front of me. I have to make a conscious effort to stop the flow of information by silencing the notifications on the devices I use. 

What’s the effect of this continuous exposure to screens on the nervous system?

Think about the first thing you do when you start your day. Do you check your messages on your phone? Do you read the news? Or your emails? Do you scroll through social media?

Chances are you’re getting bombarded with information while engaging in one or more of those activities. At the same time, you’re thinking about everything you have to do and may realize you’re running late for your next endeavor 😱

When you feel overwhelmed, you’re in a state of stress. And your breathing changes. 

There’s a term called ‘email/screen apnea’, first used in 2008 by Linda Stone, writer, speaker, and former executive of Apple and Microsoft. It describes the phenomenon where breathing stops or becomes shallow unconsciously for a short time while working or playing in front of a screen. 

Unconscious breath holding and shallow breathing cause a lack of oxygen to the brain and also signal stress to the nervous system, triggering the fight or flight response. The heart starts beating faster, glucose in the bloodstream increases, and muscles get ready to run 🏃

Email apnea becomes problematic when it happens often. On one hand, the tissues and organs are not getting enough oxygen. On the other hand, the body is ready to physically run from danger but is stuck with reading and responding to emails without much movement. Think about preparing food for 50 guests, but only having 2 show up!

Here’s what you can do to decrease the effects of email/screen apnea:

Before you start your day in front of a screen, practice balanced breathing 💨

  • Sit up straight, but comfortably with both feet on the ground
  • Breathe in for 4 counts
  • Breathe out for 4 counts
  • Repeat for 10 breaths, always through the nose and engaging your diaphragm
Not sure where to start? Let’s talk. Click here to schedule a 30-minute chat with me. 

Stay healthy, stay happy.

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