Screen Apnea 101

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“…the average adult spends over eight hours a day in front of a screen.”

–Manage your Day-To-Day, page 152

Books like Eat Move Sleep have already reminded us that sitting all day at the computer is a major health hazard. It’s also a lame way to live your daily life, right?

The negative impact from sitting is just the tip of the iceberg as researcher Linda Stone noted in Manage Your Day-To-Day. Stone has described a new phenomenon called screen apnea. That’s right – screen apnea. “It’s the temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while sitting in front of a screen, whether a computer, a mobile device, or a television.”

After reading about screen apnea – ironically enough on a screen – I realized that on several accounts while I’m working, I hold my breath. As if I’m swimming in the ocean with the fishies. I thought this was just an odd quirk of mine but alas, it’s actually a health risk that affects all of us.

Basically, when your breathing is off, your nitric oxide balance is off and that is NOT a good thing. Nitric oxide is instrumental in our health and “the immune system uses nitric oxide in fighting viral, bacterial and parasitic infections and tumors … it is associated with the processes of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and, probably, depression,” Pearce Wright noted in a Royal Society and Association of British Sciences Writers briefing document.

So how does screen apnea affect you?

Shallow breathing and breath-holding trigger a fight-or-flight state. In this state, you act impulsively. You are ready to consume anything and everything including not only food but also i-n-f-o-r-m-a-t-i-o-n. You will check emails, texts, and blogs like it’s your last opportunity, ever. You may not realize it, but your body and mind are majorly stressed. And all because you held your breath while shooting off 5 emails.

How can you avoid screen apnea?

  1. Be aware of it. Acknowledge times throughout your day when your breathing is disturbed. Catch it next time it happens. (Maybe it’s happening right now – breathe!)
  2. Start a yoga routine or meditation practice solely to focus on your breathing. The habits you form will slowly start to seep into your workday. Deep and regular breaths = Good.
  3. Take breaks. Seriously, when’s the last time you spent a day without a screen? Declare this Saturday or Sunday a No-Screen Day. No TV, no texting, no email, no laptop. You’ll breathe much better and you’ll most likely be a happier person too.

In the comments below, let us know if you’ve encountered screen apnea? If so, how has it impacted your work? Any other tips on how to avoid it?

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