Is your computer screen literally taking your breath away? It’s possible that you are holding your breath while using your computer, without even knowing it. Some people hold their breath while reading emails or messages, some others, during typing, and neither of them knows what they’re doing, or even, that they are suffering from irregular breathing.
You are not alone! We are talking about Screen Apnea.
What exactly is it?
What is screen apnea?
Screen apnea is the temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while sitting in front of a screen, whether a computer, a mobile device, or a television.
Studies have shown that over 80% of users suffer from Screen apnea without knowing it. And it’s unhealthy! I went into my personal investigation and found a few things online. What is the problem with shallow breathing?
According to ‘rubmassage.com.au‘ Dr Russell Greenfield believes that over time SA can:
· Disrupt your sleep.
· Lower your energy levels
· Interfere with you ability to think quickly and focus.
· Lead to mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
· Increase stress related disease.
“Screen apnea alters your bodies delicate balance of glasses like oxygen, nitric oxide and carbon dioxide.” Says Greenfield. “ This can cause inflammation and interfere with your immune system’s ability to fight infection.” Amongst a host of other things. (Source: rubmassage.com.au)
‘Forbes.com’ takes it even further. Most Americans sitting on the computer, or in a car, do that on an average of 10 hours a day, while eating regularly, and moving far too little. Many Americans aren’t aware that getting up, stretching and moving around will reduce stress and take pressure off your body. As many as 40% of the Americans who like being glued to their chair follow the advice of the late comedian Joan Rivers, who said, “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, He would’ve put diamonds on the floor.”
Chronic breath holding can harm your health, lead to exhaustion and compromise your work performance. Prolonged sitting in front of your screen has been described as “the new smoking.” (Source: Forbes.com)
Now, what can we do about it? Rubmassage.com, Forbes.com, and an additional source, YogaInternational.com, agree on the treatments of screen apnea:
1. Notice when you aren’t breathing. Check in every so often and take some long vagus-nerve (our primary parasympathetic nerve) stimulating exhalations that last longer than your inhalations. Try humming your breath out, count a long exhale, or useujjayi breath to extend your exhalation.
2. Look beyond the screen from time to time, even if you’re glued to it for work. Try not to distract yourself with another screen when you do this, like your television. You’ll probably find yourself taking easier breaths.
3. Get up and move/express yourself. Dance, vocalize, do simple stretches, take a walk. These are natural easers for the breath.
4. Explore breathing practices that don’t involve breath retention and keep conditioning your breath to maintain a smooth, even, continuous flow; try brahmari(humming breath). Place more emphasis on how your breath feels in the moment than how you think you “should” make it behave. Focus only on breathing a few times during the day.
5. Put your phone on airplane mode every now and then, or turn off work notifications after work hours.
Chances are screen apnea causes you to use your shoulders instead of your diaphragm to move air in and out of your lungs. You might even stop breathing or hold your breath and not even realize it. Natural abdominal breathing from your abdomen sends additional oxygen to your brain and activates your parasympathetic system (your rest-and-digest response which offsets your stress response). Notice your breathing right now. Do your breaths come from high in your chest or deep in your abdomen? Are they fast or slow? If you’re aware of shallow breathing higher up in your chest, practice abdominal breathing. Take several deep breaths so that your diaphragm flattens downward, pushing the muscles in the abdominal cavity upward, creating more space in the chest so your lungs can fill up. You can’t get as worked up if you force yourself to breathe deeply. Your body can’t maintain the same level of stress with the extra oxygen you get in your bloodstream when you breathe from your abdomen
Statistics show that just moving around can cut your risk of sudden cardiac arrest by 92%, so don’t park it for too long. When you get moving, physical tension and mental stress melt away, and the solution to a mulled-over problem becomes crystal clear. Experts say being on your feet at your desk instead of sitting can help. Simply not sitting gives you the benefits of exercise.
Stand up, breathe deeply, shake, twist, and stretch out the built-up tension. Take a few seconds to reach high. Let yourself feel the stretch as you elongate your body and notice where you hold tension then release it. Shake the part of your body where you sense tension. As you continue to stretch, bring your attention to each part of your body that has remained tight. Bend over and touch your toes and feel that stretch letting the tension in your body evaporate.
You can improve your breathing and posture right at your desk in the very chair you’re in as long as it has a back. Sitting in your chair, inhale and raise your arms toward the ceiling. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you reach upward with your fingertips. Anchor your sit bones in your seat and reach up from there. Place your left hand over on your right knee. Place your right arm on the back of the chair. Stretch lightly for sixty seconds with eyes open or closed. Notice the stretch and what happens inside. After sixty seconds, bring your body back to center. Then reverse the stretch. Place your right hand over your left knee. Put your left arm on the back of the chair for another sixty seconds. Stretch lightly again with eyes open or closed. Pay attention to the stretch, and notice what happens inside. After three to five minutes of repeating this exercise, you will notice better breathing, a renewed energy and improved mental clarity.
Take An ‘Awe Walk’
An “Awe walk”—a stroll in nature where you intentionally shift your attention outward to the natural environment instead of inward—is a great remedy for screen apnea. Not only does it get you up and moving and improve your breathing, it also clears your mind and gives you a sense of awe from the natural surroundings. So, you’re not thinking about the tight deadline, the unfinished project or the strain in your relationship with your boss. A new study published in the journal Emotion found that a regular dose of awe reduces your stress and boosts your mental health. An awe walk gets your blood circulating and restores your breathing to its natural rhythm.
Screen Glow And Blue-Light Glasses
Most of the technology we commonly use—such as computer screens, smartphones and tablets—emits blue light, which past research has found can disrupt sleep. Workers have become more dependent on these devices, especially as we navigate remote work and school during the coronavirus pandemic. The media have recently reported on the benefits of blue-light glasses for those spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen. This new research extends understanding of the circadian rhythm, a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. New research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that wearing blue-light glasses just before sleeping can lead to a better night’s sleep, better career decision-making and contribute to a better day’s work productivity.
The 20-20-20 Rule
Using the 20-20-20 rule can help you prevent screen apnea. The rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you take a 20 second break, move around and look at something 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles for 20 seconds and gives your brain a much-needed respite. Here’s how the rule works: Set an alarm or time popup for every 20 minutes when you’re working in front of a screen as a reminder to get up from your workstation, deep breathe and stretch. It takes 20 seconds for your eyes to fully relax. Every 20 minutes for 20 seconds walk around the room, hydrate yourself, close your eyes or look out a window—perhaps at a tree, squirrel or some aspect of nature. Take off your shoes and dig your toes into the carpet for 20 seconds. And you’re ready to get back to your screen for another 20 minutes.
It’s important that you take care of yourself, no matter where your work takes you. The COVID pandemic has had an enormous influence on our computer/screen behavior and severely limited our free time, outside time, where our bodies can relax and breathe fresh air. Be aware of these changes, and how you are stressing yourself out! Keep writing, under all circumstances! Bu also, stay healthy!