A person sits in a darkened room, back to the camera, looking at two monitors, with a lamp illuminat
Speed Read
Centr Team

Work at a desk? You probably have screen apnea

Centr Team

Your phone pings. The red dot on your inbox taunts you again. What can it be this time? Which message will you respond to first? You breathe in with anticipation… but then, you don’t breathe out.

This chronic breath-holding is known as screen apnea, and a lot of us are doing it without even realizing it.

Sometimes called email apnea, it can actually happen when we use any screen at any time – whether you’re pumping out work at your desk, waiting in a virtual queue for concert tickets or trouncing your bestie in an online game.

And when you’re using screens all day, every day, the impacts can add up.

Why should I care about screen apnea?

When we’re faced with any kind of stimulus – whether it’s a bear attack or an email from the boss – our nervous system looks for signals to decipher whether or not it’s a threat.

Because our screens and notifications are delivering almost constant stimulation, this can put our sympathetic nervous system under pressure. And a natural response to that pressure is short and shallow breathing, or even periods of unknowingly holding your breath.

This triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response, which as well as rocketing stress levels, can lead to physical pain like stiffness and headaches. Unchecked stress can also have serious impacts on your long-term health.

A photo of deep green rolling hills, with a flock of sheep on a dipped ridgeline in the middle distance.

Try this 3-minute guided session with Sergio to reset your breathing.

3 ways to beat screen apnea

Just because you don’t realize you’re doing it, doesn’t mean it’s not adding to your stress load. Fortunately, there are ways you can train yourself out of this behavior.

1. Set breathwork reminders in your calendar. Set an hourly reminder with a notification on your phone or calendar and take a minute or two to breathe deeply: in through your nose, out through your mouth. The more often you consciously snap out of shallow breathing, the more you will build better breathing habits overall.

2. Pay attention to your posture. Slumping or hunching forward can make it difficult to expand your diaphragm and breathe properly. Whether you’re sitting or standing, try to maintain a position where you’re upright, with your shoulders and neck relaxed, so that your abdomen can expand with every breath.

3. Focus your effort on the exhale. Noticed that you’re not breathing right? Focus on the exhale to quickly reset your breathing. By forcing all of the air out of your lungs with a full exhale, you’ll automatically need to take a deep, diaphragm-driven breath to refill.

Want more practical well-being advice?

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