Email Apnea

Do you suffer from Email Apnea?  Do you hold your breath while writing?


I had no idea there was such a thing as Email Apnea until I read about it:

I wanted to know – how widespread is “email apnea?” I observed others on computers and Blackberries: in their offices, their homes, at cafes — the vast majority of people held their breath, or breathed very shallowly, especially when responding to email. I watched people on cell phones, talking and walking, and noticed that most were mouth-breathing and hyperventilating. Consider also, that for many, posture while seated at a computer can contribute to restricted
breathing.

Does it matter? How was holding my breath affecting me?

I called Dr. Margaret Chesney, at the National Institute of Health (NIH). Research conducted by Chesney and NIH research scientist, Dr. David Anderson, demonstrated that breath holding contributes significantly to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic, the kidneys begin to re-absorb sodium, and as the oxygen (O2), carbon
dioxide (CO2), and nitric oxide (NO) balance is undermined, our biochemistry is thrown off.

I began to notice that when I was responding to an email — any email — I would hold my breath in spurts while my fingers were pressing down on the keyboard.

I also discovered that during intensive book chapter writing sessions I would also hold my breath. 

The process of writing was slowly becoming one of an unconscious suffocation interspersed between gasps for air. 

I have now learned to be more body aware and to always breathe — steadily and reliably — and I find I am able to relax and think faster. 

Have you ever suffered from Email Apnea?

Are you holding your breath while reading this?

21 comments

  • Hi David,
    No, not holding my breath! But only because years ago when I did some drama training we were told that holding one’s breath wreaked memory, movement and the voice. Ooops, that’s just about everything to do with acting! And also in the rest of life as well.
    That and years of yoga helped. I still have problems coordinating my breathing with movement and “intent” but working towards harnessing decent breathing habits is a big issue of physical and mental health.
    Whether I was doing help desk support (dealing with panic of the users and myself sometimes!) or in some grief/cancer support it never hurts to check my own breathing and also remind others to “ok, take slow steady breaths…”. I find that everytime I feel “lost” or out of my depth I am generally not breathing properly.
    Awareness is all, then dealing with it can happen.

  • creativeRhino –
    Right! Breathing is important in regulating a lot of the body’s chemistry. Teaching acting is to also teach the proper breathing technique.
    When you call 911 for emergency help, the operator often tells the caller to “relax and take a deep breath.”
    Yoga is another interesting example you raise. So often new students “reverse breathe.” They have to be taught to reverse their inhalation and exhalation technique when getting into position. The breath comes first; the body is second.

  • Gordon Davidescu

    I have never noticed a lack of breathing while doing just about anything and that is down to my mother always reminding me to deeply breathe whenever I am upset. :)

  • Donna Tessitore

    David–I’m not aware of email apnea, but since I do get very involved while I’m writing, may be need to take note of this?
    All this discussion about breathing brings back some very fond memories of a Philosophy professor I had in college. He taught Hatha Yoga. That deep breathing could take you to another planet!
    He would also do this rapid belly breathing that was quite astounding to watch! But I never did try that …

  • Gordon Davidescu

    I have been super aware of my breathing since I read this. Yarr! :) I can’t stop noticing my breathing rate. Tee hee.

  • Gordon –
    The non-breathing thing is very scary. It happened to me when I had tons of email to answer in a short amount of time. I’d blaze through them like a sprinter — but without breathing. New runners, you may notice, hold their breath in order to “run faster” even though it only makes their speed degrade by degrees. When people lift heavy things they also usually hold their breath which is just what you don’t want to do your muscles in that situation.

  • Donna –
    Email apnea happens when you’re angry or hurried and you need to “call up” the base of your emotions because, we wrongly think, that suffocation makes us better and smarter. I think it’s part of the fight or flee behavior — one great way to quickly raise your blood pressure and to get your heart racing… is to hold your breath!
    Rapid Yoga Breathing can be a dangerous thing and that technique is very tricky to teach and practice because people can easily start to hyperventilate and even change the normal beating of their hearts. I’m glad you didn’t try it!

  • Mr. Gordon –
    Good! I’m glad you’re aware of the rise and fall of your chest. SMILE!
    The next time you ask someone an anxious question, “Do you love me?” “Are you angry?” “Give me that pot of coffee!” Check to see if you’re holding your breath in anticipation of the answer after the asking.

  • I think I’m a breath holder,David. I get stressed and turn shades of blue.

  • I don’t hold my breath much I don’t think but I’ll watch here on out. I can see getting angry might do it.

  • I appreciate your honesty, Anne. Thank you! I, too, am a “shade bluer” every now and then!

  • Right, Karvain. If you’re angry about something, chances are you’re also holding your breath. Try it out and report back!

  • im holding my breath as i read

  • Dananjay Anandan

    David!
    i breathe normally when i’m writing. no problems here.

  • Good to know, Dananjay!

  • Breathe, arin, breathe!!! SMILE!

  • Kathakali Chatterjee

    Hi David,
    I’ve heard about “sleep apnea” before, never heard of “email apnea” – the connection between the two are same I guess – some kind of breathing disorder.
    I think anticipation makes us anxious and that changes our breathing pattern; never observed before – will do so and get back – very interesting!

  • Keep an eye on your breathing, Katha, and let us know if you ever become breathless while writing!

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