We Regret To Inform You That You May Have ‘Email Apnea’ and Not Even Realize It

“There’s nothing immediately harmful about email apnea, but if it becomes habitual—happening hour after hour and day after day—it really compromises healthy breathing,” Perls says. He explains that when shallow breathing becomes your default, the lungs don’t get enough oxygen, and not enough carbon dioxide is released from the body. When this happens, it can actually weaken the immune system. He explains that taking shallow breaths makes the body have to work harder to keep us healthy.

Making a habit of shallow breathing isn’t good for the brain, either. In the short term, Dr. Sawhne says it can cause trouble concentrating, memory problems, and decreased productivity. Scientific studies involving animals show that long-term, shallow breathing could impact cognitive function and memory in bigger, more debilitating ways.

Here’s what else is annoying about email apnea: Even though stress can cause shallow breathing, Perls says shallow breathing can also cause us to feel more stressed, which can cause someone to get stuck in an anxiety loop. “It’s bidirectional, meaning anxiety can cause shallow breathing, and shallow breathing can also cause anxious feelings,” he says.

How To Delete Email Apnea From Your Life

Since emails can disrupt breathing without you even realizing it, putting an end to it can be tricky. Like any problem, Perls says the first step is actually acknowledging the problem. This, he says, requires actively noticing your breathing throughout the day. “Since shallow breathing is an unconscious habit that’s ingrained in the body, it’s a behavior you have to unlearn,” he says, adding that this can take time, so be patient with yourself.

Perls recommends creating a breath check-in system to notice how you’re breathing. This can look like setting a timer every 90 minutes or linking a check-in to something that’s bound to happen regularly and has a tendency to stress you out (like your boss’s name in your inbox). He also says it’s important to take mini-breaks from email (and work in general) throughout the day. Refill your water glass. Take the dog for a 10-minute walk. Roll out your shoulders.

If you do a check-in with yourself and notice you’ve stopped breathing or are breathing shallowly, Perls says to focus on slowing your breath and taking deep inhales and exhales. “Make your exhale longer than your inhale,” he says. He adds that spending a few minutes doing a breathing exercise, like 4-7-8 breathing, can be helpful. The more you correct your breathing—replacing shallow breathing with deeper breaths—Perls says the less likely you’ll be to default to shallow breathing. Maybe you even consider it a sign to finally start meditating.

Perls says that making micro-adjustments to the way you sit can help, too. “Elongating the spine, sitting up taller, and relaxing the shoulders up and down opens the chest and signals to the body that we are safe, which then impacts the breath,” he says. The inverse is true, too: Perls says that being hunched over your phone or computer makes it harder to take deep breaths, which can lead to feeling anxious.

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