‘Screen apnoea’ is a new, 21st Century condition. The term is a play on the name for the serious condition, ‘sleep apnoea’. Sufferers with sleep apnoea may stop breathing for short periods of time while they sleep. Surprisingly, a similar thing happens to users of electronic devices. Findings show that people have a tendency to hold their breath while communicating electronically.
About screen apnoea
Screen apnoea is a term now in use by those treating office workers. Findings from a 2009 study leads to this diagnosis. In fact, findings show that while using mobile devices, participants hold their breath and begin to breathe shallowly and rapidly. Additionally, researchers at UCI ICS, (Gloria Mark, Stephen Voida, and Anthony Cardello), formally validate this impact of email, using heart rate variability. Their research shows that our heart rate starts to increase. Furthermore, evidence shows that we tense our muscles while sending and receiving text messages or emails. Although the trial only invited 12 participants, anecdotal evidence is now proving this to be the case.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re really focussed and concentrating hard, you have a tendency to hold your breath? And when concentrating on a small screen, this can result in a tightness in the neck and shoulders. Consequently, this hunching of the body may also cause back pain, thanks to the compromised posture.
In a 2006 study of more than 38,000 women, researchers found that back pain was more strongly related to breathing disorders than to obesity or physical activity. This is because the main breathing muscle, the diaphragm, is also one of the core muscles that supports and stabilises the torso. So when the diaphragm’s dual role of breathing and stabilisation is too great, breathing wins out.
Improve your breathing strength
All is not lost though, because the breathing muscles can be exercised to improve their strength and stamina. One of the most effective – and simple – ways of achieving this is through Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). IMT uses a resistance that you breathe IN against. It’s this that strengthens your breathing muscles, and in turn, improves your breathing stamina. Furthermore, IMT will help you to breathe deeply into your diaphragm, as opposed to your chest. Finally, IMT is a good teaching practice for your breathing, in an age when we seem to be suffering from screen apnoea.