Screen apnea and its impact on health (Image via Unsplash/Oguzhan Akdogan)

You may have screen apnea: How to know and what to do

Have you ever heard the term "screen apnea" before but weren't quite sure what it meant? You're not alone.

In fact, an estimated two in 10 people experience a phenomenon known as "screen apnea," which is characterized by breathing disruptions associated with excessive screen time.

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Surprisingly, research suggests that up to 80% of people experience this phenomenon without even realizing it.


Don’t hold your breath: Screen time can be dangerous to health

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Puts the body in fight and flight mode (Image via Unsplash/Joshua Aragon)

Screen apnea refers to the unconscious practice of holding your breath or breathing shallowly while using screens. It often happens as a result of the body's fight-or-flight response triggered by screen interactions.

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When we encounter something exciting or stimulating on screens, the body instinctively tenses up. The jaws clench, and we may even hold our breath without realizing it. This pattern can become habitual, leading to a range of negative effects on our physical and mental well-being.

Studies have shown that screen apnea can disrupt the body's natural breathing rhythm and lead to higher levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in the body.

Screen apnea isn't just limited to adults. Children and teenagers who spend excessive time on electronic devices may also experience this phenomenon, which can impact their physical and mental well-being.

Can cause fatigue (Image via Unsplash/Markus Winkler)
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While shallow breathing or breath-holding may not seem like a big deal at first, prolonged engagement in screen apnea can have detrimental effects on health.

It can contribute to increased stress level, anxiety and even physical pain in the jaw, neck and shoulders.

Moreover, continuous shallow breathing or holding breath disrupts the natural rhythm of the body, which can result in exhaustion, sleep disorders and overall diminished well-being.


Breaking the cycle: Stop, drop and breathe

Taking a pause to reduce its effect (Image via Unsplash/William Farlow)
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Fortunately, there are practical steps we can take to address and overcome this type of apnea. Here's a simple three-step method that can help break the cycle:

Stop

Take a moment to pause before engaging with screens. By creating awareness around your breathing habits, you can identify when screen apnea occurs.

Drop

Once you've paused, check in with your body. Notice if your chest feels tense or if you're clenching your jaw. Are you holding your breath? Pay attention to your posture and make any necessary adjustments.

Breathe

In this step, focus on relaxing your body and taking intentional, deep breaths. Lengthen your spine and take a deep, horizontal breath from your diaphragm.

Allow your belly to expand as you inhale deeply, and exhale slowly. This conscious breathing technique can counteract the negative effects of screen apnea and promote a more natural and relaxed breathing pattern.

Implementing these mindful breathing techniques in your daily routine can have significant benefits.

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By breaking the cycle of unconscious breath-holding, you can reduce stress level, improve mental well-being and alleviate physical discomfort associated with screen apnea. Additionally, cultivating a conscious and balanced relationship with technology can enhance overall productivity and happiness.

Taking frequent breaks (Image via Unsplash/soundtrap)
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Various smartphone apps and wearable devices are available that can provide reminders and prompts to help users take conscious breathing breaks and reduce screen apnea symptoms.

Recognizing and addressing screen apnea is increasingly important in the digital age, as our reliance on electronic devices continues to grow. Developing healthy breathing habits and mindful screen usage can contribute to overall well-being and productivity.


Screen apnea may be a common yet often overlooked issue, but by becoming aware of it and taking proactive steps to address it, we can regain control over our breath and improve our overall health and happiness.

So the next time you find yourself engrossed in a screen, remember to pause, check-in and breathe deeply.

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Edited by
Bhargav
 
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