Email apnea is a term used to describe the unconscious act act of holding one's breath while reading an email. The concept was first identified and explored by research Linda Stone.
In early 2007, Linda Stone noticed that she was holding her breath when she checked her E-mail. She had been taking a course in Buteyko breathing and noticed the contrast between her exercises and the time she spent on her computer. She wondered if her experiences were isolated or felt by the larger public. She spent the next 6-7 months observing and interviewing over 200 people. As she watched and spoke with people in their offices, in cafes, in their homes, she found that roughly 80% of her sample observations appeared to have be holding their breath while checking their E-mail.
Effects of E-mail Apnea
Loading a sheet of E-mail is intense experience for the brain. Rows of data and requests for one's time stack themselves up, one on top of the other. Every row is the same size as the next, and some E-mails are marked as important or urgent. The prehistorical equivalent of an E-mail account might be walking into a clearing and seeing a wall of tigers or other predators. It is no wonder that breathing is disrupted when one checks E-mail.
What effects does disrupted breathing have on the brain? "In the short term, disrupted breathing can increase feelings of stress, as it is linked with the vagus nerve, part of the “animal brain” which oversees basic flight and fight responses. By breathing irregularly," Stone writes , "the body "triggers a nervous response, tensing, dumping chemicals into the nervous system, and confusing the body". As Stone says, E-mail triggers an artificial sense of constant crises.
Dr. Margaret Chesney at the National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted research on breath-holding and found that it contributed 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". Disrupted breathing also restricts the production of nitric oxide absorption in the bloodstream. "The immune system uses nitric oxide in fighting viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, and tumors".
- Stone, Linda. Just Breathe: Building the case for Email Apnea. Huffington Post. Published February 8, 2008. Accessed April 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-stone/just-breathe-building-the_b_85651.html
- Wisegeek: What is Email Apnea? Publish date unknown. Accessed April 2010. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-email-apnea.htm
- Stone, Linda. May I Have Your Attention Please? Keynote at SIME '09 Conference, Nov. 11-12 2009. Stolkholm, Sweden. http://sime.nu/09/stockholm. Video by Ayman van Bregt. Published Nov 2009. Accessed Apr 2010. http://vimeo.com/7551900.
- Stone, Linda. Diagnosis Email Apnea. Published Nov. 30, 2009. Accessed Apr 2011. http://lindastone.net/2009/11/30/diagnosis-email-apnea/
- Wright, Pearce. Association of British Science Writers. "Nitric oxide: From menace to marvel of the decade." London, England: May 1996.