The coronavirus has forced many of us to spend more time in front of the computer answering emails, doing zoom calls, and finding new ways to operate in a virtual world. But did you know you may be suffering from email apnea, which is very similar to sleep apnea?
As you sort through the emails about how to make the perfect bun cake and whether or not you have low testosterone and need to take the newest magic pill, you’re brain falls into a state where its only half awake. Similar to what happens as we enter our first sleep stage, this causes our body to stop breathing for a short period of time.
I first noticed it as I sat next to my roommate who was working from home and every so often I would hear him take in a larger breath and then a big sigh as he exhaled. I didn't think much of it at first until not long after, I noticed myself doing those same big sighs.
We get so wrapped up in emails, staring at the computer, and doing busy work that we literally forget to breathe! Eventually our body sends the signal to our brain and we take in a deep breath. And therein lies the problem. Majority of people take in a big chest opening gulp of air and then a loud exhale that wakes up the sleeping dog. But it makes you feel much more relaxed, so how could it be bad?
The problem is that we end up exhaling out more CO2 than is necessary. Quick biology lesson, stay with me...your body only releases oxygen from the blood stream in the presence of increased levels of CO2, but due to over-breathing, most people’s tolerance of CO2 is so low that they feel the urge to take that deep breath before the CO2 is high enough to signal the oxygen to be released from our blood. Consequently, you get the urge to take in that deep sigh, and then large exhale, which releases more CO2, and the vicious cycle repeats over and over again.
So what can we do to mitigate this problem? 1. Focus on breathing in and out through the nose only. This will engage your diaphragm which forces the air deeper into the belly and decrease the amount of chest breathing. 2. Take breaks often. The constant screen time causes the brain to focus so much on the screen that it forgets to breathe properly. by taking those breaks, your body will hopefully return to a normal breathing pattern. And it gives your eyes a break. 3. If you notice yourself taking one of these deep chest breaths, after you exhale, perform a slight breath hold of 10-15 seconds. This will raise your CO2 levels back up to a normal level and should cause your body to release more oxygen to its tissues. If you want to learn more, stay tuned for our full breathe course coming soon!