Expert Warns Doing This While Checking Your Messages Can Cause ‘Email Apnea’

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Experts say many of us do it while checking emails, texts and tweets: holding our breath enough to cause “email apnea.”

Apnea is a medical term referring to the suspension of external breathing.

“What concerns me is the cumulative effect,” said consultant Linda Stone, considered a tech visionary. “It turns out that 80 percent of us do this while we’re in front of a screen, especially when we’re texting or doing email.”

She examines the physiology between users and their technology.

Stone said many times people either breathe shallowly or completely hold their breath while checking the messages. And it can take a toll on your health.

Like sleep apnea, email apnea puts people at risk for a variety of illnesses, such as stroke, heart attack and diabetes, expert believe.

“I think we are going to hear more about this,” said Josh Werber, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Great Neck, N.Y. “There could be subtle consequences with respect to blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and things that are associated with that.”

Pschologist Fred Meunch studies the effect of technology on the body. He said it’s poor posture, combine with the anticipation we experience before opening an email, that puts us at risk for email apnea.

“What that’s doing physiologically is causing a stress response reaction,” Meunch said.

He said scientists are now just starting to look at the health implications.

“Yes, I have caught myself doing it. But not for extensive amounts of time,” said North Hollywood resident Jennifer North, who was using a computer at the public library in Downtown Los Angeles.

“Now that I think about it, when I see that I have an email from a certain person, I might feel a change, a physiological change in anticipation or possibly anxiety,” according to Wendy, a librarian.

Steve, a man visiting from New York, said: “I don’t think I’m holding my breath when I get email. I don’t think so.”

This report intrigued a doctor from the UCLA Sleep Disorder Center, who says this is all new and fascinating. He wants to explore it further and observe breathing patterns of computer users surfing the web versus those reading emails. He also wants to look into whether we hold our breath while opening regular snail mail.

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