TAKE A BREATHER

TAKE A BREATHER 4000 2667 The Flyer Magazine

TAKE A BREATHER

FROM THE NEW PHENOMENUM OF SCREEN APNEA

Take a breather screen apnea

We’ve been breathing since the instant we were born into this world, so you’d think we’d have it down pat by now, right?

Breathing – one of life’s simplest but most essential tasks, yet another aspect of our wellness to fall prey to the technology age. We’re designed to breathe diaphragmatically – babies do it naturally, but somewhere along the line life’s pressures have unlearned that essential skill.

We now hold our breath when we’re working on our screens. Rapidly becoming known globally as ‘screen apnea’, this new breath-holding phenomenon is the temporary cessation of breath, or shallow chest breathing while sitting in front of a screen. That can be a computer, mobile device like a phone or iPad, or even in front of the tele.

Breathing experts say this new problem is yet another challenge posed by technology in our ever-increasing world of hyper-connectivity. This one is wreaking havoc on our breathing patterns, which in turn can affect our entire physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Glenorchy-based breathing consultant and physiotherapist Emma Ferris says this modern phenomena is finally getting more media attention as we learn more how it impacts stress on the body and brain. The concept was defined around 2014 as a connection was made between how our body and breathing change when texting, or emailing. “Our body is not designed to be in front of the screen for hours on end,” she says. Research into this shows that when texting sympathetic arousal occurs keeping our body in fight, flight and particularly freeze mode. Freeze mode is what is commonly seen with computer and screen time. “We take a breath in and hold which simulates our body to activate our stress pathway. Our breathing habits have a powerful impact on our immune function, stress levels, posture and muscle pain,” says Emma.

Early research is showing that people who’ve had breathing training, like singers, musicians who play a wind or brass instrument, or athletes, or those who’ve simply learned to diaphragmatically breathe, are not as impacted by screen apnea. “As our breathing is both under conscious and unconscious control, if trained, then when triggered in these situations you can reset in the moment and lessen the impact of screen time on the body,” she says. Small changes can have a big impact.

Even though it seems logical that this strange breath holding habit should only occur when we’re typing out a message of considerable importance and emotional demand, experts say postural awareness is actually the major contributing factor causing obstruction to breath pathways, according to Société Magazine. This results in in habitual breath holding or rapid, shallow, thoracic breathing – which also has its own word: tachypnea.

This type of breathing triggers the amygdala, which is the part of your brain responsible for emotional response, survival instincts, and memory. When the amygdala is called to respond to a perceived stressor it instructs the rest of your body to go into high alert – the ‘fight or flight response. Your rational mind may be well aware that your life isn’t in danger as you type out that long work email, but your breathing pattern is busy telling your brain otherwise.

It’s not only an adult problem. Researchers are noticing the effects of long periods working with screens and hand-held devices on children too. Back On Track Physiotherapy physiotherapist Hilary Pearson says devices and screens can encourage a poor pattern of shallow chest breathing. “It’s about teaching both adults and children effective patterns of breathing,” says Hilary. “Just watch people, as they’re looking down engrossed in their phone and someone calls out to them. The first thing they’ll do will be look up and hold their breath or a take a quick shallow breath in.”

We’ve been breathing since the instant we were born into this world, so you’d think we’d have it down pat by now, right?

Breathing – one of life’s simplest but most essential tasks, yet another aspect of our wellness to fall prey to the technology age. We’re designed to breathe diaphragmatically – babies do it naturally, but somewhere along the line life’s pressures have unlearned that essential skill.

We now hold our breath when we’re working on our screens. Rapidly becoming known globally as ‘screen apnea’, this new breath-holding phenomenon is the temporary cessation of breath, or shallow chest breathing while sitting in front of a screen. That can be a computer, mobile device like a phone or iPad, or even in front of the tele.

Breathing experts say this new problem is yet another challenge posed by technology in our ever-increasing world of hyper-connectivity. This one is wreaking havoc on our breathing patterns, which in turn can affect our entire physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Glenorchy-based breathing consultant and physiotherapist Emma Ferris says this modern phenomena is finally getting more media attention as we learn more how it impacts stress on the body and brain. The concept was defined around 2014 as a connection was made between how our body and breathing change when texting, or emailing. “Our body is not designed to be in front of the screen for hours on end,” she says. Research into this shows that when texting sympathetic arousal occurs keeping our body in fight, flight and particularly freeze mode. Freeze mode is what is commonly seen with computer and screen time. “We take a breath in and hold which simulates our body to activate our stress pathway. Our breathing habits have a powerful impact on our immune function, stress levels, posture and muscle pain,” says Emma.

Early research is showing that people who’ve had breathing training, like singers, musicians who play a wind or brass instrument, or athletes, or those who’ve simply learned to diaphragmatically breathe, are not as impacted by screen apnea. “As our breathing is both under conscious and unconscious control, if trained, then when triggered in these situations you can reset in the moment and lessen the impact of screen time on the body,” she says. Small changes can have a big impact.

Even though it seems logical that this strange breath holding habit should only occur when we’re typing out a message of considerable importance and emotional demand, experts say postural awareness is actually the major contributing factor causing obstruction to breath pathways, according to Société Magazine. This results in in habitual breath holding or rapid, shallow, thoracic breathing – which also has its own word: tachypnea.

This type of breathing triggers the amygdala, which is the part of your brain responsible for emotional response, survival instincts, and memory. When the amygdala is called to respond to a perceived stressor it instructs the rest of your body to go into high alert – the ‘fight or flight response. Your rational mind may be well aware that your life isn’t in danger as you type out that long work email, but your breathing pattern is busy telling your brain otherwise.

It’s not only an adult problem. Researchers are noticing the effects of long periods working with screens and hand-held devices on children too. Back On Track Physiotherapy physiotherapist Hilary Pearson says devices and screens can encourage a poor pattern of shallow chest breathing. “It’s about teaching both adults and children effective patterns of breathing,” says Hilary. “Just watch people, as they’re looking down engrossed in their phone and someone calls out to them. The first thing they’ll do will be look up and hold their breath or a take a quick shallow breath in.”