Screen Apnea - The hidden dangers of screen time & how to combat it!


picture of a mobile phone
picture of a mobile phone

Most of us are aware that too much screen time isn’t beneficial for our health. Some of us monitor our screen time and are acutely aware of how this can disrupt our sleep but fewer of us are aware of the breathing deficiency that affects us during the day – screen apnea

When we watch a screen of any size: TV, Computer, tablet or phone, our breathing becomes shallower. Many of us have heard of sleep apnea where the sufferers have interrupted breathing during sleep and sometimes stop breathing altogether. Well, this also happens when we are looking at a screen.The good news is that there are ways to combat the effects.

A laptop next to a work diary

What is Screen Apnea

Screen apnea is a condition which is the result of looking at TV screens and monitors over long periods of time. Breath becomes reduced and shallow as a result of the visual stimulation.

The shallow breathing caused by screen apnea has a direct link to a number of health issues, including a great risk of hypertension, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks. 

The visual stimulation from staring at TVs and monitors creates a cycle of focus and strain as we hold our breath in anticipation of the next block of information that our brains are processing and absorbing. 

Many of us have heard about ‘blue light’  which is what the screens emit.Essentially the brightness of the screens force our bodies to believe that we are staring at daylight. This input of ‘daylight’ causes the body to go into overdrive as it works to stay alert for what we falsely think are waking hours. We are forcing our bodies to operate beyond our optimised pattern or circadian rhythm. 

The most obvious way that this affects us is our breathing pattern.   Breathing becomes shallow and sometimes we are even holding our breath for long periods, not unlike the symptoms of sleep apnea. 

So whilst we know that the blue light exposure is affecting our sleep cycle we also need to address how we can use screens safely during the day. 

multiple screen use linked to screen apnea

How to Combat Screen Apnea:

Here at Silver Linings we are huge believers in finding balance and whilst we definitely encourage digital detox and less screen time on our retreats, we know that real life revolves around our phones and often work requires us to sit in front of a monitor for much of the working day.  Here are a few thoughts on how to reduce screen time and screen apnea.

a woman looking at a laptop screen

Here are a few thoughts on how to reduce screen time and screen apnea.

  1. Limit screen time where possible – a good old fashioned notebook and pen is a good alternative to screen time if you are doing a project, presentation then maybe start here. 
  2. Stop all screen time at least two hours before bedtime to avoid disturbing your sleep pattern. 
  3. Remove your telephone or tablet from the bedroom and leave it charging in another room to avoid the screen light disturbing you during the night. 
  4. Try some bluescreen glasses to reduce the effects. We love Occushield 
  5. Breathing with your Screen: 

This is a practice of being present with your screen and breathing deeply to encourage less shallow/unconscious breathing.

  • Hold the telephone or tablet, or look at your monitor.     
  • Take a few moments to arrive and notice your breath
  • Notice if it is shallow or normal
  • Start to elongate the inhalation and exhalation
  • If it feels comfortable start to inhale over 4 slow counts and then exhale over 4 slow counts
  • Try to maintain this conscious, slow breathing for at least 1 minute
  • Then return to your normal breath.

This simple practice will not only improve your focus and productivity but it should help to combat the chances of you falling into a shallow breath pattern or holding your breath.    

You could return to this practice several times during your working day and find it really beneficial.

A man sat at a work desk

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