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February 29, 2008

Email apnea

photo of woman reading email by maloukh. Available under CC license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/75636517@N00/339062727/

Every time I open my email, I hold my breath. It's a mix of apprehension (Is there something in there from a boss? An ex-girlfriend? A bill collector?), curiosity (Is thinkgeek having a sale?), and the disorder that's about to be injected into my life (Which email to answer first? Which emails can be answered later or ignored entirely?). It turns out I'm not alone.

Linda Stone, who spends a lot of time thinking about how computers effect our lives, has noticed this same breath-holding behavior in lots of people when they first fire up their email clients. She calls it email apnea, and after speaking with a number of physiologists, she worries that it can have significant physical consequences.

I called Dr. Margaret Chesney, at the National Institute of Health (NIH). Research conducted by Dr. Margaret Chesney and NIH research scientist Dr. David Anderson demonstrated that breath-holding contributes 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, our biochemistry is thrown off.

Stone says there's strong evidence that these effects can directly lead to problems like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. She also predicts that while controlled breathing exercises have long been a part of &auot;alternative" health techniques like yoga, we're about to see breathing exercises hit the mainstream fitness world.

Read her thoughts about it on O'Reilly Radar.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at February 29, 2008 06:27 AM