Email apnea is a new concept that was presented by Linda Stone, a researcher, to describe specific physiological reaction that people have to reading email.
She coined the term in order to describe a particular relationship between people and technology. Stone is also famous for presenting another concept, Continuous Partial Attention. Stone first discussed email apnea in February 2008. The topic became so popular that it was spread all throughout the internet through blogs and news sites and also leading to discussions about how people deal with computers and technology.
Stone said that she began to notice email apnea as a phenomenon with her own eyes when she checked her email one day. Stone said that she became aware that she was holding her breath as she was going through her inbox. She was showing this kind of reaction while her brain raced thinking of many things at the same time – like how to file the emails she received, who she needs to respond to, and basically how to handle the different types of emails that arrive at her inbox everyday. Upon noticing her email apnea reaction, she looked at other people and noticed that they also seem to be having the same reaction – their breathing was shallow, hyperventilating or actually holding their breath while they were accessing their email, using their mobile phones and other technology related communications tasks.
Stone researched on this behavior and learned that irregular breathing has a detrimental effect on human health. It increases stress especially since disrupted breathing is linked with the vagus nerve, which is a part of what is called the animal brain – the one that controls the flight or fight response.