The Smartphone and Attention Span Apnea

#UseFewerWords by Kevin Shinn

I have been diagnosed with three distinct and separate sleep disorders. The first sleep study registered 39 episodes an hour. This meant I woke up every two minutes during the overnight observation. Normal people don’t experience this, which is why you can wake up refreshed and have a full day of energy. This is not my reality, but it is something that I have begun to address through CPAP treatment, but more importantly, a mindfulness towards my body and what is happening within it.

Through this practice, I’ve self-diagnosed a new condition. I call it Attention Span Apnea.

In a similar way, my attention is disrupted several times an hour by my iPhone. And I feel it’s having an analogous effect on my mental well-being.

As with all my writing, I write to address something in me. I almost always speak in the first person. And I don’t try to direct advice without including myself in the exhortation.

Just like Sleep Apnea, I’m taking steps to address my Attention Span Apnea. And my first treatment is to renew my practice of journaling.

I’m not one who thinks everyone should journal. But I would recommend everyone to become more mindful of their body.  Journaling is a way I process information. And for purposes of this blogpost, I offer an example of a recent entry.  It’s akin to baking or cooking. I can tell you how, but I’d rather show you. This is how I journal.

I hope this resonates with you. Thank you for reading my work.

I feel the need to recover my attention span and creativity.  I used to journal constantly, oftentimes daily. I have numerous binders full of notes and thoughts. I was diligent with the practice, but somewhere along the way, it has slipped from my hands.

I would guess the smartphone has a lot to do with it. It's easy to grab and fritter away a few minutes here and there. But what do I have to show for it? Fewer journals filled.

But a full journal is an inadequate goal.  Instead, a full heart seems a better outcome.

And so here I sit, afraid I’ve let a main thing slip.

Every person in this coffeeshop is on a device of some kind. (I estimate there are 25 people.) Heads down, scrunched over, thumbing through microsecond images and unknown information. And to what end?  But I can’t speak for them. It's not my place to judge. It's my place to turn the question inward.

I can feel my attention span shrink. I feel like I have become dependent on my phone for far too much. I can’t bring myself to look at the data on how often I check it. I’m sure I would be embarrassed.

So I start today, trying to look at my current habits, listen to my body and at the same time, watch for manifestations in me.  The recent chest pain at night. Is that cardiac in nature or is it stress related. After my doctor visit, I tend to think it's the latter. Is it a by-product of a reduced attention span and loss of patience in my body?

Even right now, I’m getting restless, wanting to get up and move around, look at books or my phone.  I can’t sit still as long as I used to and its time to ask why and pay attention.