Motion Sickness

At one point in our lives, we all tend to experience a little bit of motion sickness. Whether it’s getting a severe headache from reading too long in a car while it’s moving or whether we’re sitting on a small plane that’s going through some serious turbulence, motion sickness tends to affect everyone to some degree. Motion sickness (aka: kinetosis) is defined by Wikipedia as a condition in which there is a disagreement between what you visually perceive as moving versus what the vestibular system perceives is moving.

Importance of the Vestibular System

Your vestibular system is your balance system- it’s what is in charge of your equilibrium. The vestibular system plays an integral role in motion sickness and is made up of your auditory system. It is comprised of two main components: the semicircular canal system (which detects rotational movements) and the otoliths (which indicate linear translations). This system then sends signals to your brain that control your equilibrium (ex: being able to sit up straight). So, in a nutshell, it’s really important in how we are able to function on a day-to-day basis.

Symptoms of Motion Sickness

Most people who are suffering from this sickness suffer from symptoms that include: dizziness, nausea, fatigue and vomiting. Vomiting is one of the more extreme side effects of someone experiencing motion sickness. Vomiting usually occurs when the person cannot resolve whatever motion is causing the nausea. It has been hypothesized in the past that vomiting evolved over time as a sort of defense mechanism against neurotoxins in the brain. Vomiting was a way for the brain to get rid of the unwanted toxins.

Though it is an unpleasant feeling/experience, motion sickness is a great example of how our bodies process things internally. Motion sickness results when the human brain receives conflicting messages from the body. For example, if you were to put a group of people in a closed in cabin on a boat in rough seas, chances are that a great portion of those people, if not all, would experience some degree of motion sickness. We can feel the boat moving up and down and from side to side, but we cannot see anything. Therefore, what we feel versus what we see is interpreted by our brain in a confusing manner, resulting in us feeling dizzy or nauseous.

Motion sickness can occur wherever there is motion. The different types of this sickness include: airsickness, sea-sickness, simulation sickness, space sickness and car sickness.

Preventing Motion Sickness

The effects of motion sickness can be lessened or avoided all together by gazing towards the horizon (if you are in a moving car for example). This will help re-orient a person’s equilibrium, by providing a visual reaffirmation of motion (Wikipedia). If you are a passenger while you are in a moving vehicle, closing your eyes and taking a nap will also help alleviate motion sickness. If these methods don’t work, there are over the counter drugs as well as prescription drugs to counteract the side effects of this sickness.