Nausea due to watching fast moving digital images becoming common if you are watching computer generated mayhem in the latest action film or scrolling rapidly on your smartphone, you may start to feel a little off. Maybe it is a dull headache or dizziness or creeping nausea. And no, it is not something you ate.
A peculiar side effect of the 21st century is something called digital motion sickness or cybersickness. Increasingly common, according to medical and media experts, it causes a person to feel woozy, as if on a boat in a churning sea, from viewing moving digital content.
“It’s a fundamental problem that’s been kind of been swept under the carpet in the each industry,” said Cyriel Diels, a cognitive psychologist and human factors researcher at Conventry University’s Centre for Mobility and Transport in England. “ It’s a natural response to an unnatural environment.”
Digital motion sickness, known among medical professionals as usually induced motion sickness, stems from a basic mismatch between sensory inputs, said Steven Rauch, medical director of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Balance and Vestibular Centre and professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical school. “Your sense of balance is different than other senses in that it has lots of inputs,” he said “ When those inputs don’t agree, that’s when you feel dizziness and nausea.”
In the traditional motion sickness, the mismatch of occurs because you feel moment in your muscles and joints as well as in the intricate coils of your inner ear, but you do not see it. That is why getting up on the deck of a ship and looking at the horizon helps you feel better. But with digital -motion sickness, it is the opposite. You see movement -like the turns and twists shown in a movie or video e game car chase that you do not feel. The result is the same: You may have sensory conflict that can make you feel queasy. It can happen to anyone, even if you are someone who is not prone to motion sickness in cars, boats or air r planes. Various studies indicate it can affect 50% to 80% of people, depend ting on the fidelity of the digital con tent and how it is presented. Studies show that women are, more susceptible than men, as are a those with a history of migraines or concussion.
The moment you feel the onset of symptoms, you should take a break from whatever screen you’re looking at. Crowson says you need to give your brain the visual cues that you’re not moving, ideally by looking at the horizon (which, depending on where you live, might not be possible). Even if you can’t see the horizon, anything outside or not moving around you will do.
Since it’s not realistic to stop looking at screens (unfortunately), we have to find a way to manage our time with them. “Structured breaks are really important,” says Crowson, who recommends 50 minutes on and 10 minutes off your screen. “Even if you’re feeling good at the end of the 50 minutes, it’s still good to take that 10 minutes off, especially if it’s been a trigger before.”
Since screens aren’t disappearing from our lives anytime soon, your best bet to avoid cybersickness is to keep up with those breaks even if it’s for a walk, to stretch, or to look outside the window. Chances are you need it.