What is cybersickness?

What is cybersickness?

With many hours of our days spent in front of a computer or smartphone screen, it’s no surprise that there may be consequences.

As a result of too much screen time, adults and children alike may be feeling the effects of cybersickness, a technologically induced version of motion sickness.

The phrase has been researched in relation to virtual reality but also can be experienced from spending an extended period of time looking at screens for a variety of reasons.

Symptoms of cybersickness can include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Feeling wobbly, imbalanced or unstable

What’s happening in your body?

Prolonged screen time can confuse your brain about whether or not you are moving. The visual message from your eyes does not match your inner ear and other receptors in your body that signal to your central nervous system movement is taking place. Cybersickness is more common in individuals prone to motion sickness.

What you can do to alleviate symptoms?

  • Reduce recreational screen time
  • Switch to audio conference calls instead of virtual ones when possible
  • Multitask. Spend a few minutes on your screens and then switch to something non-digital. Repeat.
  • Take short breaks to rest your eyes.
  • Close your eyes or focus on something “solid” like the straight edge of your desk.
  • Go old school. Get the hard copy of the book you need instead of the electronic one, or print out some of the documents you need for the day. Take longhand notes as you work.
  • Try lemon and ginger to ease nausea.
  • Try over-the-counter motion sickness medication.
  • Turn off screen notifications/pop-ups that can pull your eyes to them.
  • Use your arrow keys instead of your mouse. This forces you to slow down the rate at which the visual data in front of you moves.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Students having difficulties can be provided with alternative choices and accommodations (ie., copies of textbooks).

Kathy Malyszko is a licensed clinical social worker and behavioral health counselor at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

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About the Author

Kathryn Malyszko
Kathryn Malyszko

Kathy Malyszko is a licensed clinical social worker and behavioral health counselor at Advocate Children's Hospital.