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Cybersickness Symptoms: Are You at Risk?

December 11

Introduction

You have been mindlessly scrolling on your phone or working frantically on your laptop for several hours together. Suddenly, you start feeling ill, lightheaded, and uncomfortable. It is almost the same feeling when traveling in a car and trying to read. Millions of gadget users today are suffering from a condition called cybersickness. Cybersickness symptoms can feel very similar to those of motion sickness. The only difference is that you are not physically moving.

Cybersickness, often called digital motion sickness, visually induced motion sickness,  or sometimes virtual reality sickness, is unfortunately quite common in today's digital era. Read on to understand the signs and symptoms of cybersickness and how you can take steps to avoid it.

How Does Cybersickness Occur? 

Cybersickness is, unfortunately, a fallout of too much screen time. Screen time refers to time spent on devices like laptops, mobiles, and personal computers. 

You can experience cybersickness symptoms when- 

  • You are constantly on electronic gadgets, like a PC, mobile device, or laptop.
  • You are watching a website where the background image is static, but there is a lot of movement in the foreground.
  • You are playing video games (either using headsets or virtual reality)that simulate motion.

 

What is the real cause of cybersickness?

Here is a simple explanation of what cybersickness is all about. 

  • You are constantly watching moving images on a computer screen. Your brain thinks that you are in motion while you are stationary. This disorientation may cause you to start experiencing cybersickness.
  • Scientists often refer to it as the perception of self-motion or sensory conflict theory. This visual-vestibular conflict is also what causes motion sickness in humans. 
  • This action, where you are not in motion but your eyes are constantly staring at moving objects on the screen, can confuse your inner ear and brain. The result is a disoriented, dizzy feeling.
  • Researchers studying the interplay of technology and the human brain also blame the blue light emitted by screens as a potential cause of cybersickness. 

 

Cybersickness Symptoms

It is essential to know and recognize the various symptoms of cybersickness. Cybersickness often feels like motion sickness, and a regular computer user may even mistake it for temporary screen fatigue. Though the symptoms mentioned below may seem harmless, researchers believe that the effects of overusing tech devices can last up to 24 hours.

The most common signs that users experience can be divided into 

  • Oculomotor symptoms
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea

 

Oculomotor Symptoms

The oculomotor nerve coordinates eye movement. Overusing and overstraining this nerve can cause several oculomotor symptoms of cyber sickness.

  • Eye Strain

Cybersickness first hits the eyes. Blurred vision, double vision, uncontrollable itching in the eyes, and even struggling to see and focus on objects are the first signs that you are potentially at risk for cybersickness.

  •  Fatigue 

Sitting before the computer screen or scrolling through the mobile may not seem physically arduous. Yet several hours of it can leave you feeling tired and worn out.

  • Headaches

A stiff neck often results from sitting at the computer for several hours at a stretch. A stiff, achy neck and eye fatigue can quickly develop into a severe headache. 

Disorientation 

  • Dizziness and Vertigo associated with cybersickness can persist for long hours, disrupt concentration, and disturb sleep cycles. 

 

Feeling lightheaded and dizzy are common symptoms of cybersickness, especially if you have been looking at the computer screen for long periods. 

 

  • It is possible to feel as though the room is spinning or that you may faint when you get up after a long spell at the computer.

Nausea

Unexplained nausea is an early symptom of cybersickness. While in some people, the nauseous feeling can restrict itself to low-grade uneasiness and discomfort, it can even escalate to vomiting in others.

From Screen Fatigue to Headaches: Physical Consequences of Cybersickness

Cybersickness can throw a wrench in your day, especially if you spend a lot of time in front of screens. It's not just about feeling dizzy or woozy; it can actually lead to some pretty annoying physical symptoms.

First off, there's screen fatigue. It's that tired, strained feeling in your eyes after staring at a computer or phone for too long. Your eyes might get dry, or you might find it hard to focus. It's like they're begging for a break from all that screen time.Then, there are the headaches. They can start off as a dull ache and turn into something more painful. It's often because of the eye strain, but also because of how you sit. If you're slouched over or craning your neck to see the screen, that can make your headache worse.

Some people even get neck and shoulder pain. It's usually because of bad posture or sitting in the same position for too long. It feels like your muscles are all tensed up and sore. All these symptoms show just how much our bodies can be affected by too much screen time. It's a reminder that we need to take breaks, stretch, and look after our eyes and posture when we're using our gadgets.

How Can You Treat Cybersickness?

 Before you visit the medical practitioner to alleviate your cybersickness symptoms, there are several measures that you can and must take to help yourself.

 Here are some measures that you can implement to minimize symptoms. 

  • Take frequent breaks while working on the computer.
  • Change your orientation by moving your eyes away from the screen periodically.
  • Reduce continuously switching between multiple screens while working.
  • Reduce screen time before sleeping. 
  • Avoid scrolling or working on tech devices while in a moving vehicle.
  • Always work in an airy, well-ventilated room and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Avoid playing games that have too much screen movement. 
  • If you are new to Virtual Reality games, then start slow. Make sure to keep your Field of View at 90 degrees. 
  • Turn on features such as teleportation in VR games to reduce the strain associated with complete locomotion. 

 

Research has shown that paced diaphragmatic breathing can help cases of visually induced motion sickness or cybersickness. It is also believed that medication used for motion sickness can help ease nausea during a cybersickness attack.

Conclusion 

Cybersickness may not be considered a" dangerous" illness. However, there is no doubt that prolonged exposure to technology, gadgets, and games that rely on Virtual reality and Augmented Reality can harm human health. Be watchful of symptoms and take adequate measures to mitigate them.

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