Cybersickness: Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Computers have become integral to our daily lives as we rely on them to perform critical tasks in business, health, education, etc. However, continued overuse of these devices has some serious consequences, including cybersickness.

In this article, we will discuss everything about cybersickness, including its meaning, causes, symptoms, and prevention.

What Is Cybersickness?

What Is Cybersickness

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The cybersickness disorder is a mixture of several symptoms that are similar to the ones associated with motion sickness. This disorder is caused by prolonged use of a computer without a break.

Staring at the computer screen for a long time will cause this problem. However, cybersickness isn’t the same as motion sickness, because the former occurs without any movement.

When you develop cybersickness, you’re likely to experience disorientation, vertigo, and lightheadedness. Unfortunately, these symptoms may last a few minutes or even hours depending on their severity.

While these symptoms can go away on their own after a few minutes, they can negatively affect the quality of your sleep. Apart from staring at your screen for a long time, cybersickness can also be triggered by the kind of screensaver and background images you’ve saved on your monitor.

If your screensaver or background image is static with internal content that moves around, it will most likely trigger your cybersickness. This condition is mainly activated by your sensory nerves, which feed your brain with inconsistent signals.

Orientation is very important because it helps you know where you’re going. So, when you’re disoriented, you won’t be aware of the space around you when you’re moving. This occurs when there’s a discrepancy and confusion in your sensory communication.

When this mismatch is sent to your brain, you become disoriented. This results in some serious physical symptoms. For example, you’ll start feeling lightheadedness which makes it difficult for you to walk or stay focused.

This can also cause you to fall or hurt yourself because you’re not aware of your surroundings. Your brain’s interpretation of your surroundings is informed by the signals communicated via your visual system.

So, when you look at your computer monitor for a long time without a break, your eyes will send a wrong signal to your brain indicating that you’re moving while in actual fact you’re stationary.

This sensory conflict will result in confusion in your brain. This problem is particularly common in cases where your screen generates a flashing light. It confuses your visual system, which interprets the flashing light as movement.

While your visual system feeds your brain with a movement signal, your other sensory systems will tell your brain that you’re immobile. This leads to confusion, which results in the feeling of lightheadedness, dizziness, and even nausea.

You’re also likely to experience headaches and migraines, especially due to the harmful light produced by the screen. Headaches can also be caused by bad posture. Using a computer means staying in the same position for a long time.

Apart from causing headaches, this posture can also lead to neck and shoulder injuries. Frequent headaches and migraines can occur along with fatigue, sweating, lack of focus, and flushing.

Computer overuse can strain your eyes and cause digital eye problems like blurry vision, dry eyes, irritated eyes, and fatigue. This is why you need to find a proper way of relieving these symptoms and preventing them from occurring.

How to Prevent Cybersickness

How to Prevent

Since computers are now an integral part of our lives, we really don’t have a choice but to use them to accomplish our tasks. The good news is that we can figure out a way to minimize the side effects of using them. Here are some effective ways to prevent cybersickness.

1. Taking Regular Breaks from Our Computers

Don’t spend the whole day staring at your computer screen. Take regular breaks from the screen to allow your eyes to reset. This will help you avoid the risk of becoming cybersick.

Cyber experts recommend frequent breaks of between 20 – 30 minutes away from the screen to allow your visual system and brain to adjust. The more breaks you take away from the screen, the better it is for you.

2. Limit Your Exposure

Only use your computer when you have to. Limiting your screen exposure will significantly reduce the risk of experiencing cybersickness. This could mean limiting your screen time to only when you have work to do.

It also means staying away from virtual environments and reducing your gaming time. Staring at a computer screen all day will only exacerbate the problem.

3. Adjust Your Monitor Settings

You can eliminate this problem by simply adjusting the settings of your computer screen to make it safer for your eyes. For example, you can adjust the field of view and reduce brightness.

You can also remove any flashing lights and moving images from your screensaver or the background of your computer screen. As mentioned above, these display settings can easily harm your eyes or cause lightheadedness.

If you can’t remove your current background or screensaver, you should at least adjust the motion sensitivity.

4. Medication

In rare cases, you might have to seek medical advice from a doctor. They’ll review your case and determine the best remedy for you. Sometimes doctors will prescribe medicine to patients with cybersickness, especially those who develop severe symptoms like headaches, nausea, and sleep disruption.

So, it’s important for you to understand the symptoms of cybersickness so that you can seek the necessary remedies before they turn into something more severe.

5. Hydration

A combination of dehydration and lightheadedness can be disastrous. That’s why you should stay hydrated, especially when you’re using a computer for a prolonged period. Dehydration will also exacerbate cybersickness symptoms like headaches, migraines, and nausea.

6. Stress Management

When you use a computer for a long time without a break, your whole body becomes fatigued. This can be exacerbated by stress. That’s why you need to manage your stress levels by exercising and engaging in other social activities regularly.

You can also manage your stress levels through medication like antidepressants and controlled breathing. Taking deep breaths can help you relax.

7. Maintaining the Right Posture

Sitting upright with your back against your chair when using a computer helps to minimize shoulder and neck strain. You also need to keep your computer screen at a considerable distance from your eyes to minimize the effects of the blue light exposure.

Leaning your head towards the screen will only hurt your eyes even more. The recommended view distance is between 20 – 40 inches (50 – 100 cm) from your eyes to the surface of the screen. This might require you to increase the font size so that your eyes don’t strain too much trying to read the text on your screen.

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