HEALTH

Is Your Screen Time Making You Feel Sick?

Can being on your phone make you feel dizzy? Is working on your laptop making you nauseous? Cybersickness is real, and we break down what it is and how to deal with screen time that is making you sick.

By SAHAJIYA HALDER

Is Your Screen Time Making You Feel Sick

Modern day lifestyle involves an increasing association with screens. From phones to laptops—both work and leisure now sees us spending time in front of screens for hours at a time. If you have experienced dizziness, nausea, exhaustion or disorientation while using your gadgets, you are not alone, and the reason may be right in front of you. Cybersickness is the term used to refer to the discomfort and general feeling of unease that can happen from using your phone, laptop, or computer for a long period of time. The effect of prolonged screen time or the experience of virtual reality can cause a bout of cybersickness, and it is becoming more and more common in today’s digital world.

 

Symptoms of cybersickness

The symptoms of cybersickness can be very similar to motion sickness, even though they happen for different reasons. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, which compared subjective symptoms and physiological effects of motion sickness from physical motion and that of a virtual reality experience, found that the symptoms can be very similar in both cases, especially at a heightened stage of the ailments.
Cybersickness symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Eye strain
  • Feeling of disorientation
  • Fatigue
The reason behind cybersickness

Even though there is no physical motion involved here, which is the case for motion sickness, the perception of movement can be the cause behind cybersickness. The activity and movement that you see on the screen are at odds with your body being at rest, and this can cause conflict in sensory input, leading to feelings of disorientation and discomfort similar to motion sickness. A study published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction presented that the effects of cybersickness can linger long after exposure to immersive technologies (such as virtual and augmented reality), and compromise postural stability, hand-eye coordination, visual functioning, and general well-being.

 

Ways to reduce the effects of cybersickness
  • Reduce your screen time: Prevention can be the best way if you are looking for how to stop cybersickness, so cutting down on your screen time as much as possible can be helpful. Opt for printed books instead of electronic versions, and see if you can switch to audio mode instead of video during meetings. Keep track of and set limits on your device usage as much as possible. Use blue light filters to lessen eye strain.
  • Take frequent breaks: Instead of sitting in front of your computer or scrolling on your phone for an extended period of time, give your eyes some rest periodically. Implement the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Taking a brief walk can also be useful to manage it.
  • Practise deep breathing: Taking deeper breaths may help to reduce the effects of cybersickness. Feeling cooped up can exacerbate it, so keep the windows in your room open to get some fresh air while working on your computer or phone.
  • Tone down the visual activity: Go slower when you scroll, and try to turn off flashy pop-ups that may cause dizziness. Refrain from using more than one screen at once. Reduce eye strain by using larger fonts, keeping your screen brightness at an optimum level (adjusted according to the brightness of your surroundings, neither too bright nor too dim), and maintaining about a one-arm distance from your monitor.
  • Do eye exercises: Oculomotor exercises may be helpful with symptoms of cybersickness. According to a study published in the International Journal of Engineering & Technology, oculomotor exercises (such as moving the eyes between two stationary targets while keeping the head still) may be helpful in reducing cybersickness.

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