In an era dominated by digital screens, the phenomenon of cybersickness has emerged as an ongoing concern, affecting individuals who spend significant time engaged with virtual environments. Whether you’re young or old, spending your days hunched over a computer screen at work or swiping right on a smartphone in your bedroom, cybersickness can strike anyone, any time.

Similar to motion sickness, symptoms of cybersickness include nausea, dizziness, headaches, and more. But what causes this condition? More importantly, how can we mitigate the effects of excess screen time in time when so much of our daily lives depend on interacting with screens?

Nothing is more important to us here at Carolina Brain Center than empowering people to maintain their neurological health. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through what cybersickness is, the root causes of it, and what you can do to safeguard your brain from its effects.

If you are concerned about your neurological health, don’t hesitate to contact Carolina Brain Center today. Your well-being is our top priority.

What is Cybersickness?

Cybersickness refers to a collection of symptoms experienced when interacting with digital displays, virtual reality (VR) environments, or video games. Symptoms can range from nausea, dizziness, headaches, eyestrain, disorientation, and fatigue to, in severe cases, vomiting.

These discomforts occur due to visual-vestibular conflict. In short, this is a discrepancy between what the eyes perceive and what the vestibular system (responsible for balance and spatial orientation) senses.

A child using a mobile tablet while his mother uses a smartphone in the background

What is Visual-Vestibular Conflict?

The human body comprises the visual system, interpreting information from our eyes, and the vestibular system, located in the inner ear, responsible for balance and spatial orientation. Normally, these systems work in harmony to maintain equilibrium. However, when conflicting signals reach the brain from these systems, it triggers the sensation of motion sickness.

Visual-vestibular conflict occurs when the visual system perceives motion from digital screens (such as scrolling, rapid movements, or perspective changes in video games or virtual reality), while the vestibular system senses a lack of corresponding physical movement. This discordance between visual cues and physical sensations confuses the brain, leading to cybersickness symptoms.

Excessive screen time exacerbates these issues, especially in children whose brains are still developing. With the proliferation of smartphones, computers, gaming consoles, and virtual reality devices, people spend more hours engaged with screens than ever before. Prolonged exposure intensifies the mismatch between visual and vestibular cues, increasing the likelihood of experiencing cybersickness symptoms

Mitigating the Effects of Excess Screen Time

Here are some practical tips to mitigate the effects of excessive screen time and reduce the risk of cybersickness:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your gaze on something at least 20 feet away. This practice helps alleviate eye strain and reduces the chances of cybersickness.
  • Adjust screen settings: Optimize your screen’s brightness, contrast, and color temperature to reduce eye strain. Use blue light filters or apps that adjust the screen’s color temperature for a more comfortable viewing experience, especially before bedtime.
  • Take regular breaks: Incorporate short breaks into screen-intensive activities. Stand up, stretch, or take a brief walk to refresh both your mind and body.
  • Maintain proper posture: Sit in an ergonomic position while using screens. Ensure your screen is at eye level, and your chair provides adequate back support to prevent neck and back strain.
  • Limit screen time: Establish boundaries and allocate specific periods for screen use. Set aside time for outdoor activities, hobbies, or social interactions that don’t involve screens.
  • Use distance viewing: When possible, switch to distance viewing by taking breaks outside or looking at distant objects. This practice helps relax the eyes and reduces the strain caused by continuous screen use.
  • Stay hydrated and well-rested: Proper hydration and quality sleep play a significant role in reducing the impact of excessive screen time on overall well-being.

Step Away from the Screen and Contact Us Now!

Visual-vestibular conflict is just one of many common neurological issues plaguing people all across the country. Carolina Brain Center was founded to help patients from all walks of life get the treatment they need for a wide range of neurological conditions.

From concussions and traumatic brain injuries to neurodegenerative disorders, our goal is to provide patients with the most effective holistic treatment options available. Whatever your problem, we can help. Don’t wait; get the care you need from the experts who know best. Schedule an appointment with Carolina Brain Center today!