The Science of Motion Sickness: Why Reading in the Car Makes You Want to Spew
There are two types of people in the world; those who can read and accomplish work while on the go, and those who can’t. For the folks in the latter camp, it’s not that they don’t want to be productive while traveling, but rather, they physically can’t. This unfortunate condition is commonly referred to as motion sickness, and if you suffer from it, then it’s quite literally “all in your head.”
The thalamic portion of the brain is responsible for processing what’s going on around you and then sending signals about these experiences to your body so it can respond accordingly. Under normal conditions, this arrangement works nicely. For example, your eyes detect movement and informs your brain so that your body knows to keep itself upright.
However, when your body experiences motion sickness, your eyes focus on an object that’s stationary (like a book or a mobile device), while at the same time your eyes notice the movement that’s going on around you. These conflicting signals are then sent to the brain so it can sort out whether the body is or isn’t in motion. When these signals become too much for the brain to process, the brain gets overstimulated and releases chemicals into the stomach in order to cause nausea.
This negative reaction is presumably a natural defense mechanism, designed to get you to stop with the confusing behavior. While it’s annoying to experience these symptoms and have to put down your book or whatever it is you’re working on, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the human brain can’t handle a modern experience like traveling at highway speeds while reading text. After all, as far as the development of the human brain goes, only the most recent generations have had the capability of traveling at speeds made possible by the combustible engine, and even horses and wind sails make up a minute portion of the human experience when considering the grand scheme of things.
All this to say, motion sickness is the result of the human brain not yet adapting and evolving to the place where it understands that a body in-motion-yet-not-in-motion is in no real danger.
Now that you understand the cause of motion sickness, for those suffering from this disorder, the followup question is, “How do I beat it?”
Unfortunately, short of a brain transplant, completely overcoming motion sickness isn’t really a possibility. However, you can try a slew of remedies in order to stave off motion sickness long enough to perhaps get some work done. Such as:
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
Open a window for some fresh air.
On your device, make use of high-contrast or nighttime mode in order to prevent eye strain. Net It On can help you adjust these settings if you like.
Try taking motion sickness medication such as Dramamine.
Utilize text-to-voice and audio books.
As you’ve realized by now, either you’re affected by motion sickness or you’re not. This is due to people’s brains having neurological differences, meaning that, if you don’t suffer from motion sickness, you’re just lucky like that.
What are some ways that you beat motion sickness and stay productive while on the go? Share your advice with us in the comments below.