What Is Cybersickness?

You might have experienced symptoms that are similar to motion sickness while using your smartphone, looking at a computer screen, or wearing a VR headset for a long time. If that’s the case, then you’ve experienced cybersickness, an affliction with similar symptoms to motion sickness but a different cause. So what is cybersickness exactly?

Anyone can experience cybersickness and it affects people to varying degrees. It’s not fully understood what makes some people more prone to cybersickness than others, but there are a few theories.

If you’ve experienced it before, you know that it can be really unpleasant. Symptoms can make it difficult to concentrate on your work or enjoy your time online. While you can’t simply get a cybersickness cure from a pharmacy, there are a few things you can do to lessen the severity.

What Are the Symptoms of Cybersickness?

Cybersickness symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and can impact your ability to look at a computer screen or smartphone, or to use a virtual reality headset. If you’re one of the many people who are susceptible to it, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms so that you can take steps to lessen their impact. Here’s what you can expect:

Nausea is the most severe reaction to cybersickness, as is the case with other forms of motion sickness. If you’re feeling nauseous, get some fresh air.

Dizziness most often occurs after using a VR headset. You may feel like the room is spinning or that you’re going to faint. In such a situation it’s best to sit down and wait for the feeling to pass.

Headaches can also be a lingering symptom of cybersickness. They may be throbbing or dull and can make it difficult to concentrate on anything else. If you’re experiencing a headache, continuing to stare at the screen will only make it worse.

Eyestrain can easily happen if you’ve been looking at a screen for too long. Blurred vision, dryness, and irritation are common occurrences of straining your eyes. This can happen not just to VR users, but to anyone who scrolls endlessly through their social feeds.

Fatigue is something that people generally feel after spending too much time in front of a screen or using a VR headset.

Is Motion Sickness the Same Thing as Cybersickness?

You know how motion sickness feels if you’ve ever gotten dizzy after spinning around in a circle or felt queasy after looking at a screen for too long. But is motion sickness the same thing as cybersickness? Researchers say that it might actually be the same clinical condition.

Both motion sickness and cybersickness involve feeling off balance and experiencing nausea and vomiting. However, there are some key differences between the two conditions.

Motion sickness is caused by physical motion, such as riding in a car or boat. In contrast, cybersickness is caused by simulated motion, such as that experienced when playing video games or using virtual reality headsets. Additionally, motion sickness tends to go away once the movement stops, while cybersickness can persist even after the person has stopped using the electronic device. So, while they share some similarities, motion sickness and cybersickness are not entirely the same.

How Common Is Cybersickness and Who Is Most at Risk?

Studies have shown that women, people with poor balance, and those who don’t play video games often are more likely to experience cybersickness. Evidence suggests that it’s not just VR headsets that can cause cybersickness; any type of electronic multimedia device can cause symptoms.

While there’s no exact data showing how many people experience screen sickness, it’s not uncommon to feel some symptoms after using a VR headset, especially after a prolonged time. So, if you feel nauseous or dizzy after a VR session or spending too much time in front of a screen, you’re not alone.

What Causes Cybersickness?

The exact cause of cybersickness is still not fully understood. One theory is that it’s caused by a conflict between what we see and what our vestibular system (the part of the inner ear that helps us keep our balance) tells us we should be feeling.

While we’re looking at the screen, our eyes may see us moving while our vestibular system does not register any movement. This discrepancy can cause confusion and discomfort. Doing so for extended periods of time can also contribute to a pounding headache and eye strain.

Cybersickness in Augmented and Virtual Reality

The ability to immerse oneself in a virtual world with a 3D headset is revolutionizing entertainment. What was once a niche technology is now becoming more accessible to a broader audience with Sony’s PlayStation VR, Oculus Quest, and other commercially available products. However, not everyone can thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Some people experience severe levels of nausea while trying out VR. For them, playing VR games or using apps set in a virtual environment is something they should either avoid or do in moderation.

Augmented reality is much easier to handle than VR for some users. If you’re not familiar with what’s considered AR, Pokemon GO is the most famous example of an AR game. Simply put, AR involves virtual projections over real-world imagery.

With Meta promoting its vision of the metaverse, Microsoft finding a use for VR in educational purposes, and entertainment shifting towards immersive content, these technologies will become a part of our everyday lives. As such, knowing how to cure cybersickness symptoms or simply prevent and reduce them will come in handy.

How to Prevent or Reduce the Effects of Cybersickness

Currently, there are no specific cybersickness remedies like those you can buy over the counter in a pharmacy for motion sickness. However, some things can be done to help prevent or reduce the effects.

Take Frequent Breaks

You need to be careful about how much time you spend exposed to a screen or virtual environment. Taking frequent breaks is the best solution if you’re using a VR headset. And if you’re working on a computer, try to take a break every hour.

Use Your Computer in a Well Lit Room

If you’re in a dark room, your eyes will have to adjust more to the light coming from the screen. This can cause eye strain and headaches. Try to position your computer screen in a well-lit room to help reduce these symptoms.

Focus Your Eyes on Something Stable and Distant

Every 20 minutes or so, look away from the screen and focus on something in the distance and, preferably still, for at least 20 seconds. This will help rest your eyes and prevent eyestrain.

Don’t Forget to Blink

When we’re focused on a task, we tend to blink less. This can cause our eyes to dry out and become irritated. Try to blink often to keep your eyes lubricated and healthy.

Do Blue Light Glasses Help with Cybersickness?

If you’re still experiencing symptoms, even after taking breaks and tweaking your environment accordingly, you may want to try wearing blue light glasses. These glasses help filter out the blue light that comes from screens, which may eliminate or reduce symptoms of straining your eyes.

Most people will find these glasses helpful, but for those with the most severe symptoms, they can be a game-changer.

Start with Simple VR Games

Some people experience motion sickness from a computer while playing visually engaging and fast-paced 3D games. If you’re in this category, remember that it may take some time for you to get used to such intense visual stimuli. Try playing simpler and slower VR games to acclimatize yourself.

When Should You See a Doctor About Cybersickness?

If you start experiencing more severe symptoms like vomiting or chronic dizziness, it’s time to see a doctor. Cybersickness can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition, so it’s important to get checked out to rule out any serious problems. In most cases, though, a little rest and relaxation is all you need to feel better. So if you’re starting to feel like you’re coming down with something, don’t hesitate to take a break from the digital world. Your body will thank you for it.

FAQ

How do you get rid of cybersickness?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to curing cybersickness. However, some things that may help include taking frequent breaks, using a computer screen in a well-lit room, focusing your eyes on something stable and distant, and blinking often. You may also want to try wearing blue light glasses and reduce your screen time to alleviate some of the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of cybersickness?

The most common symptoms of cybersickness include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye strain. However, if you start to experience vomiting or chronic dizziness, it’s time to see a doctor, as these may be signs of a more serious underlying condition.

How long does cybersickness last?

Unlike motion sickness, which stops a few minutes after moving, cybersickness can last longer. A recent study showed that people can feel sick for up to seven hours after the nauseating sensory input.

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