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Are you feeling Reading difficulties while in Motion!

Mar 22, 2019

Are you feeling Reading difficulties while in Motion!
Are you feeling Reading difficulties while in Motion! | Photography: Autoserviceworld

Long travels are daunting. Passing time to make things seem faster is a herculean task for most of us. We can happily while away time by reading our favourite book, engaging ourselves into the plot, our minds freely flying into those imaginary clouds. Oh wait! Doesn’t sound like you? If you think you get THAT nausea feeling, don’t worry. You are not alone. Almost 80% of the population have this symptom especially when they try to read while travelling. It’s called motion sickness or kinetosis.

To understand this, let’s have a quick peek into the science behind this.  

Under normal circumstances,

  • Your muscles help you to move
  • Your eyes calculate the distance
  • You also rely on the “balance sensors” in your inner ears which obey the laws of physics

(You would have noticed the tubular spirit level used by masons and carpenters to check the surface levelling. Balance sensors in the ears are similar to this and help you walk steadily without losing equilibrium.)

So, what’s this equilibrium? There are two types of equilibrium:

Static:

Looks after the orientation of your head and body relative to the ground

Dynamic:

Looks after the orientation of your head and body relative to sudden movement

Now the next part:

The thalamus, a small structure in the brain that processes sensory signals, receives all these bits of information from muscles, eyes and balance sensors and passes it to the mind in its own language.

When you are in going in a car, everything changes.

  • Your muscles are still, as you are sitting
  • Your eyes can see the floor and they are telling you that you are ‘stationary’ (Static equilibrium)
  • The fluid in “balance sensors” sway due to the movement and they are telling you that you are ‘moving’ (Dynamic equilibrium)

The thalamus gets conflicting signals and gets confused on what message it should pass. This leads to a sensory mismatch which in brain’s language means somebody is trying to poison it. So, the first thing it does is to throw up the poison – that is, vomit it out.

If you look out of the window, the brain thinks - ‘Ok, things are moving outside and hence I must be moving as well.’ This reconciles the system and the body adjusts itself from sickness. Now if you try to read, you shut down the external visual information causing sensory mismatch leading to motion sickness.

Sea sickness and Air sickness are also caused for similar reasons as the body is in movement but things outside do not seem to be moving due to lack of visual information. 

There is not much of an explanation why some people out grow these symptoms – some brains get used to these, some take time, or some may not at all. It’s just a chance of change. So, if you never experienced motion sickness, consider yourself well adapted.

For the others, some tips and tricks to avoid motion sickness while reading a book in the car:

  1. Look up (at the horizon preferably), every few seconds. That will help your brain to match the visual signals (moving objects) with the physical signals (vibrations in your body)
  2. Limit the physical movements while you read such as - sitting in the front seat of the car, leaning your head on a pillow/head rest to keep it still.
  3. Open the window to get fresh air.
  4. Relax and take deep breath/short nap in between
  5. Eat light food before and during travel. Better to avoid during travel.
  6. Acupressure point located in your wrist. Press gently in the place shown in figure 2 below.
  7. Try ginger products/ antihistamine/ dry crackers/orange candies/carbonated beverages to settle your stomach down.

Now that you know a fun fact to share with friends and family, tell it on your next road trip, for a temporary distraction from the miserable motion sickness.