Vertigo is a very unsettling sensation; everything around you is spinning, but you’re not moving. Unlike the popular belief (coming from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo) vertigo is not a fear of heights. Vertigo is more like being on a rollercoaster while being on the ground. That sensation can last for minutes, but in some cases, it can last for days. For that reason, sleep deprivation is a close associate of vertigo.
People who experience this sensation for more than a day are generally sleep deprived and develop serious sleeping issues. When the world is spinning around, it can be hard to fall asleep. Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we’ll try to share some tips on how you can try to get enough sleep while experiencing vertigo. So, let’s dive in!
Fun fact; this illusion image showcases the effects of vertigo. Try not to look at the image directly, but rather look at something next to it. The image will rotate and resemble similar motion issues people with vertigo experience.
Everything About Vertigo
What Is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a type of dizziness that indicates a sensation of false movement. The sensation is usually described as rotation, but sometimes it is described as a sensation of tilt. With vertigo, there is a disturbed relation to the surrounding objects, accompanied by the sensation of whirling, swaying, weakness, unsteadiness, faintness, etc.
Vertigo tends to occur more commonly in women and people over the age of 50, but there were cases in younger, male/female individuals. Vertigo may last anywhere between a few minutes, few hours, and several days. In some serious cases, it can even last for a few weeks.
What Causes Vertigo?
Vertigo that lasts for seconds is usually caused by:
Vertigo that lasts for minutes or hours is usually caused by:
Vertigo that lasts for several days is usually caused by:
Signs You’re Experiencing Vertigo
You know you’re experiencing vertigo when it is incredibly hard to keep your balance. Sometimes, it is even impossible to stay balanced. You feel as if everything is spinning around you, and there is usually a strong inclination for you to tilt towards one side. Moreover, you’re having a hard time walking, sitting, even laying down. Some symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, irregular eye movement, extreme sensitivity to sound and light, tinnitus, headache, etc.
Vertigo And Sleep Relation
Vertigo is known to only disrupt your relation to the surroundings as you’re standing, but also as you’re lying down. Dizziness and the spinning sensation can impair the sleep onset and the sleeping process completely. That is why it is extremely difficult to fall asleep while you’re experiencing vertigo. Therefore, sleep deprivation in such cases is often inevitable.
Moreover, even if you do manage to fall asleep, sometimes waking up can trigger vertigo. This often happens in cases of Menier’s disease or BPPV. The reason for this is because when you wake up and rise from the bed, you’re changing your position, which causes BPPV and inner ear issues. Not to mention that sleeping on the side can cause fluid buildup in the ear, which can also trigger Menier’s vertigo upon waking up.
Currently, scientists are looking deeper into the relationship between vertigo and sleep. Moreover, there is even a possible link between vertigo and sleep apnea, but because current studies are inconclusive, there isn’t more to be said about this link for now.
How To Sleep With Vertigo: 7 Helpful Tips
- Keep your head elevated.
- Make sure to sleep on your back rather than your sides.
- Try physical therapy and make sure to exercise regularly.
- Avoid spicy food, alcohol, and caffeine before bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
- Avoid looking at screens at least half an hour before bed.
- Try breathing exercises and meditation to lower stress levels.
Keep Your Head Up
The position of the head as you sleep can be a potential management solution for vertigo. One study analyzed this idea through 611 BPPV-diagnosed patients. The results showed following;
- Elevating the head to 45° when lying reduces dizziness in patients suffering from BPPV. These patients also had a poor response to medication treatment and physical maneuvers, which further emphasized the importance of the head position on the treatment of BPPV.
- Complaints regarding the severeness of the BPPV decreased after the positional practice, and after time they completely diminished.
- The study was conducted with patients that did not have any neck issues since the head position can cause strain on the neck and the back.
Sure, this study had its limitations, but the results clearly show that keeping your head up while experiencing vertigo can mitigate the symptoms and enable a proper sleep. If you want to elevate your head while sleeping, here’s how you can do it;
- Use a wedge pillow, since it is designed to keep your head slightly elevated. Patients with BPPV are generally recommended to use such pillows.
- Utilize a travel pillow if you don’t have a wedge one. Travel pillows can do a good job of helping you keep the head elevated without straining your neck.
- Opt for an adjustable bed or adjustable mattress that can be lifted as you sleep. It might cost you some extra money, but it will surely be a good investment in the long run. These beds/mattresses do not only help keep a certain sleeping position, but they also help prevent nausea, dizziness, heartburn, acid reflux, etc.
Opt For Physical Therapy
The Epley and Semount maneuvers are physical therapy exercises designed to help manage and treat vertigo. These exercises are only done with a medical professional or a physical therapist, and usually, last up to 15 minutes. They are also designed to improve or cure BPPV with only one treatment, while some people might require a longer and thorough focus and treatment options. Either way, here’s how the maneuvers function;
- The Epley maneuver – the doctor turns the patient’s head 45° horizontally towards the affected ear. The doctor also tilts the patient’s head backward, keeping it in place at a 45°-turn, hanging. At this point, there should be an attack of vertigo, and the doctor will keep the patient’s head in this position until the attack stops. This usually takes a few minutes. Then, the doctor rolls the patient onto the side of the unaffected ear, at a 90° angle. This should also provoke another attack, so they’ll stay in the same position for a few minutes until the attack stops. After the attack passes, the doctor will help the patient get up and sit.
- The Semont maneuver – the doctor turns the patient’s head in such a way that it causes vertigo. The doctor holds that position for several seconds (the patient is usually looking up at the ceiling). Then, the doctor moves the head quickly so that the patient is looking down at the table on which they’re lying. The doctor helps the patient keep this position up to 30 seconds. The maneuver is now done and the doctor helps the patient sit up.
These maneuvers are designed to help relieve vertigo symptoms and help the patients get a good night’s sleep without the dizziness and the spinning sensation. They are also designed to prevent vertigo from occurring again, as they drastically reduce the recurrent rate for the majority of patients.
Sleep On Your Back
Sleeping on the back is the ideal sleeping position for people experiencing vertigo. This position keeps the natural balance of the calcium deposit in your inner ear canals. It also prevents the perilymph fluid leak, which causes Meniere’s disease. Sleeping on the back shouldn’t trigger BPPV, especially if you keep your head elevated as you sleep.
Also, when you sleep on your back, you shouldn’t trigger vertigo when you rise from that position. Sure, you have to rise slowly, but you’re less likely to disturb the inner ear canals. It is just essential that you don’t make any sudden movements, and you should expect a good night’s sleep in return.
Control Stress Levels
Studies show that prior to vertigo, patients usually experienced high-stress levels, traumas, anxiety, and depression. Life stressors, emotional stress, or high levels of anxiety have been proven to contribute to vestibular disorders, together with sleep deprivation and insomnia.
Therefore, to get a good night’s sleep even with a vertigo episode, you need to work on controlling the stressors and your stress levels. To get restful sleep and better stress management, try yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, physical activity, acupuncture, aromatherapy, etc.
All of these things are guaranteed to help you calm down and ensure a healthy sleep onset as well as healthy sleep duration and quality; even when the world is spinning around.
Try To eat Better
Changing diet is essential when it comes to any sort of condition or disease. What you eat and drink can significantly affect the inflammation process in your body.
Not to mention that it can affect your sleep quality. So, we recommend you try eating food that is not only anti-inflammatory but also sleep-inducing. Such food includes leafy greens, avocado, nuts, cherries, bananas, figs, lean meat, dark chocolate, etc. All of this food is rich in vitamins, magnesium, protein, fiber, and many other components that can help you reduce inflammation, fight off vertigo, and finally get a good night’s sleep.
Note: We strongly recommend you stay away from alcohol and caffeine so long you’re experiencing vertigo. They do not only interfere with your sleep but also promote inflammation in the body and prolong or emphasize vertigo symptoms.
Establish Sleep Hygiene
Sure, vertigo will cause you sleeping troubles, and it will make it almost impossible to fall asleep. But, lack of sleep will also worsen your vertigo, so you’re simply going in a circle. Establishing proper sleep hygiene will help you get the sleep you deserve and help your body fight off this terrible sensation. Here’s how you can do it;
- Try to always go to bed at the same time every night, and get up in the morning at the same time as well. However, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, at least 7 hours.
- Try to keep your bedroom cool. Cool temperatures ensure proper melatonin and adenosine production. Both are indispensible for sleep onset and a healthy sleep/wake cycle. You will also sleep more comfortably in a cooler bedroom.
- Try to isolate your bedroom from sound and light. Vertigo can make you rather sensitive to sound and light, so try to keep the sound and light sources at a bare minimum. Cover the windows, turn off all the light, and stay away from gadgets before bedtime.
- Try not to eat or drink before bedtime, especially when it comes to spicy food, alcohol, or caffeine. These are stimulating and will interfere with your sleep. Moreover, they can emphasize nausea and vomiting that come with vertigo.
Even though vertigo is a very unsettling and uncomfortable sensation, it won’t last. Vertigo is not a permanent condition, and it eventually passes.
However, in the meantime, you can get sleep-deprived and rather weak, so it is important to take care of your health as much as you can. It is essential to address all the underlying causes of vertigo and try to reduce their effects as well.
We truly hope our insight into vertigo and sleeping tips will help you go through it as quickly as possible. However, always make sure to consult with your doctor before you apply any of the advice you find on the Internet.