Anyone that has ever experienced vertigo will know how distressing and alarming it can be, especially the first time it happens. The sensation you feel during an episode of vertigo can feel as though the room is spinning around you, and keeping your balance can feel almost impossible, which can heavily impact day-to-day activities such as driving, operating machinery, and even just standing up straight.
Some people only go through short periods of vertigo that last a few minutes, usually occurring when getting out of bed or standing up after sitting for a while. However, in most severe cases, you could be unfortunate enough to endure days of the condition, leading you to take time off work and back out of social plans.
Many questions surround this condition, such as what causes it, how to overcome it, and how to sleep with vertigo.
Throughout this guide, I am going to give you all the key facts and information about vertigo, including the causes and prevention, to give you peace of mind and, hopefully, a better night’s sleep.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is an extremely disorientating feeling that can give you the sensation that you or the room around you is moving, almost the feeling you get when intoxicated. People who suffer from vertigo describe it as feeling as though you’re spinning around once you get in bed, which can make bedtime a stressful experience.
People experiencing vertigo during the day or when moving around feel like they might fall over at any time and struggle to keep their balance. This is why people coming up against vertigo for extended periods may have to put their lives on hold until it subsides, which can cause stress and anxiety for several reasons.
Research has shown that the most common vertigo sufferers are women over 50. Still, it can affect all people of any age or sex.
One of the most frustrating things about vertigo is that it can occur anytime, without warning, lasting anywhere from a couple of minutes to numerous days. In severe cases, it can even go on for many weeks.
What Causes Vertigo?
Vertigo also referred to as labyrinthitis, is usually related to problems with the inner ear, such as bacterial infections or calcium deposits that have moved. These deposits are what contribute to normal balance. When they’re disrupted, it can cause a person to become dizzy and lead to vertigo.
How to Sleep With Vertigo – Best Positions
Most of the time, people experiencing vertigo say that going to bed and trying to sleep is one of the most difficult times of the day. This is due to the disorientating feeling of being tipped or the notion that you’re rotating in bed when, in fact, you’re lying still.
Two prominent sleeping positions can relieve the symptoms of vertigo when you’re trying to fall asleep. Let’s take a look at those in a bit more detail.
1. On Your Back
Although in ordinary circumstances, sleeping on your side is believed to be the best sleeping position for your general health, when you’re undergoing a vertigo attack, this can make your symptoms much worse. Therefore, sleeping on your back might be your best option.
Keeping yourself in a still position on your back means that the calcium crystals within the ear are less likely to move and be disrupted, lessening the chances of your vertigo symptoms worsening. It also prevents fluid from the ear from leaking out (another contributor to vertigo).
You must do everything possible to keep yourself as still as possible while you sleep and stay on your back throughout the night. If you move around a lot during the night, sleeping with a body pillow can help you remain in one place.
Most people who suffer from vertigo say that their symptoms are at their worst when standing up after being seated or getting out of bed. If you have managed to remain on your back throughout the night, then the chances of feeling dizzy when you get out of bed are reduced.
2. Sleeping With Your Head Elevated
A solution that has proven to minimize vertigo symptoms is keeping your head elevated while trying to sleep. Positioning your head at a 45-degree angle can dramatically reduce the whirling sensation associated with vertigo.
Sleeping with your head elevated needs to be done correctly and comfortably, as sleeping with your neck at an improper angle can lead to neck and back pain, causing even more discomfort.
Double up on pillows or investing in a specialized wedge pillow is a good way to ensure your head is raised comfortably through the night. If you want to splash out on a more significant, longer-term investment, then orthopedic mattresses that adjust to the angle can be great, not just for vertigo symptoms but other conditions such as back problems, snoring, stuffy nose, and acid reflux.
What More Can You Do?
Other than changing the way you sleep with vertigo, there are other things you can do to reduce vertigo symptoms before you go to sleep. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV, then there are several head-movement exercises that you can try before bed.
These motions can redistribute the calcium deposits within your ear, known as canalith repositioning maneuvers. The movements involve turning your head from side to side while lying flat on your back.
Before putting these exercises into practice, it’s important to consult with a doctor, as there are such wide varieties of vertigo; performing the wrong techniques may have adverse effects.
Speaking to a chiropractor can help to ensure you’re completing any exercises in the correct manner that won’t cause any other damage or discomfort.
Do’s And Don’ts During a Vertigo Episode
If you’re experiencing an episode of vertigo, there are plenty of other things you can do to try and speed up the recovery process or alleviate the symptoms. This include:
- Move your head very slowly, and avoid any sudden turns
- Use a walking aid to steady your balance, such as a walking stick
- Sit down as soon as you feel an episode starting
- Lie down in a pitch-black room and keep as still as possible
- Relax; feeling stressed can increase symptoms of vertigo
- Get out of bed in the morning as slowly as possible. Try sitting on the edge of the bed for a few minutes until you feel steady enough to stand
- Avoid spicy food and alcohol
- Avoid looking at screens before bed, such as phones, televisions, and computer games
- Bend over to pick things up off the floor
- Perform vigorous exercises, or exercise that involves bending down, such as squats and lunges
- Lift heavy items
- Try to reach high places such as standing on tiptoes, stretching upwards, or using ladders
- Walk around in the dark if you get up at night
- Stand up too suddenly
An Overview of How to Sleep With Vertigo
It’s believed that at some point, everyone will experience vertigo at least once in their lives, whether for just a few minutes or a more severe, long-term case. So knowing how to combat vertigo will become essential for all of us at some point.
Vertigo is characterized by a disorienting feeling of overwhelming dizziness. It can also feel as though you’ve consumed too much alcohol. Therefore, drinking alcohol while experiencing an episode of vertigo is highly ill-advised and can be extremely dangerous.
Small changes, like lifestyle alterations in sleep positions, exercises, and mattress upgrades, can improve vertigo symptoms by elevating the head. It prevents the crystals within the ear from moving, which is the leading cause of vertigo.
The two best positions recommended to those learning how to sleep with vertigo are on your back, with your head elevated, or, ideally, both simultaneously. Sleeping with your head elevated can lessen the chance of that horrible whirling feeling and improve other sleep disorders, such as snoring and acid reflux.
Lastly, as there are so many variations of vertigo, the most crucial thing you should do, especially in long-term cases, is to speak to a doctor. He can determine the precise cause of the condition and devise a treatment course that will work for your circumstances. Performing the wrong exercise can hinder your state and cause more pain or discomfort, doing more damage than good.
Important: If you have other symptoms accompanying your vertigo, such as severe headaches, vomiting, or a fever, you must seek urgent medical help.