The Science Of Feeling Dizzy After Spinning Around

Ever felt dizzy? Of course you do, plenty of times. It’s that same stomach-turning and uneasy, spinning feeling you get when you step off the biggest rollercoaster at the carnival or after your friend spins your for the fifth time in a game of “pin the tail on the donkey.” It’s disorienting, vomit-inducing and is generally an unpleasant feeling to have. But why does this happen?

It's all in your ears

Turns out, our ears are all responsible for it. Or rather, what’s inside our ears. You see, the inside of our ears have what is called as the vestibular system, which is really a sensory system comprising of three canals that are semi-circular and within 90 degrees of each other. Its primary role is to keep us straight and orient us with the space we’re in.

Furthermore, the canals are filled with endolymph that is a kind of thick fluid. Alongside this, there’s also a gel-filled structure called cupula that contains an amount of tiny hairs.

And so, as we move around and turn our heads and such, the liquid, cupula and its hair all move around as well, pointing to the direction our head is moving. The hairs then communicate the direction to our brain via nerve endings. This means that spinning around would literally cause the liquid to “splash around,” hence the disorientation and nausea, as well as the feeling of vomiting.

Rapid spinning movement also affects not just our ears and inner “balance fluids,” but also our eyesight. That’s because when we turn our heads to a particular direction our eyes would try to keep our focus by automatically moving in the other way.

However, our eyes can’t go fully rotate in a 360 manner, and so it reverts back to the middle to “start spinning again.” This movement continuously repeats whenever we spin, and can help us get dizzy even more.

What to do about it

For most of us, sitting down and letting it pass is the best way to deal with dizziness. There are some professional however, that follow techniques to minimize its effects. Figure skaters for example, use a technique called optokinetic nystagmus, while ballerinas follow one called spotting.

dizzy If you get dizzy several minutes after standing up you may be at risk for delayed orthostatic hypotension. Melissa O'Donohue, CC by 2.0