May 22, 2024

Question for information – Why does reading in the car make you sick?

Impaired sense of balance can cause motion sickness, as can nausea.

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WSkimming through a book while driving or reading long text messages on your cell phone: This can make many people sick. Bella Bocki from the Clinical Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases at Krems University Hospital explains the reasons behind this and what can help with nausea.

The sense of balance consists of various sensory impressions so that it can build a three-dimensional model of the surrounding environment in the brain. The results of measuring the balance organs in the inner ear, visual information and feelings in the soles of the feet as well as in the joints and muscles of the cervical spine and stomach play a major role in spatial perception.

This “internal model” allows orientation in space and coordination of our movements in everyday life (e.g. walking straight, seeing clearly, etc.). At the same time, all these sensory impressions must work in coordination at all times: when the head turns the image moves, while the balance organs in the inner ears report rotational acceleration and the muscles of the cervical spine stretch on one of them. On the one hand, and contracted on the other hand. If one stream of information contradicts others, a disturbance in the sense of balance and thus motion sickness can occur.

Question for information: Why does reading in the car make you sick?

Bella Bocki works as a physician at the Clinical Department of Otolaryngology at Krems University Hospital.


Specifically: when reading in a moving car, the unchanging visual image and the constantly accelerating vehicle contrast with each other, as this is perceived as stronger in the back seat. There are evolutionary reasons why nausea or vomiting often occurs as a result of motion sickness: gastric emptying has proven useful in cases of “sensory conflicts.”

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