If you have ever experienced motion sickness, you will know what cyber sickness feels like. The word ‘sick’ has been thrown around a lot lately, especially since the arrival of the pandemic. In fact, if you even mutter the word sick, even to yourself, you will feel a jolt or a pang of dread. Truth of the matter is, we can succumb to light sickness even using our beloved phones and computers.
Like motion sickness, cyber sickness occurs when your senses send conflicting signals to your inner ear. Cyber sickness can occur when you scroll on your smartphone or computer, use multiple screens, or attend a virtual meeting in which someone else is controlling the screen.
It all has to do with orientation. You need your senses to get a feel for where you are and how you’re moving in the world. When your senses report contradictory information to the brain, it results in disorientation and physical symptoms.
These symptoms fall into three categories: nausea, oculomotor issues and general disorientation. Oculomotor symptoms, like eye strain, fatigue and headaches, involve overworking the nerve that controls eye movement. Disorientation can manifest as dizziness and vertigo. And several cybersickness symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and blurred vision, overlap these categories. These issues can persist for hours and affect sleep quality.
Now, before you start panicking and googling symptoms on Web MD, only to find you have a few hours to live, know that this sickness is not severe at all. There are ways to help relieve the discomfort, blue light glasses are designed to block out some of the blue light waves emitted by your device screen that can lead to eye strain and sleep irregularities. Zooming in on a screen or using larger font sizes may also help reduce eye strain and make daily work more sustainable.
The work-from-home movement has grown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have replaced 9-to-5’s and commutes with sweatpants, bedhead and Zoom meetings. Though the convenience is undeniable, it has also come with an increasing awareness of how difficult it can be to stare at a screen for 40-plus hours a week.