This Is Why You Feel Sick When Reading In The Car

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This is something that has plagued me since I was a kid. I was never one who could read in the car! I wanted to be able to and still do, but I just can’t. I get a raging headache, followed by dizziness and the feeling of motion sickness.

So why is it some people can read in the car and some can’t?

The Motion Sickness Mystery

These days, the prevailing belief is that motion sickness arises from a disagreement between your eyes’ visual input and your inner ear’s sense of acceleration and/or movement. For instance, if you’re in a plane that starts to bank sharply to the left, your inner ear tells you you’re moving even though your eyes tell you you’re clearly sitting still in your seat. The same holds true for reading a book in a car, and anyone who’s ever gotten motion sickness in a movie theater knows the opposite can be just as uncomfortable.

It’s not that simple, though (why would it be?): The scientific community still isn’t 100-percent convinced that sensory disagreement alone is responsible for the motion sickness people experience in cars (or boats, or planes), nor are they sure why nearly one third of us are more sensitive to it than others, or why women seem to get it more than men — there simply isn’t a consensus, and since nobody’s funneling millions of dollars into motion sickness research, definitive answers don’t seem close at hand.

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How to Get Around It

There’s no cure for carsickness, unfortunately, and to paraphrase your middle school sex ed class, abstinence (from visual distractions) is the best way to ensure you don’t get sick. If you’re dead set on finishing DDP’s autobiography before you get home, though, here are some tips that might help:

    • Ensure you’re adequately hydrated and nourished, and avoid consuming alcohol (boooo!) or caffeine before your journey.
  • The CDC actually suggests that aromatherapy, flavored lozenges, or even listening to music can help distract you from the sensation of motion.
  • Block out confusing external stimuli by scooting down in your seat or sitting with your back to the window to obstruct your outside view.
  • Taking antihistamines like Benadryl or Dramamine can prevent or alleviate symptoms but often leave you feeling drowsy — not ideal if you’re trying to read.
  • Natural alternatives like ginger can be helpful as well but aren’t scientifically proven to work for everyone.

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