You can experience dizziness anytime, even while driving. You can try different ways to possibly help stop any post-driving dizziness.
Dizziness is a symptom of imbalance that can happen for a wide range of reasons. If you experience this symptom while driving or after a long drive, it could be related to the movement of the car and how your body responds to that movement.
Vertigo, motion sickness, and other types of dizziness related to movement can be especially dangerous while driving because they can impair your sense of space and motion.
This article will explore some of the reasons you may get dizzy when you’re driving or after driving a long distance and what you can do to manage this dangerous sensation.
Dizziness during or after driving is usually the result of a disconnection between the movement you’re making or the movement around you and the movement your brain senses. Movement and balance disorders often start in the inner ear.
Labyrinthitis is one of the most common causes of dizziness and may develop from an infection in the inner ear. The inner ear helps to control your sense of motion and balance, and — aside from labyrinthitis — different infections or conditions can cause inner ear difficulties that lead to dizziness.
Dizziness caused by inner ear disorders is often referred to as a “vestibular disorder.”
Vertigo is the sensation that you or the world around you is spinning, and it’s a common symptom of these disorders.
One study found that vestibular disorders were responsible for most causes of adult vertigo: about
Other common causes of vertigo in adults, according to the study, include:
Terms such as “vertigo,” “dizziness,” and “motion sickness” are sometimes used interchangeably. Diagnosis or experience can vary, but overall dizziness while driving usually occurs in response to the motion of the car around you and a disconnect with how your brain is processing that movement.
For some people, simple head movements may trigger a dizzying sensation, but driving can also cause dizziness that begins and lasts for long after your drive has ended.
Another factor in dizziness during or after a long drive is your overall health and how you’re taking care of yourself. Truck driving training institutes that work with long-haul drivers caution about topics such as:
- having proper nutrition
- getting enough rest
- taking breaks from vehicle fumes
- experiencing changes in elevation
You may also want to rule out any eye disorders that could be aggravated by driving, such as binocular vision dysfunction, which can cause your eyes to work out of sync with each other.
Vertigo can be triggered by even slight changes in head position for some people. It’s important to take note of when you feel dizzy and what kinds of activities or situations trigger vertigo for you.
When you’re driving, your head makes frequent position changes, and there’s a lot of movement in the car and around you.
Vertigo and feelings of dizziness are a top cause of car accidents, with one study estimating that vestibular disorders and other conditions related to vertigo are responsible for a threefold increase in motor vehicle accidents.
Finding out why you’re getting dizzy is the first step. If you have diabetes and your dizziness is the result of low blood sugar, managing your diabetes more closely and making sure you eat regularly can help.
Other causes of dizziness and vertigo can’t always be solved or prevented, and, in some countries, conditions that cause persistent vertigo may make you ineligible for a driver’s license.
If you don’t have an ongoing condition that explains your dizziness, taking care of your overall health can make a big improvement. If you’re planning a long drive, you can do the following things to help prepare your body and mind for the journey:
- Get enough sleep in the days leading up to your trip.
- Don’t continue driving if you become tired or begin to doze off.
- Have another driver available to relieve you for breaks, if possible.
- Be aware of major changes in climate or elevation.
- Bring plenty to drink, and be sure to stay hydrated.
- Stop for regular meals or pack snacks.
- Keep your vehicle properly maintained and stocked with fuel and other supplies.
If you become dizzy, light-headed, or disoriented in any way while you’re driving, the safest thing you can do is stop your vehicle as soon as it’s safe to do so.
If you experience predictable, short-term episodes of dizziness, you can wait for the sensation to pass or use whatever treatment measures you’ve been prescribed.
Some chronic conditions that cause dizziness are considered to be driving disabilities. If your condition has been diagnosed as one that’s considered a driving disability, you may have to give up driving — at least until your condition is under control.
With some conditions, such as Meniere disease, you may be able to have your driver’s license reinstated when 2 years or some other interval of time has passed without you having an episode of dizziness.
If you’ve never been dizzy before and suddenly experience this feeling while driving, you may want to let another driver take over or call for help rather than get back behind the wheel. Fleeting causes of dizziness caused by things such as tiredness, low blood pressure, or elevation changes often pass with a bit of time and rest.
Some of the ways you can deal with short bursts of dizziness include:
- drinking water
- laying down
- making slow movements with your head
- avoiding smoking or drinking alcohol
- eating regular, healthy meals or snacks
Dizziness can happen for many reasons, and it’s common to experience brief episodes from time to time, especially if you’re hungry, tired, or dehydrated. If you do have a chronic condition that causes vertigo or dizziness, you may need to avoid driving, at least until you have your condition under control.