When you say that you are feeling “dizzy”, they could mean one of two things. You may be experiencing lightheadedness and feel as though you might faint. Alternatively, you may feel as if your surrounding is moving around you when there is no real movement – this sensation is known as vertigo. Therefore, you need to know precisely what you are feeling when you say you’re dizzy, so together with your doctor, you can find out what’s causing the problem. Dizziness occurs most often in older adults, but can happen to people of all ages. Patients frequently feel as if they are off-balance, and can experience falling, tilting, spinning or whirling feelings. So what causes these sensations and what can you do about it?
What Causes Dizziness When Lying Down?
People often report dizziness when they are lying down or getting up from a horizontal position. The following factors may explain why you feel dizzy when lying down.
1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
This condition, where you feel as though the world is spinning around you, is one of the most frequent reasons for dizziness when lying down. In healthy patients, there are several small calcium stones that move freely around the labyrinth section of the inner ear. In BPPV, this movement is impeded, causing the patients to feel dizzy and lose their balance. The feeling can happen for anytime between a few seconds to two minutes and is more common in elderly patients with deterioration of the inner ear, but is also seen in younger people who have suffered a head injury.
2. Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension can cause dizzy feelings. Low blood pressure is diagnosed when the top and/or bottom blood pressure numbers are under 100 and 60 respectively. This isn’t an issue if this is your usual range, but sudden decreases in blood pressure may cause you to feel dizzy. Various treatments are available for hypotension depending on the cause.
Blood pressure can be elevated by increased water or salt intake. Compression stockings preventing blood accumulation in the legs may also help. Finally, drugs designed to increase blood pressure are available.
Labyrinthitis is a type of vertigo caused by infection of the labyrinth, the section of the inner ear responsible for hearing and balance. The infection is usually due to a virus, for example, the viruses that cause cold and flu, but may also be a bacterial infection. It can produce dizziness and a strange sensation of moving when you are still. Besides, ear pain and fever may also happen.
Dizziness is a possible adverse effect of virtually every prescription medicine. Therefore, if you’re currently taking any drugs, this could be the cause of your dizziness. If you think drugs are the reason for your dizzy feelings, speak to your doctor and describe all the medicine you are currently on, including herbal remedies, food supplements and over-the-counter medications. You may have to switch drugs, adjust the dose or stop taking them altogether.
Several anxiety conditions have been associated with feelings of dizziness. For example, panic attacks, particularly those that occur at nighttime, may result in lightheadedness, which can in turn cause dizziness and hyperventilation. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder may also feel dizzy when lying down, although this is rare.
6. Dehydration or Overheating
Dehydration from exposure to heat, exercise, long plane journeys or simple lack of food and drink is a common cause of dizziness when lying down. You may also have low blood sugar levels, so drink some fruit juice or sugary soft drink and see if things get better. If you’re feeling dizzy, try to sit slowly and let someone know you’re ill. The dizziness should pass after you’ve had some rest and drink; but if not, call a healthcare professional.
This is one of the main reasons for dizziness when lying down. Several medical ailments associated with aging can result in shaking in various parts of the body, and an inability to focus and balance. Everyday wear and tear on the brain and nervous tissue may also lead to dizziness.
8. Other Causes of Dizziness
- Carbone monoxide poisoning may also be the cause. In this case, you should get emergency medical help.
- Heart arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, a quick, irregular heartbeat.
- Misuse of recreational drugs, including alcohol.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is often seen in diabetics, which can result in dizziness when lying down.
- Vertebrobasilar insufficiency is a condition where the back of the brain doesn’t receive enough blood. It may be due to atherosclerosis, blockage of the arteries to the brain.
- Any other serious health condition that affects the entire body.
- Dizziness often accompanies severe headaches, appearing before, after, or during the migraine.
When to Call a Doctor
If you experience any of the following, seek medical attention immediately:
- Continual vomiting
- Seizures or fainting
- If your dizziness follows a head injury
- A fever over 101°F, headache or stiffness in the neck
- Pain in the chest, heart palpitations, breathlessness, weakness, changes to your vision or speech, if you can’t move an arm or leg and severe headache
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Dizziness for the first time
- A difference in symptoms from previous dizziness
- Loss of hearing
- Dizziness after taking medication
How to Treat Dizziness When Lying Down
Your doctor will ask you to talk about your dizzy feeling and your overall health. He or she will then look at your ears, nose and throat. Other possible examinations may include:
- MRI or CT head scan
- Assessing the movement of the eyes after the inner ear has been stimulated with cold or warm air or water
- Testing your balance, for example, using posturography or a rotating chair
- Routine checking of hearing, blood pressure and nerve function
- Blood tests
- Cardiac assessment
The treatment you receive will depend on the cause of your dizziness and what symptoms you are experiencing. Patients are often prescribed drugs or told to do some balance exercises.
- Don’t make any rapid changes in your head or body position, particularly when twisting, turning or lying down.
- Cut down your intake of substances that inhibit blood circulation, such as alcohol, caffeine, salt and tobacco.
- Make sure you’re not dehydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Try to ease any stress in your life.
- Eliminate any substances you are allergic to.
- If your dizziness is caused by an infection, for example, ear infection, cold, flu or other respiratory infection, get treatment as soon as you can.