February 8, 2010

Beating the Seasickness Blues

by Heather Falconer

Anyone who has spent some time out on the open water has had the not-so-great pleasure of feeling the roll and tumble of seasickness. We usually think of seasickness as simply feeling slightly nauseous, but the wave motion of even a slightly choppy sea can quickly lead to vertigo and disorientation. The constant movement confuses our visual senses, while the force of gravity and the surging movement literally jostles our internal organs around.

For many people, this is just a minor, short lived inconvenience that dampens an otherwise pleasant day. For others, like fishermen and scuba divers who spend a lot of their time on or in the water, it can be downright deadly. Fortunately, researchers at the Imperial College of London have just published a study in the journal Autonomic Neuroscience showing that breathing out of sync with a wave cycle eases the symptoms of motion sickness.
By breathing slightly faster or slower than the cycle of the wave, the force of gravity is unable to do its work on our body. We stay in greater control over the movement of our abdominal organs, which confuses our brain and reduces the nausea. What is great about this research is that is shows a technique that does not rely on drugs or fancy equipment, so there aren’t adverse side effects or expensive costs.  
The verdict? Next time you head out for a day on the high seas, leave the bananas and prescriptions at home and remember to breathe that fresh salt air slowly and deeply.

For more information on the study, visit the ScienceNow website. Want to comment? Visit us on Facebook!

Heather Falconer

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Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.