What Causes Dizziness When Lying Down?

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dizziness when lying down

What Is Dizziness?

Dizziness is a term that describes a wide range of symptoms, including wooziness, faintness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, or weakness. As a result of this dizziness, you may also lose your balance. Dizziness is rarely life-threatening; however, constant dizziness can significantly affect your life.

Dizziness has a variety of different causes that range from taking certain medications to being dehydrated. Anxiety, motion sickness, and even a drop in blood pressure may cause dizziness as well. People can also experience lightheadedness or dizziness when getting up too quickly from lying down or sitting.

Is your dizziness worse when lying down? When dizziness creates a false sense that the room spinning while lying down, or when you are moving around, this is what is called vertigo. Research indicates that about 40% of those over age 40 will experience vertigo at least once during their lifetime.

Chronic or acute bouts of vertigo are caused by inner ear problems due to allergies or a virus. As a result, there is fluid accumulation in the semicircular canals of your ear. This type of vertigo worsens from moving the eyes, head, or body. This is why the sensation of the room spinning when lying down with eyes closed is also a possibility.

In This Article:

Occurrence of Dizziness with Change in Position: Primary Causes

The primary causes of dizziness when lying down are benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and orthostatic hypotension. People suffering from these problems observe dizziness spells when changing positions, especially when lying down. They may also get dizzy when turning their head on the bed, when closing their eyes, when turning over or sitting up on the bed.

1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common trigger of vertigo or dizziness, and it causes a sudden sensation of spinning. BPPV will lead to dizziness due to an inner-ear problem.

The underlying cause of BPPV is a dislodging of calcium crystals in your ear, and within the part of the ear called the labyrinth. These calcium crystals are sometimes called ear rocks, and they affect the vestibular system that includes semicircular canals containing fluid and fine, hair-like sensors that monitor your head movements.

The crystals become dislodged from their position in the utricle before traveling into one of the semicircular canals.

This leads to trouble with disorientation and balance because the inner-ear fluid and the nerves in the ears send a signal to the brain about how the body and head are positioned relative to the earth, or gravity. It is these signals that are responsible for keeping you balanced.

That is why BPPV is also often brought on from the change in position of your head, including sitting up from a lying down position. When you move your head, it becomes oriented to gravity in a different way, which causes fluids to move.

When head movements are sudden or forceful, this can cause a shift in the ear rocks, and lead to abnormal fluid accumulation. This then sends false signals to the brain.

What are the symptoms of BPPV? The following is a list of the possible symptoms and head positions associated with BPPV. These symptoms are not thought to be constant, and may improve throughout the day when a particular head position is performed.

  • Brief periods of mild or intense dizziness
  • Frequently waking up dizzy or with vertigo
  • Dizziness when lying down and turning head or turning over in bed
  • Dizziness from rolling over onto one side when sleeping
  • Dizziness from tilting head to one side
  • Dizziness when looking up while standing or sitting, or reaching for something on a top shelf
  • Dizziness when lying back to have your hair washed
  • Dizziness due to car accidents that cause sudden jerking of the head
  • A “spaced out” or detached feeling
  • Nausea, unsteadiness, or disorientation

2. Orthostatic Hypotension

A drop in blood pressure can also cause lightheadedness or dizziness when lying down and getting up from your bed or a chair. This is because when you get up, blood naturally rushes to your legs.

In this case, it may take several moments to get your blood pressure back to normal, and as a result, you will feel queasy, confused, dizzy, woozy, or even faint, or have blurry vision. Other symptoms include sweating, nausea, and overheating.

Low blood pressure caused by standing or sitting up too quickly from a lying down position is what is known as orthostatic hypotension.

What causes orthostatic hypotension? Mild dehydration, or being low on fluids, can make it harder to control blood pressure. Also, up to a third of older adults get dizzy after eating a large meal due to a drop in blood pressure.

Dizziness due to low blood pressure is also caused by heart-related problems such as heart failure, a faulty heart valve, and a very low heart rate. Thyroid problems, adrenal dysfunction, anemia, and Parkinson’s disease can also affect your blood pressure and cause occasional dizziness.

Dizziness when lying down can also be caused by medications used to treat heart conditions, such as beta-blockers, nitrates, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers.

Antidepressants, antipsychotics, muscle relaxants, and medicines that treat erectile dysfunction and Parkinson’s disease can also reduce blood pressure and therefore lead to dizziness.

Herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort and echinacea may also lead to dizziness or lightheadedness.

How do you prevent orthostatic hypotension? To help keep blood flowing, move your feet and legs, and don’t stand still in one place or sit for a long period of time.

Other Causes of Dizziness When Lying Down

Labyrinthitis

This is another type of vertigo that can cause dizziness when you’re lying down or standing up. Typically the result of a viral infection such as a cold or the flu, labyrinthitis may also be accompanied by ear pain or a fever.

Treating it may be as simple as getting more sleep until the body has healed itself from the infection.

Cold and flu medications can work, as well as eating fruits and vegetables with antioxidant capabilities to boost your immune system. Green tea may be effective, too.

Anxiety

Anxiety may also lead to dizziness and lightheadedness, and so can various medical forms of treatment for the condition. Dizziness can be the result of social anxiety, panic attacks, stress, and hyperventilation.

If you find yourself experiencing dizziness resulting from stress or a panic attack, it might be worthwhile to consider a form of treatment such as mindfulness or meditation to help you calm yourself in pressing situations.

Dehydration or Over/Under Eating

When your body is low on fluids and electrolytes, you can experience dizziness when lying down, standing up, or even sitting.

The risk of dehydration increases when you’re exposed to heat, have been exercising, are underfed, or have been on a long airplane ride. The best treatment is to continually drink water throughout the day.

For rapid relief, drinking a couple of ounces of pickle juice can be very effective.

If you go too long without food, the drop in blood sugar can also result in dizziness. To get it back up, you should eat a meal or drink a sugary beverage such as fruit juice to raise blood sugar levels. Sitting and resting can also help.

Age

Age is one of the more common causes of dizziness when lying down.

It’s no secret that age introduces an increasing number of health issues from years of wear and tear on the body. Age is actually one of the more common causes of dizziness.

You’re also more likely to acquire other conditions that can lead to dizziness; things like tremors and Parkinson’s disease can make you feel lightheaded.

In fact, dizziness when lying down and vomiting are some symptoms of morning sickness. In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, dizziness can be caused by:

  • Heart arrhythmias, irregular heartbeats, and atrial fibrillation
  • Low blood sugar (common in diabetics)
  • Migraine headaches
  • Atherosclerosis, particularly when it occurs in arteries leading to the brain
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, and other recreational drugs

How to Prevent Dizziness When Lying Down

You can reduce your chances of experiencing dizziness when lying down by staying hydrated and not making any rapid movements. You can also:

  • Avoid making quick changes in the position of your head or body. This can throw off your equilibrium and result in dizziness. This is especially true if you’re lying down, twisting, turning, changing directions, or quickly moving from a seated or prone position to an upright or standing position.
  • Limit substances that can reduce blood circulation and blood oxygen. This includes alcohol, caffeinated beverages, salt, and tobacco (and other forms of smoking).
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Work on ways to limit stress and anxiety. Things such as sleep, meditation, mindfulness, exercise, tai chi, reading, gardening, etc., can all help relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Avoid allergens. Dizziness can occur by eating or breathing things you are allergic to, so it’s best to find ways to avoid or limit their effects.
  • Treat infections such as colds and flu quickly.

Also read:

Article Sources (+)

“Dizziness,” Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dizziness/symptoms-causes/syc-20371787, last accessed April 12, 2018.
“Dizziness and Vertigo,” MedlinePlus; https://medlineplus.gov/dizzinessandvertigo.html, last accessed April 12, 2018.
Hershoff, A., N.D., Homeopathic Remedies: A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and Their Homeopathic Treatments (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1999), 284.
“Benign Paraoxysmal Positional Vertigo,” Michigan Ear Institute; http://www.michiganear.com/bppv-fact-sheet.html, last accessed April 12, 2018.
Whitman, G.T., et al., “Orthostatic Hypotension,” Project Muse; https://muse.jhu.edu/chapter/1910027, last accessed April 12, 2018.
“What IS Orthostatic Hypotension?” WebMD; https://www.webmd.com/heart/what-is-orthostatic-hypotension-dizzy-standing#1, last accessed April 12, 2018.
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