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How to sleep with vertigo

How To Sleep With Vertigo

If you’re struggling to figure out how to sleep with vertigo, you’re not alone. At the best of times, getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging. Read on to find out how to position yourself and which pillow to use, when sleeping with vertigo.

One of the biggest challenges keeping many of us awake at night, is an inability to find a comfortable position. We struggle to feel relaxed and supported.

For people who suffer from vertigo, this challenge can be even more significant. They’re constantly experiencing a sense of motion, even when lying completely still. 

Learning how to sleep with vertigo means discovering how you can position your head and body. A position capable of minimizing the symptoms of your condition.

It can sometimes involve extra measures too, like practicing sleep hygiene, and performing specific physical therapy activities. 

Here’s what you need to know about sleeping with vertigo. 

Sleeping with vertigo: What causes vertigo?

Many people don’t fully understand vertigo as a condition. They assume it’s primarily an issue during the waking hours of the day, when you’re walking around, and you experience a sudden dizzy spell. However, vertigo can influence all aspects of your life. 

Vertigo sufferers often experience symptoms like severe tilting, swaying, and spinning sensations which make it impossible to maintain balance. Common side effects range from nausea and vomiting, which can disrupt your sleep pattern, to tinnitus, headaches, and sweating. 

Commonly, vertigo is caused by a disorder in the vestibular system, including various areas of the brain responsible for balance, and the inner-ear system. The most common causes of vertigo include:

In benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, small calcium crystals break loss from the inner ear, disturbing natural fluid movement and sending confusing signals to the brain. This can often worsen at night, when you move your head during sleep.

Meniere’s disease
Identified as the abnormal build-up of fluid within the inner ear, Meniere’s disease causes a range of symptoms, including severe vertigo attacks, hearing loss, and tinnitus. All of these make it difficult to rest. 

Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis
Viral infections can sometimes inflame the nerves in the inner ear, causing a disruption in the communication of sensory information from the ear to the brain. This leads to vertigo, balance problems, and vision or hearing changes. 

Thanks to various complex symptoms, vertigo makes getting a good night’s sleep extremely difficult. A change in head position can be all it takes to trigger your symptoms. 

Woman With Vertigo

Does vertigo get worse at night?

The biggest issue most people have with vertigo, is getting a good night’s rest. This is because when you go to bed at night, you’re changing the position of your head. Laying back on a pillow can cause the fluid in your inner ear to change its motion, which sends unusual signals to the brain. 

Throughout the night, as you move to try and find the best position, the disturbance can get a lot worse. You may find you just feel dizzier and more nauseous as the night goes on. 

In cases of BPPV, changes in head position frequently cause vertigo attacks. For those suffering from Meniere’s disease, laying back can allow more fluid and pressure to build in the ear. 

Sleep deprivation and the discomfort caused by vertigo can also worsen your mood and ability to focus. This further magnifies your symptoms.

Because vertigo can have such a significant impact on sleep, experts often recommend taking several steps before bed to improve your chances of a good rest, such as:

Reducing stress before bed
Stress and anxiety can make symptoms of vertigo feel a lot worse. They can increase your emotional distress, cause your heart to pump more rapidly, and create a consistent sense of dizziness. Finding ways to relax before bed with meditation and breathing exercises can be a great way to improve sleep. 

Avoid distractions
Distractions at bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep, particularly if you’re already suffering from vertigo. Staying away from bright screens, loud noises, and even caffeine, which could keep you awake for longer, is usually a good idea. 

Find the right position slowly
Rather than just throwing yourself into bed and tossing and turning until you find the right position, carefully move yourself into the most comfortable spot. Try to avoid moving your head too rapidly while you settle into your cushions.

What’s the best sleeping position for vertigo?

While medications and therapies do exist for vertigo, many people find some of the best results come from simply changing their sleeping position. 

Lying on one side in your bed can sometimes make your vertigo worse, by allowing more pressure to build up in one side of the head. Additionally, lying too straight on your back also allows for more pressure and liquid to pool around your inner ear. 

Some people find it’s much easier to fall asleep naturally on a recliner. This way, you can balance your head by lying on your back, and gradually push yourself backwards until you’re almost in a prone position, while keeping your head elevated. 

Perhaps most importantly, it’s crucial to get your head positioning right when sleeping with vertigo. If you don’t know how to sleep with vertigo, your doctor will usually recommend using higher pillows or wedge pillows to keep your head and neck elevated. 

Pillows for vertigo

The reason your pillow choice is so crucial, is a considerable portion of vertigo cases result from the tiny crystals in your inner ear moving around. This issue is exacerbated when you’re in a fully horizontal position. 

It might be worth experimenting with the following pillows for vertigo:

A foam wedge pillow
foam wedge pillow is excellent for keeping your head and neck elevated at just the right level to avoid a build-up of any fluid around your inner ear system. Foam pillows are often fantastic at giving extra support too. 

Memory foam wedges
You can also try a slightly lower wedge pillow which you can combine with your standard pillow to access a higher level of comfort. This ensures you get the support of memory foam, with the coziness of your standard pillow. 

Heartburn pillows
Pillows designed for people who suffer from acid reflux and heartburn are often excellent for people who also experience vertigo. They help to elevate your body and keep your head positioned for a good night’s sleep. 

Quick tips on how to sleep with vertigo

Outside of changing your sleeping position and selecting the right pillow, the best thing you can usually do when wondering how to sleep with vertigo, is speak to your doctor. A medical professional will be able to give you direct advice about how to address your sleep problems. 

Sometimes, you might be advised to take part in some physical therapy maneuvers. These are exercises you can complete with the help of a professional or physical therapist. For instance, the Epley maneuver involves having a doctor tilt your head towards the affected ear and slightly backwards. The motion can trigger an attack initially but may reduce your attacks later. You can also try and do the Epley maneuver yourself.

Some doctors also recommend the Semont maneuver, which can also trigger vertigo, but also reposition crystals and fluids in the inner ear to relieve vertigo symptoms in the long-term. Some other strategies you can use to tackle vertigo when sleeping include:

Changing your diet
Your diet can have a huge impact on your body and various medical conditions. Certain foods can increase inflammation, which worsen the experience of vertigo for sufferers, and make dizziness more profound. Switching to more anti-inflammatory foods like avocado, leafy greens, and bananas can be an excellent way to minimize symptoms.

Reducing alcohol
Staying away from alcohol and caffeine is usually a good idea if you’re trying to encourage a better night’s sleep. However, minimizing your alcohol intake can be particularly important if you have vertigo, as it can often make the experience of dizziness a lot worse. It’s best to cut down where you can to help control your symptoms. 

Create the right sleeping environment
When you’re feeling nauseous and dizzy, the wrong sleeping environment can make it much harder to get a good night’s rest. You might find it’s easier to sleep soundly if you keep your bedroom cool and comfortable. Eliminate any outside noise or lighting which might make it harder to drift off too. 

Try head movements
Using certain repositioning movements like “canalith” movements can assist in reducing your risk of vertigo symptoms. This involves simply moving your head from one side to another to help reposition any crystals in your inner ears before you go to sleep. However, it’s best to get guidance from a professional for this.

Consider medications
There are medications and supplements which can sometimes help with the symptoms of vertigo, like nausea and dizziness. Speaking to your doctor will help you to track down the best solutions for your specific case. 

Managing sleep with vertigo

Learning how to sleep with vertigo is often a complex process, much like learning to sleep with any chronic condition. Some people may find they need to undergo various forms of therapy, or even surgery to help them manage their condition. Others can simply adjust their sleeping position and find their symptoms become a lot easier to manage. 

The most important thing to remember is you need a good night’s sleep to perform at your best. If you’re struggling to sleep with vertigo, it’s important to speak to a medical professional to find a solution for your issue. Sleep deprivation will make the matter worse. 

Siestio. Sleep Matters.

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Medical disclaimer
You must not rely on the information provided on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other healthcare professionals. For more information read our full disclaimer here.

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