Home » Reading in Cars: Why You Can’t Touch that Book

Are you the person in the car who can sit for hours, reading your book? Or are you the other one….the person who, after five minutes, throws down their book, green in the face, and tries to prevent themselves from vomiting? If you’re this second person, you know well the misery which is carsickness. But why does reading bring this on? And why only in some?

Carsickness—a form of motion sickness—occurs when your body has conflicting information between what it sees, and what it feels. When you’re reading a book in the car, your body “sees” that you’re sitting still, because your eyes are fixed on a single point. But your body feels that you are moving, because of the information on balance it’s receiving from your inner ear. This discrepancy between what your body sees and feels is what puts it into alarm mode, causing that all-too-familiar feeling of nausea.

But why can some people read in cars anyway? Although the reason is not entirely clear as to why some people are more sensitive than others, what’s known is that these car-readers are not receiving the same level of unbalance from their middle ear. The discrepancy between what their body feels and what it sees is not sensed by the body as extreme as it is by those who begin to feel almost instantaneous nausea.

So what can you do if you suffer from carsickness? The answer lies in helping your body get rid of this discrepancy; either by matching the stillness of your eyes to the stillness of your body (reading only when the car isn’t moving), or matching the movement of your body with the movement of your eyes (looking out the window while the car’s in motion.)

Although tips exist to help lessen carsickness, you may always be one of those who needs to look forward to reading their book…after the trip is over.

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