When you are a kid, it’s so much fun to spin round and round until you collapse on the grass and watch the world spin around you. Why does spinning around in a circle make you so dizzy? Is your brain having a hard time keeping up with all that movement? Something like that…
Turns out, it’s your ears that begin the dizziness process and it ends with your brain. Your ears work with your brain to keep your balance in check. Inside your inner ear, there are tiny semicircular canals or fluid-filled tubes. The fluid is called endolymph. These little tubes are not only filled with endolymph, but they are lined with teeny hairs, too, which are in a gelatinous substance called cupula. When you move, so does the liquid, and it bends the hairs, sending the endolymph one way and the cupula the other. The hairs then send a signal to your brain that you are moving. If you spin, the fluid keeps moving for a little while, even after you stopped. But you brain hasn’t gotten the message yet. It’s saying, “Are we moving or not?” It’s so confused, and down you go!
The reason the fluid keeps moving is because of inertia. It’s the same thing that happens when you carry a glass of water across the room. When you stop, the water is still sloshing around inside the glass. It takes a minute for the water to gradually calm, just like your ear fluid.
Your inner ear is also the usual culprit for medical conditions like vertigo, where you get random periods of dizziness. Bacterial infections, a build-up of calcium or a build-up of fluid inside the inner ear can make you always feel off kilter. The vertigo itself isn’t harmful -- it’s the likelihood that you can fall from the dizzy feeling and injure yourself that way.
The good news is, when you get dizzy from spinning, stopping and spinning in the opposite direction can help you feel slightly less dizzy. This is because you are now moving the endolymph in the other direction, slowing the inertia of the fluid down as it changes course. Spin too long, though, and you’re back where you started.
If you can find a safe patch of grass, try this at home and then go the other way and see if it works. At the very least, enjoy the dizzy feeling as a harmless, all-natural buzzing in your brain.
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