Why does the room spin if you lie down af­ter too much al­co­hol?

Guru Magazine - - ASK A GURU -

Asked by Nicky Sewell via Face­book Hav­ing been a stu­dent for three years, and with an­other three years of stu­dent life ahead, I feel par­tic­u­larly well placed to an­swer any ‘Ask a Guru’ ques­tion on al­co­hol. Dizzi­ness, in gen­eral, is a re­sult of con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion about the lo­ca­tion of the head. This in­for­ma­tion comes mainly from three places: the eyes, the touch re­cep­tors (mainly in the feet) and the vestibu­lar sys­tem (the ‘bal­ance or­gans’ in the in­ner ear). Ly­ing down af­ter drink­ing ex­ces­sively af­fects all three of th­ese bal­ance sys­tems, lead­ing to the sen­sa­tion of dizzi­ness and the room spin­ning around. Firstly, ly­ing down means that the back of your body is in con­tact with the ground, in­stead of the soles of your feet. Your feet have a much higher con­cen­tra­tion of touch re­cep­tors and so, by not us­ing them, you are lim­it­ing the in­for­ma­tion avail­able from touch. This is one rea­son why drunk peo­ple of­ten try to steady them­selves with both feet firmly planted on the floor and one or both hands on other sur­faces (such as the kebab shop counter), thus max­imis­ing touch in­for­ma­tion about the body’s po­si­tion in re­la­tion to its sur­round­ings. Al­co­hol also af­fects the other two sources of bal­ance in­for­ma­tion. While most of us know only too well about the blur­ring ef­fect that al­co­hol has on vi­sion, its main ef­fect is on the vestibu­lar sys­tem…. The re­sult of aco­hol in­take is that the vestibu­lar sys­tem be­comes overly sen­si­tive, lead­ing to move­ment signals be­ing sent to the brain even when the head is still. Hence the room feels as if it is spin­ning in re­la­tion to the head… Read the full an­swer on­line (Guru does not en­cour­age ir­re­spon­si­ble or ex­ces­sive drink­ing. Please be drinkaware and make in­formed de­ci­sions when it comes to drink­ing al­co­hol – Ed)

An­swer by James Crewd­son

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