Why does the bus make me sick at night?
October 2, 2007 11:21 PM   Subscribe

Why is my motion sickness remarkably stronger at night and what can I do to curb it?

I've been plagued by moderate to severe motion sickness since I was a baby. Over the years, I've come up with a few solutions to keep from hurling in transit, namely always looking forward through the windshield when riding in cars, and focusing on pressure points in my wrist while experiencing airplane turbulence.

Recently, my schedule has a dictated nighttime travel on Chicago CTA busses. I'm totally fine on my ride to work/school in the morning, to the point that I can even read or do crossword puzzles, but even a 10 minute stint after dark leaves me wanting to jump off before my stop to avoid embarrassment. It's not the fault of a specifically jerky driver- I've been keeping my eye out and have noticed there's a number of different people manning the ship.

I've tried the usual, but looking out the front of the bus is often difficult. I'm not even sure if this would help anyway, as it seems that I can become queasy with my eyes closed. And I don't WANT to have my eyes closed. I don't fancy myself a paranoid individual, but the prospect of not being able to see on the nighttime Kimball bus kind of creeps me out.

Why is it so bad for me after dark, and what can I do about it?
posted by macrowave to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Have you tried ginger?
posted by amyms at 11:44 PM on October 2, 2007

Ginger has never really worked for me. I find this question a bit strange because I get severe car sickness (but not any other kind of motion sickness) yet I almost never get it at night. I know mine is caused by my tendency to look out the windows at the passing scenery without realizing it, and at night (at least where I live) there isn't much to see at night, so my focus doesn't have to adjust as much.

However, if you live in Chicago, you can probably see a lot more of the scenery in the evenings due to the lights of the city. Really, the only thing that makes me feel better is closing my eyes, and laying down if I can.

I also find that certain cars have a shape such that the windows are slightly curved and distorted (like sports cars with really rounded bodies) and that distortion amplifies my nausea. In these cases, a pair of dark sun glasses help, but again you have to make sure the lenses don't cause distortion. Would you feel like a dorkus wearing sunglasses at night?
posted by Brittanie at 11:53 PM on October 2, 2007

I wouldn't really feel like a dorkus, but I wear regular glasses and don't own contacts. I guess I could give them a whirl though- people might find me mysterious and cunning (or they might think I'm a dorkus, which I surely am).
posted by macrowave at 12:02 AM on October 3, 2007

I bet it has something to do with the fact that during the day you can see the horizon and during the night you cannot.

Just conjecture though, no evidence.
posted by lockle at 12:06 AM on October 3, 2007

Are you sure that it really has to do with the dark, and not with being weary/spent after being up 16 hours (which happens to also coincide with travel and darkness)? Do you get motion sick if you wake up early, before sunrise? Do you get motion sick after a long, exhausting day, but before sunset?

This is going to sound weird, but I do math problems when I'm motion sick (also when I'm insomniac). Not large multiplications or anything, I just think about the properties of numbers (such as 9, which is a weird one). I think this works for me because it's so painfully boring and requires a huge amount of concentration of a different kind.* I get into a "zone" of sorts. Not saying that's going to work for you, but try different types of solutions, and not always externally focused ones.

Google "panic attack" and try the calming solutions suggested in the links you find. Nausea is a common symptom of panic attacks and the remedies for both are much the same (deep breathing, focusing on words, etc.).

Good luck. Being nauseous sucks.

*I've used this technique so much now that I'm conditioned to get calm and drowsy within a minute or two of concentrating on how numbers work.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:21 AM on October 3, 2007

No idea why it's happening in the darkness, but have you tried Seabands? I am one of those people who can't be in a car for more than 15 minutes without reeling with nausea and I've been using acupressure bracelets for years. Hugely helpful.
posted by meerkatty at 12:26 AM on October 3, 2007

namely always looking forward through the windshield when riding

I presume you can see less broadly or less far at night, right? Less perspective = less grounded = more nauseated.
posted by scarabic at 12:40 AM on October 3, 2007

Have you tried either sitting up as far up front as possible, or even standing up front? After a long day you might not want that, but the long day is probably contributing.

When you stand up, you move more in relation to the world, which I think helps calm the motion-sick feeling of "I'm not moving but I am". Looking out the front (as opposed to closing your eyes) gives you some sort of warning of what's going to happen next, so your body is more ready for stops and turns and such. And the back of a bus tends to move more than the front, as far as I've been able to tell.
posted by that girl at 5:21 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe the bus sways a lot more at night because it's emptier?
posted by MsMolly at 5:39 AM on October 3, 2007

Maybe it's just because you can't see the movement as well as in the daytime? I can't read in the car or anything, I have to look at the movement of the road and land or I get sick.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:18 AM on October 3, 2007

I can't answer why nighttime riding gets you worse than daytime, but I can strongly, strongly second meerkatty's recommendation of seabands. They're a miracle for motion sickness. Buy a pair and put them on as soon as you get on the bus, or even a few minutes before, and it should help prevent the nausea from hitting you so hard - or at all. Good luck!
posted by ahimsa at 9:00 AM on October 3, 2007

If none of the non-medicinal solutions work, I highly recommend Scopace. It's a pill version of the scopolomine sea sickness patch, but it's a much lower dose and only lasts for 8 hours. I have severe seasickness, but with Scopace I feel no nausea at all (even in high seas), and have no side effects. It's prescription only, though, and most pharmacies don't carry it. I order mine from drugstore.com.
posted by ilyanassa at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

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