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What are the Most Common Causes of Dizziness When Lying Down?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common causes of dizziness when lying down are benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, ear infection, and some forms of poisoning. These conditions are generally temporary and often subside without any treatment. Other illnesses, such as nausea or food poisoning, can occasionally cause dizziness that may persist although the patient is lying down.

Dizziness is a sensation that often causes nausea, a “swimmy headed” feeling, or a feeling of the room spinning. It is one of the most common medical complaints because so many factors can cause a dizzy feeling. Most of the time, lying down or sitting with the head between the knees helps to alleviate the symptoms associated with dizziness, but occasionally it may persist despite changes in position.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can cause dizziness when lying down, and it is a condition that occurs most often in the elderly. It is not known exactly what causes it, but it is likely due to debris inside the ear that accumulates over time. This condition generally subsides on its own and does not last longer than a few months. Patients may receive medication to help alleviate symptoms in the meantime.

Ear infections may cause dizziness in much the same way as paroxysmal positional vertigo. When the inner ear is thrown off balance by buildup, infection, or other materials, the body’s equilibrium can be affected and dizziness and nausea may occur. Most infections clear up on their own, but bacterial infections may require antibiotics.

Sometimes, conditions like food poisoning or stomach viruses can cause dizziness when lying down. Although lying in bed generally causes dizziness to subside, very severe illness may cause it to persist. The treatment will depend on the condition. Dizziness that is long lasting or very severe should be investigated further by a medical professional. If poisoning is suspected, a poison control center or emergency services should be contacted immediately.

Dizziness that is accompanied by severe nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, or other symptoms may be the sign of a serious medical condition. A medical professional should be notified if dizziness is sudden and doesn’t subside within several hours. Those who are severely dizzy should not drive and should be taken to the health care provider by a friend or ambulance if necessary.

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Discussion Comments

By indigomoth — On Dec 20, 2012

To be honest, I think the most common cause of dizziness while lying down is alcohol. That's the only time I've experienced it, anyway.

It happens if I've had a couple too many and I usually only notice it when I'm trying to sleep. It feels like the room is spinning. But the only cure is to either ignore it and go to sleep, or to wait until the alcohol passes through your system (or to not drink that much in the first place, I suppose!).

By umbra21 — On Dec 20, 2012

@Iluviaporos - It's possible that there's nothing really wrong, or that it's a genetic condition that can't really be treated. There's a condition like that which runs through my family and means that we easily get car sick and often get vertigo. I don't have it, thank goodness, but my mother can't even go on roller coasters without getting ill and when she's got a headache she often has dizziness when she's lying down.

My uncle told me the worst was when he tried going sky diving. It hadn't occurred to him that it would upset his condition but it really did and he had severe vertigo the whole way down. He said it was a struggle to keep from vomiting (which would have been dangerous and embarrassing considering he was doing a tandem sky dive).

So, even if you get a diagnosis, make sure you know exactly what you can and cannot do, particularly if you like doing extreme sports.

By lluviaporos — On Dec 19, 2012

@anon262923 - If you're feeling dizzy with no other symptoms it might be an inner ear problem, but there's no way that someone can diagnose you correctly over the internet, particularly with such little information.

If you don't have any other symptoms, you should go to an audiologist so they can investigate your ears and see what the problem is. Even if it is something serious, like cancer, an audiologist will be able to advise you when you need to go to the doctor. My sister is an audiologist and she says the worst thing is when people don't deal with a problem right away, because it will only get worse and more expensive to treat.

By anon262923 — On Apr 22, 2012

Why do I feel so dizzy every day? Since February, until now, I've felt dizzy. I'm so worried. Please help me and give me some advice.

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