Dizziness When Lying Down: Should You Be Worried?

    Updated 24 August 2021 |
    Published 29 July 2020
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
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    If you’re experiencing dizziness when lying down, you may be wondering if it’s unusual and why it’s occurring. Continue reading our complete guide to find out why people experience dizziness while lying down and if dizziness is a cause for concern.

    Is it normal to feel dizzy when lying down?

    It isn’t considered normal to feel dizzy when lying down. The most common reason for experiencing this feeling is vertigo. 

    Vertigo is the feeling that everything around you is spinning, to the point that it affects your balance. It’s more intense than simply feeling dizzy. A vertigo incident can last from seconds to many hours. If you have a severe case of vertigo, it can last several days, weeks, or months.

    Common causes of dizziness when lying down

    If you’re wondering why you get dizzy when you lay down, vertigo is most likely to blame. Inner ear problems affect balance and are the most typical cause of vertigo. Common inner ear problems that can cause vertigo are:

    • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), in which certain head movements cause vertigo
    • Meniere’s disease, a rare inner ear condition that can involve loss of hearing or ringing in the ear 
    • Labyrinthitis, which is an inner ear infection brought on by a flu virus or cold
    • Vestibular neuronitis, which is the inflammation of the vestibular nerve

    Other possible causes of vertigo include migraines and some types of medicines. Make sure to read the label or leaflet insert that comes with any of your prescriptions to see if vertigo is a possible side effect. 

    There are some cases of vertigo where the cause is unknown.

    What is BPPV?

    Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is one of the most common causes of vertigo. BPPV usually causes brief instances of mild to severe dizziness. BPPV is most commonly caused when you change the position of your head. 

    Causes of BPPV

    Many people experience BPPV without a clear cause. This is called idiopathic BPPV. 

    A head injury can also cause BPPV. 

    Some less typical reasons for BPPV include:

    • Disorders that damage the inner ear
    • Damage from ear surgery
    • Damage from prolonged positioning on the back (such as lying down in a dentist’s chair)
    • Migraines 

    There’s a small organ in your ear called the vestibular labyrinth. This organ includes three loop-shaped structures called the semicircular canals. The semicircular canals contain fluid and hair-like sensors that monitor the rotation of your head.

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    Other structures in the ear, known as the otolith organs, monitor the movements of your head and its position in relation to gravity. The otolith organs contain crystals that make you sensitive to gravity. 

    If these crystals become dislodged, they can go into the semicircular canals. This is especially likely to occur when you’re lying down. Dislodged crystals make the semicircular canals extra-sensitive to head position changes that they would normally not react to. This combination of factors can make you feel dizzy.

    Risk factors of BPPV

    BPPV is more common in people who are 50 and older; however, it can happen to people of any age. Additionally, women report higher rates of BPPV than men. A head injury or disorder to the balance organs of the ear increases your risk of developing BPPV.

    Treatment for BPPV

    BPPV can go away within a couple of weeks or months. However, to relieve the symptoms of BPPV sooner, a medical professional can offer a few treatments.

    Canalith repositioning procedure

    A health care provider or physical therapist can treat BPPV with a set of movements known as the canalith repositioning procedure.

    This procedure is made up of several straightforward and slow maneuvers for positioning the head. The goal of this practice is to move the particles from your fluid-filled semicircular canals into a tiny bag-like open area known as the vestibule. The vestibule houses one of the otolith organs in your ear. The particles don’t cause problems and are more easily resorbed when they’re in the otolith organs.  

    Your health care provider will perform the canalith repositioning procedure in their office. Each position is held for 30 seconds after any abnormal symptoms or eye movements stop. Most people see improvement after one or two treatments. Your health care provider can also show you how to do the canalith repositioning movements on your own.

    Surgical alternatives

    In rare instances, when the canalith repositioning procedure doesn’t improve symptoms, your health care provider may suggest surgery. A surgical procedure known as a canal plugging surgery uses a bone plug to block the section of your inner ear that’s causing the dizziness. This plug stops the semicircular canal in the ear from responding to particle movements or head movements. The estimated success rate for this surgery is about 90 percent.

    Lifestyle remedies

    Some people with BPPV try lifestyle remedies to treat the condition and its symptoms. If you’re experiencing BPPV, here are some things you can try:

    • Sit down immediately after feeling dizzy.
    • Walk with a cane for stability and to reduce the risk of falling.
    • Be aware of possibly losing your balance (which can lead to falls and serious injuries).
    • Use proper lighting when getting up at night.
    • Work closely with a health care provider to manage your symptoms.

    Unfortunately, BPPV can return even after successful therapy. While there’s no cure, BPPV can be managed with home treatments and physical therapy. 

    When to see a health care provider

    If you’re experiencing BPPV symptoms, see your health care provider. They may recommend that you see a neurologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

    Wrapping up

    If you’re asking yourself why you feel dizzy when you lay down, you could have vertigo or BPPV. A constant feeling of dizziness when lying down can be frustrating and affect your quality of life. Feelings of dizziness can range from being a harmless side effect to a more serious condition. It’s always best to consult with your health care provider to make sure you don’t have any health conditions that need to be addressed.

    History of updates

    Current version (24 August 2021)

    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant

    Published (29 July 2020)

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