Why does alcohol give me the spins?

We all know drinking alcohol affects the brain, starting with feeling tipsy.  If you’ve ever had a lot to drink in one sitting (remember that 21st birthday party?) you might have noticed another effect.  Drinking too much too fast can cause vertigo that becomes intense when you lie down.  This effect, called the spins, spinners, or bed spins, is caused by a direct effect of alcohol on your inner ear. It’s a mechanical form of vertigo.

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Questions from our readers

After I treat my BPPV with maneuvers, I still feel “woozy” for days/weeks afterward.  No acute vertigo, but light-headedness, and a general “brain fog” malaise which typically greets me each morning but resolves later in the day.  For weeks or months, until I feel really good then “bam”, another BBPV episode that restarts the process.

Is this at all typical?  Drives me nuts!!

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Aging and multisensory imbalance

In order to sense motion and have normal balance, your body uses three overlapping systems, called the balance triad.  The inner ears are critical to sensing motion;  the eyes and depth perception help locate you in space, and your body, arms and legs feel the floor and your surroundings to help orient you.  If any one of these three systems is impaired, you will start to feel off balance.  If two out of three of these systems don’t work properly, your risk of falling will greatly increase, and if all three are impaired, you might not be able to walk at all.  Multisensory imbalance occurs when two or three of these systems are not functioning fully.  As we age we are likely to accumulate small problems in each of these areas, and that eventually results in poor balance.  Most older people accordingly suffer from some degree of multisensory imbalance.   

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