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Alcohol and Health

Why You Get Vertigo After Drinking Alcohol

Published:
April 2, 2024
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16 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 2, 2024
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16 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 2, 2024
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16 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 2, 2024
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16 min read
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Reframe Content Team
April 2, 2024
·
16 min read

Settling the Spin: The Connection Between Alcohol and Vertigo 

  • It’s common to experience head spins and other unpleasant symptoms of vertigo after drinking alcohol. 

  • Staying hydrated and resting in supportive positions can relieve symptoms of hangover vertigo, but the best treatment is prevention.

  • Reframe can help you navigate and reduce the side effects of alcohol with its science-backed readings and mindful drinking strategies.

Head in a whirlwind after drinking alcohol? Turns out, it can be more than just the normal hangover spins. If you’ve ever had a little too much to drink then you’ll know that nausea, dizziness, and headaches can all be part of the painful aftermath. However, drinking can cause even more debilitating symptoms of vertigo for some. 

Vertigo can be an incredibly disorienting experience. Whether we have vertigo or would like to prevent the risk of experiencing any symptoms, learning more about how alcohol affects the body can shed some light on why alcohol and vertigo are commonly associated. Let’s take a closer look at the science behind the connection between vertigo and alcohol and provide some strategies to stay away from the spins.

What Is Vertigo?

A lady experiencing vertigo

Vertigo is a condition characterized by sensations of spinning or swaying. Despite the perception of movement, these sensations occur when we or our surroundings are completely still.

Imagine experiencing the whirling feeling of riding Disneyland’s infamous teacups while sitting quietly in a chair. 

To better understand the connection between alcohol and vertigo, let’s first look at how vertigo happens.

Symptoms of Vertigo

Vertigo can present with a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. Not everyone will experience all the symptoms, and the severity of the manifestations will vary. Common vertigo-related experiences include:

  • Dizziness. Vertigo causes intense sensations of dizziness when nothing is moving. Sufferers commonly report spinning or swaying sensations. 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting. Intense dizziness from vertigo can cause feelings of nausea and in some cases vomiting. 
  • Sweating. Excessive sweating can occur during or following an episode of vertigo.
  • Difficulty balancing. This uneasiness on our feet can range from a mild feeling of unsteadiness to stumbling or falling.
  • Headaches. Pounding headaches can come and go throughout an episode.
  • Nystagmus. During an episode of vertigo, some of us may have difficulties controlling our eye movement, a condition known as nystagmus. This can include involuntary jerking, blinking, or blurry vision.

These symptoms can occur as a result of two different types of vertigo — peripheral or central vertigo. Let’s examine in further detail what causes the different types of vertigo.

Causes of Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is caused by problems in the inner ear or the vestibulocochlear nerve that sends signals to the brain. Central vertigo is caused by impacts on the brainstem or cerebellum. Specific causes of vertigo include the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease. This chronic inner ear disorder causes feelings of fullness in the ear, ringing, and vertigo symptoms. Vertigo attacks can be triggered by sudden movements and bright or flashing lights.
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is a condition that results from dislodged calcium crystals in the inner ear. The crystals flow into the fluid canals that sense rotation, leading to feelings of dizziness and spinning.
  • Labyrinthitis. This inflammation of the inner ear is usually triggered by viral infection. Labyrinthitis affects the cochlear nerve and can cause imbalance, hearing loss, and vertigo symptoms.
  • Vestibular neuritis. Similar to labyrinthitis, this condition results from inflammation of the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. It causes dizziness and vertigo but does not impact hearing.
  • Migraines. Although headaches can be a symptom of vertigo, they can also be triggered by vestibular migraines — causing a debilitating cycle of pain. 
  • Alcohol. Drinking alcohol can cause symptoms of vertigo, especially in those of us who have a history of vestibular sensitivities and inner ear disorders.


Can Alcohol Cause Vertigo?

After exploring the different causes of vertigo, we see that alcohol and vertigo are positively correlated. Let’s take a closer look at how alcohol affects our brain and systems in our body to understand how alcohol and vertigo are connected. 

Alcohol is categorized as a central nervous system depressant. The central nervous system is in charge of sending and receiving messages between the brain and body. Alcohol slows down the sensory input we need to orient ourselves in space. An extra few milliseconds can make a huge difference when it comes to standing up straight.

Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates us by stimulating urine production. This can affect the fluid of the inner ear that allows us to control our balance. This combination of sensory inhibition and inner ear fluid disruption directly causes vertigo. 

So what does that mean for those of us who are prone to experiencing this disorienting dizziness?

Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Vertigo?

Ever have “just one more cheat day” that turns into a cheat week or month before starting a diet? Some of us may fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking, reasoning that since we already experience vertigo, having a drink or two won’t matter. However, drinking while already susceptible to vertigo will only make it worse and may lead to permanent damage. 

Let’s further examine the direct impacts that drinking alcohol has on vertigo. 

Impacts on Vertigo From Drinking Alcohol 

Now that we’ve acknowledged the direct correlation between alcohol and vertigo, let’s take a look at four ways that alcohol can impact vertigo.

  • Increased frequency of episodes. Alcohol has effects on our body even days after drinking. Excessive drinking causes severe impairments to the systems that break down and process alcohol, giving the toxins more opportunities to create disruptions. Alcohol can increase bouts of vertigo during drinking, throughout the hangover, and in instances when alcohol is not even present. 

  • Exacerbated symptoms. Alcohol can worsen existing vertigo symptoms by further disrupting the vestibular system and impacting areas of the brain that help us process information. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on our susceptibility, reaction to alcohol, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Severe vertigo symptoms may include extreme headaches, high temperatures, or the inability to walk or stand.

  • Lengthened recovery time. Alcohol not only exacerbates vertigo symptoms but can also increase the time it takes to recover from an episode. In the short term, alcohol can extend the length of vertigo attacks while focusing its resources on alcohol metabolism rather than recalibrating the vestibular system. In the long term, continued exposure to alcohol will impact normal cell and organ function, leading to longer recovery periods. It’s similar to how hangovers tend to worsen with age as our organs slowly become less efficient. Lengthened recovery times can be especially challenging for those of us who experience frequent episodes of vertigo. 

  • Vertigo and alcoholism. While we’ve touched on the short-term effects of alcohol on vertigo, excessive drinking can also cause long-term damages that should not be taken lightly. Chronic drinking can damage the auditory cortex and different parts of the brain. This can lead to hearing loss and chronic vertigo. 

Even small amounts of alcohol have the potential to elicit vertigo, especially for those of us who are more susceptible. Luckily, if you do experience vertigo after drinking alcohol, there are ways to help manage the unpleasant effects.

Managing Hangover Vertigo Symptoms

If you experience vertigo symptoms while drinking, it’s best to stop immediately. Focus on hydrating and resting while the body works to process and break down the alcohol. 

When vertigo symptoms appear during a hangover, it may exacerbate other hangover experiences. Some ways to help relieve vertigo symptoms include the following:

  • Modified positioning. Although you may want to lay down and sleep the symptoms away, body position can play a role in mitigating vertigo symptoms. Lay slightly propped up and avoid laying on the affected ear. There are also specific maneuvers and exercises (depending on the type of vertigo) that can help relieve symptoms.  
  • Proper hydration. Staying hydrated helps restore proper inner-ear fluid levels and reduce dizziness. It also helps reduce overall dehydration and lessen other hangover symptoms.
  • Stress management. Among its many other health effects, stress is shown to promote vestibular dysfunction. Try stress-relieving strategies such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help calm the nervous system. 
  • Medication. There are over-the-counter medications that target symptoms of vertigo, but it is important to note that it can lead to other side effects and other health impacts from prolonged drug use. Taking medication can relieve symptoms temporarily, but that’s a lot like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that requires stitches.
  • Changes to our environment. Vertigo impacts our overall balance and coordination, increasing our risk of falling. Making modifications such as maintaining appropriate lighting, getting rid of tripping hazards, and implementing stable supports in the home helps with creating a safe environment for risks associated with vertigo.
 Five Strategies for Managing Vertigo Symptoms

Strategies To Navigate Alcohol and Vertigo

While there are methods that can help relieve symptoms of vertigo, the solutions are only short term. Here are some things to try:

  • Cutting back on alcohol. Drinking less alcohol reduces the chances of provoking a vertigo episode. Drinking less reduces stress on our vestibular system, reducing instances and severity of vertigo. 
  • Quitting alcohol. Even minimal amounts of alcohol can trigger vertigo for anyone who is very sensitive. Quitting alcohol is the most effective strategy to prevent alcohol-induced vertigo.
  • Identifying triggers. Alcohol is a trigger for vertigo, but other factors can also provoke symptoms. Stress, lack of sleep, certain foods, or medication can all lead to an increased risk for vertigo. Identifying personal triggers helps us minimize the chance of eliciting vertigo symptoms. 
  • Prioritizing hydration. Drinking plenty of water helps combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Dehydration isn’t the only factor that causes vertigo, but maintaining more stable levels of inner ear fluid reduces dehydration-related balance issues and dizziness. 

Bringing It Back Around

Dizziness is often brushed off as a normal hangover symptom. But the link between vertigo and alcohol helps to explain why we may suffer from more than just the spins. Understanding how alcohol causes and worsens vertigo can motivate us to make more intentional decisions about drinking. There are plenty of ways to reduce alcohol-induced vertigo symptoms, but ultimately, decreasing alcohol intake will decrease the risk of vertigo. Settle the spins, and take back control of your relationship with alcohol!

Head in a whirlwind after drinking alcohol? Turns out, it can be more than just the normal hangover spins. If you’ve ever had a little too much to drink then you’ll know that nausea, dizziness, and headaches can all be part of the painful aftermath. However, drinking can cause even more debilitating symptoms of vertigo for some. 

Vertigo can be an incredibly disorienting experience. Whether we have vertigo or would like to prevent the risk of experiencing any symptoms, learning more about how alcohol affects the body can shed some light on why alcohol and vertigo are commonly associated. Let’s take a closer look at the science behind the connection between vertigo and alcohol and provide some strategies to stay away from the spins.

What Is Vertigo?

A lady experiencing vertigo

Vertigo is a condition characterized by sensations of spinning or swaying. Despite the perception of movement, these sensations occur when we or our surroundings are completely still.

Imagine experiencing the whirling feeling of riding Disneyland’s infamous teacups while sitting quietly in a chair. 

To better understand the connection between alcohol and vertigo, let’s first look at how vertigo happens.

Symptoms of Vertigo

Vertigo can present with a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. Not everyone will experience all the symptoms, and the severity of the manifestations will vary. Common vertigo-related experiences include:

  • Dizziness. Vertigo causes intense sensations of dizziness when nothing is moving. Sufferers commonly report spinning or swaying sensations. 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting. Intense dizziness from vertigo can cause feelings of nausea and in some cases vomiting. 
  • Sweating. Excessive sweating can occur during or following an episode of vertigo.
  • Difficulty balancing. This uneasiness on our feet can range from a mild feeling of unsteadiness to stumbling or falling.
  • Headaches. Pounding headaches can come and go throughout an episode.
  • Nystagmus. During an episode of vertigo, some of us may have difficulties controlling our eye movement, a condition known as nystagmus. This can include involuntary jerking, blinking, or blurry vision.

These symptoms can occur as a result of two different types of vertigo — peripheral or central vertigo. Let’s examine in further detail what causes the different types of vertigo.

Causes of Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is caused by problems in the inner ear or the vestibulocochlear nerve that sends signals to the brain. Central vertigo is caused by impacts on the brainstem or cerebellum. Specific causes of vertigo include the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease. This chronic inner ear disorder causes feelings of fullness in the ear, ringing, and vertigo symptoms. Vertigo attacks can be triggered by sudden movements and bright or flashing lights.
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is a condition that results from dislodged calcium crystals in the inner ear. The crystals flow into the fluid canals that sense rotation, leading to feelings of dizziness and spinning.
  • Labyrinthitis. This inflammation of the inner ear is usually triggered by viral infection. Labyrinthitis affects the cochlear nerve and can cause imbalance, hearing loss, and vertigo symptoms.
  • Vestibular neuritis. Similar to labyrinthitis, this condition results from inflammation of the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. It causes dizziness and vertigo but does not impact hearing.
  • Migraines. Although headaches can be a symptom of vertigo, they can also be triggered by vestibular migraines — causing a debilitating cycle of pain. 
  • Alcohol. Drinking alcohol can cause symptoms of vertigo, especially in those of us who have a history of vestibular sensitivities and inner ear disorders.


Can Alcohol Cause Vertigo?

After exploring the different causes of vertigo, we see that alcohol and vertigo are positively correlated. Let’s take a closer look at how alcohol affects our brain and systems in our body to understand how alcohol and vertigo are connected. 

Alcohol is categorized as a central nervous system depressant. The central nervous system is in charge of sending and receiving messages between the brain and body. Alcohol slows down the sensory input we need to orient ourselves in space. An extra few milliseconds can make a huge difference when it comes to standing up straight.

Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates us by stimulating urine production. This can affect the fluid of the inner ear that allows us to control our balance. This combination of sensory inhibition and inner ear fluid disruption directly causes vertigo. 

So what does that mean for those of us who are prone to experiencing this disorienting dizziness?

Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Vertigo?

Ever have “just one more cheat day” that turns into a cheat week or month before starting a diet? Some of us may fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking, reasoning that since we already experience vertigo, having a drink or two won’t matter. However, drinking while already susceptible to vertigo will only make it worse and may lead to permanent damage. 

Let’s further examine the direct impacts that drinking alcohol has on vertigo. 

Impacts on Vertigo From Drinking Alcohol 

Now that we’ve acknowledged the direct correlation between alcohol and vertigo, let’s take a look at four ways that alcohol can impact vertigo.

  • Increased frequency of episodes. Alcohol has effects on our body even days after drinking. Excessive drinking causes severe impairments to the systems that break down and process alcohol, giving the toxins more opportunities to create disruptions. Alcohol can increase bouts of vertigo during drinking, throughout the hangover, and in instances when alcohol is not even present. 

  • Exacerbated symptoms. Alcohol can worsen existing vertigo symptoms by further disrupting the vestibular system and impacting areas of the brain that help us process information. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on our susceptibility, reaction to alcohol, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Severe vertigo symptoms may include extreme headaches, high temperatures, or the inability to walk or stand.

  • Lengthened recovery time. Alcohol not only exacerbates vertigo symptoms but can also increase the time it takes to recover from an episode. In the short term, alcohol can extend the length of vertigo attacks while focusing its resources on alcohol metabolism rather than recalibrating the vestibular system. In the long term, continued exposure to alcohol will impact normal cell and organ function, leading to longer recovery periods. It’s similar to how hangovers tend to worsen with age as our organs slowly become less efficient. Lengthened recovery times can be especially challenging for those of us who experience frequent episodes of vertigo. 

  • Vertigo and alcoholism. While we’ve touched on the short-term effects of alcohol on vertigo, excessive drinking can also cause long-term damages that should not be taken lightly. Chronic drinking can damage the auditory cortex and different parts of the brain. This can lead to hearing loss and chronic vertigo. 

Even small amounts of alcohol have the potential to elicit vertigo, especially for those of us who are more susceptible. Luckily, if you do experience vertigo after drinking alcohol, there are ways to help manage the unpleasant effects.

Managing Hangover Vertigo Symptoms

If you experience vertigo symptoms while drinking, it’s best to stop immediately. Focus on hydrating and resting while the body works to process and break down the alcohol. 

When vertigo symptoms appear during a hangover, it may exacerbate other hangover experiences. Some ways to help relieve vertigo symptoms include the following:

  • Modified positioning. Although you may want to lay down and sleep the symptoms away, body position can play a role in mitigating vertigo symptoms. Lay slightly propped up and avoid laying on the affected ear. There are also specific maneuvers and exercises (depending on the type of vertigo) that can help relieve symptoms.  
  • Proper hydration. Staying hydrated helps restore proper inner-ear fluid levels and reduce dizziness. It also helps reduce overall dehydration and lessen other hangover symptoms.
  • Stress management. Among its many other health effects, stress is shown to promote vestibular dysfunction. Try stress-relieving strategies such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help calm the nervous system. 
  • Medication. There are over-the-counter medications that target symptoms of vertigo, but it is important to note that it can lead to other side effects and other health impacts from prolonged drug use. Taking medication can relieve symptoms temporarily, but that’s a lot like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that requires stitches.
  • Changes to our environment. Vertigo impacts our overall balance and coordination, increasing our risk of falling. Making modifications such as maintaining appropriate lighting, getting rid of tripping hazards, and implementing stable supports in the home helps with creating a safe environment for risks associated with vertigo.
 Five Strategies for Managing Vertigo Symptoms

Strategies To Navigate Alcohol and Vertigo

While there are methods that can help relieve symptoms of vertigo, the solutions are only short term. Here are some things to try:

  • Cutting back on alcohol. Drinking less alcohol reduces the chances of provoking a vertigo episode. Drinking less reduces stress on our vestibular system, reducing instances and severity of vertigo. 
  • Quitting alcohol. Even minimal amounts of alcohol can trigger vertigo for anyone who is very sensitive. Quitting alcohol is the most effective strategy to prevent alcohol-induced vertigo.
  • Identifying triggers. Alcohol is a trigger for vertigo, but other factors can also provoke symptoms. Stress, lack of sleep, certain foods, or medication can all lead to an increased risk for vertigo. Identifying personal triggers helps us minimize the chance of eliciting vertigo symptoms. 
  • Prioritizing hydration. Drinking plenty of water helps combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Dehydration isn’t the only factor that causes vertigo, but maintaining more stable levels of inner ear fluid reduces dehydration-related balance issues and dizziness. 

Bringing It Back Around

Dizziness is often brushed off as a normal hangover symptom. But the link between vertigo and alcohol helps to explain why we may suffer from more than just the spins. Understanding how alcohol causes and worsens vertigo can motivate us to make more intentional decisions about drinking. There are plenty of ways to reduce alcohol-induced vertigo symptoms, but ultimately, decreasing alcohol intake will decrease the risk of vertigo. Settle the spins, and take back control of your relationship with alcohol!

Summary FAQs

1. Can I drink alcohol with vertigo?

Since alcohol negatively impacts the occurrence and severity of vertigo symptoms, it’s probably best to avoid alcohol if you are prone to experiencing vertigo.

2. Tips for how to stop the spins when drunk?

Drinking water, eating a proper meal, holding onto something stable, and taking deep breaths can all help reduce the spinning sensation that alcohol can cause.

3. Does vertigo get worse after drinking alcohol?

Yes, alcohol can cause short-term increases in the severity of vertigo symptoms. Chronic alcohol misuse increases the risk of developing chronic vertigo.

4. How can I reduce hangover vertigo symptoms? 

Certain body positions, proper hydration, and medication are some ways to help relieve vertigo symptoms.

5. How to prevent vertigo from drinking?

The most effective method to prevent vertigo when drinking is to practice moderation or choose low- or no-alcohol options.

Get Back on Your Feet With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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