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Seasickness Explained: What Triggers Gut-Retching Seasickness At Sea?

See-LEVEL has conducted grueling research on vessel heave, yielding tears, vomit, and fascinating data! Fo all in the name of science!

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What causes seasickness while at sea?

Simply put, your brain calculates its balance and position using three main inputs; eyes, ears, and muscles: 


  1. Feedback from muscles helps the nervous system stabilize your position.

  2. The Eyes use anchor points and distance to aid balance and help the brain understand the environment.

  3. Fluid in the ears helps your brain make sense of your orientation. The fluid interacts with fine hairs, providing feedback to the brain and allowing you to remain balanced.

All three inputs need to harmonize with what they are reporting. If one is incorrect, the person will lose balance and feel nauseous. This is called Motion Sickness and Seasickness. 


Why do I get seasick and not others? 

Don't worry. You're not alone. For reasons not fully understood, 25% of the population seems prone to seasickness, followed by 60% in severe conditions.


Why Do We Get Nauseous When Suffering from Seasickness?

This is a question that science is still yet to answer. However, there are two promising theories as to why sensory mismatch causes us to feel sick. 

Nausea Is A Million-Year-Old Safety Response Developed In Our Cave Man Days

Animals in the wild eat meat far more prone to contamination than the carefully prepared supermarket products we have today. Our ancestors didn’t have the luxury and knowledge of food hygiene of the present day. Feeling ill and nauseous is the body's signal that you've eaten something contaminated and dangerous. 

When we get nauseous, the body is shocked, triggering routine procedures of stomach aches, sweating, and retching before vomiting. Our bodies have learned to eject food as a safety precaution to remove contaminated food from the body.

Yachts and cars did not exist when our bodies adopted this safety process. Our automatic response to vomit from sensory conflict is the body's dinosaur response, so it thinks it's helping you!


Psychological Horror: The Toxic Relationship Between Fear And Nausea 

It's all in your head! You've probably asked the driver to stop the car if you've felt motion sickness before vomiting for relief. 

However, you can't just ask the captain of a vessel to pull over in the nearest lay-by and reacquaint yourself with your morning breakfast. At sea, you're at the full mercy of the vessel and weather, and the lack of control only worsens the seasickness symptoms. Fear and anxiety add a whole layer of horror to the experience.

With nowhere to run and hide, you have no option but to wallow in your seasickness and embarrassment as you contemplate the inevitable. This psychological behavior only increases the sense of despair and nausea. The experience only makes you wish to return to solid ground, not exactly what you hoped from your chartering vacation.


What Does Being Seasick Feel Like? 

Let's get straight to the point here: it's grim. 


  1. You start burping.

  2. You get anxiety.

  3. Your heart rate peeks.

  4. You look pale.

  5. You start to sweat.

  6. You feel nauseous.

  7. You no longer engage with people.

  8. Your posture changes.

  9. You begin to vomit.

  10. The cycle repeats.


Is It Impossible To Recover From Seasickness If The Vessel Is Still Moving? 

It's no secret; you probably never asked a fisherman who was told by his forefathers the magic solution. They know the main culprit lies in the eyes. 

You might get some relief if you close your eyes, but it's not a complete solution. The best solution is to find a natural anchor point to focus on. This can be difficult to find, depending on your environment and vessel. 

If the ship is rolling, then so is the whole saloon. Your eyes use the saloon as anchor points, but this information conflicts with what your ears (balance) and legs are telling you. 

Example: Enclosed areas:

The seasickness probability for this saloon is 60%


Your eyes use the saloon as anchor points. However, this information conflicts with what your ears and legs are reporting, resulting in seasickness.


Example: Open areas areas:

Look at this view; it's nearly all stable in the area you naturally look at. This is an excellent anti-seasick environment, and you wonder why captains don't get seasick as much? 


The seasickness probability of this view is only 20%

The yellow areas are bad anchor Points. The red areas are good anchor points. 

Standing on the bridge will indeed give you solid anchor points. However, the heave motion of the vessel counters the relief you may feel.


Heave is the up and down movement, a motion and feeling akin to an elevator ride. Ships are like seesaws; the people on each end shift up and down, while the middle slightly rolls side to side. Heave is a major component of seasickness. See-LEVEL has the exact calculations worked out for this in our patented software; we conducted extensive research, resulting in plenty of vomiting over ships.

Example: Partial view:



The seasickness probability for this saloon is 60%

Large open windows have been fitted in this saloon for you to see the view and use as an anchor point. But it could be better. The yellow areas are bad anchor Points. 

The red areas are good anchor points. Looking anywhere in the yellow area will make you feel sick. Looking around the red area will alleviate your sickness and provide solid anchor points. 

However, sitting in the middle of a ship is a double-edged sword, creating a new set of seasick-inducing problems.

The bridge has the best view to alleviate seasickness but is not the best place to dull the heave motion. Unfortunately, if you were to sit in the middle, you no longer have access to solid anchor points, creating quite the stomach-churning conundrum.

You need both, but you can go to the bridge if the vessel is not heaving and only rolling. This is the secret all fishermen know, but you will be sick if you have heave, too. 

Standing at the side of the vessel in the middle does help, but as the vessel rolls, you go up and down, too. You're stuck between a rock and a hard place. 


Why Do We Get Motion Sickness In Cars?










It's a fact that drivers don't get motion sickness. The driver has a fantastic view from the windscreen of around 70 percent after excluding the dashboard and interior.  The key takeaway is that the driver cannot take his eyes from the red area, or he'll possibly crash. The chances of motion sickness here are about two percent. 


But passengers get motion sickness despite sharing the same view. Why?


In this example, the passenger looks at their phone in an area surrounded by poor anchor points. The chances of motion sickness here are 100%. Your eyes are relaying information that conflicts with your ears and nervous system. You can test this out the next time you ride as a passenger; don't ruin the driver's seats!


The Truth Of Placebo And Seasickness


Suppose somebody told you that placing a banana on your head would cure all your seasick symptoms. In that case, you'd probably throw the banana at them. It would be completely irrational to believe that it would help. However, if you genuinely believed it, you might find some relief. This is called the Placebo effect. 

If you believe this rubbish, you have a good chance of battling the psychological symptoms of anxiety and panic brought on by seasickness. This is a great respite, but the Physiological symptoms will soon rear their ugly head again. The sweating, dizziness, and stomach-churning nausea will return, but you will cope better. 

Dishonest companies profit from the placebo effect. They sell wristbands, electric shock watches, magic herbal pills, and an assortment of advertised junk with the promise of curing seasickness.
Browsing the reviews of these deceptive products highlights the power of the placebo effect. There will always be a minority that benefits from the product. 

Oh, did you hear about putting just one earplug in? That works, too, honest! I heard it once. 


The Truth Of Seasickness Pills


Some people swear by pills because of two factors:


  1. The Placebo effect.

  2. They can work for some, but you must take them an hour before getting seasick. Unlike See-LEVEL, they are not an instant fix. Ask any fisherman. They are not a solution for all.


Like most medications, seasick tablets have dreadful side effects, and they will affect whatever activity you had planned. Be it work or leisure, it won't be a great day for you, and while it stops some from vomiting, it leaves a nauseous feeling that's worse. 


Habituation: A Seasickness Hack With A Catch


Habituation is a seasickness hack. However, it does require you to live through seasickness before adapting to the heave and rolling of a vessel of sea life. 

Habituation is basically neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability to adapt the nervous system to reorganize structures and functions. For example: 

Have you ever noticed that you can't smell your own dogs in your home? But a visitor can immediately identify a wet dog smell on your sofa. Your brain has learned to filter out your dog's smell and focus on new smells. Clever, eh? 

Neuroplasticity is learning new ways to filter information; it's a natural part of the brain's day-to-day functions, and guess what? You can learn a vessel's movement, too, and prevent seasickness. 

That's the second secret fishermen know: they'll be adjusted to the heave and roll after three days at sea. Their brain is filtering out the information from the boat's movement and correcting it, but this comes with a catch. 


Returning to land, fishermen risk mal de mere, a symptom that causes seasickness on land! The brain is still wired to compensate for the vessel's movement even on land, leading to another three days of habituation.


Is VR The Key To Cure Seasickness?


I heard VR can cause motion sickness. And you want me to wear it at sea? That's too funny…


"We thought, if Virtual Reality could have such a powerful effect on the brain that it caused motion sickness. What would happen if the software was reversed? – could VR remove seasickness just as quickly?". 


See-LEVEL have put in blood, sweat, and tears on perfecting its seasick solution. After four long years of research and half a million dollars spent, the work has paid off. VR technology is powerful; it's the only technology to immerse the user into a digital world completely. This grants the potential to create digital anchor points and save seafarers from the pains of seasickness.


Using Virtual Reality, See-LEVEL was able to create a virtual horizon and create a solid anchor point for the user. See-LEVEL then took their new seasick fighting headsets to aid an expedition to Antarctica. The vessel traveled through the Furious Fifties, the most seasick-prone waters in the world. It did not take long before passengers began testing See-LEVEL for seasickness relief.


New Zealand's rough, seasick-prone waters provided the perfect battleground to test See-LEVEL, and trials were conducted with various volunteers, resulting in positive reviews. It wasn't too long before See-LEVEL caught the eye of the New Zealand Defence Force. They believed military vessels would operate safer and more effectively with See-LEVEL headsets aboard a vessel. This led to the development of a defense force edition. 


Author: Dudley Jackson. Editor: Alexander Maksymiw

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