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Diaphragmatic Breathing and Its Effectiveness for the Management of Motion Sickness

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BACKGROUND: Motion sickness is an unpleasant physiological state that may be controlled via nonpharmacological methods. Controlled breathing has been shown to maximize parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) tone and may have the ability to decrease motion sickness symptoms.

METHODS: The effects of slow diaphragmatic breathing (DB) in a motion sickness-inducing environment were examined within motion sickness susceptible individuals. Subjects (N = 43) were assigned randomly to either an experimental group trained in slow DB or a control group breathing naturally at a normal pace. The experimental group was trained using a digital video that helped them pace their diaphragmatic breathing at six breaths/min. During the study, subjects viewed a virtual reality (VR) experience of a boat in rough seas for 10 min. Motion sickness ratings along with heart rate and respiration rate were collected before, during, and after the VR experience.

RESULTS: Results indicated that the experimental group was able to decrease their breathing to eight breaths/min during the VR experience. This breathing rate was significantly slower than those in the control group. We found that DB subjects, compared to those in the control group, displayed significantly greater heart rate variability and reported feeling less motion sickness during exposure to the VR experience than those in the control group.

DISCUSSION: Results indicate possible benefits of using slow DB techniques in a motion sickness inducing environment.

Stromberg SE, Russell ME, Carlson CR. Diaphragmatic breathing and its effectiveness for the management of motion sickness. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015; 86(5):452–457.

Keywords: heart rate variability; seasickness; self-regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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