a blog by wallace winfrey

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo


So I wake up Thursday morning about 3:30am from a deep sleep, or I guess I should say, I’m awakened from a deep sleep, by a room that’s spinning around me about a million miles per hour. What the … ? I sit up in bed, and the room kinda slows down. Weird. I go into my office so I won’t wake up Jalen and Melissa, and sit down. I’m feeling a bit nauseous, but nothing terrible. Sit there for 15 minutes, and walk downstairs to get a drink of water.

I reach the bottom of the stairs, and the room starts spinning again. The feeling is akin to that of being on a merry-go-round after accepting a double-dog-dare from the big kids to let them push you as fast as they can; or being on that one ride at Six Flags where they spin you around really quickly and drop the floor out from underneath you. The feeling I was getting was like that, except all out of proportion because I hadn’t drank anything or eaten anything weird. Rest of the body feels normal, but head is spinning like too many beer bongs the freshman year in college.

Anyway, get to the bottom of the stairs, the spins, and then the sudden onslaught of severe nausea. I call Ralph on the Big Porcelain Telephone, note the absence of food in the conversation and go into the living room where this happens maybe 10 more times before Missy wakes up at 7:30am. Fortunately for me, she’s got the day off to take care of my pathetic ass.

This happens maybe 30 more times during the day. I move my head slightly, and the room starts spinning furiously for about a minute, then stops and I’m nauseous. It does seem to get better through the day, but is still very debilitating and scary. At some point, Missy notices that during one of these “spells”, my eyes are moving back and forth very rapidly, akin to what happens with people with down’s syndrome. At this point, we are getting a little nervous and decide to consult WebMD.

What we got back wasn’t pretty: “these are signs of a small stroke or brain tumor” seemed to be the general consensus. We decide to wait 24 hours before panicking to see if the symptoms persist. I wake up on Friday morning after barely sleeping Thursday night, and indeed, the spinning spells continue. We call my father-in-law, who’s a surgeon, and ask him what he thinks it is, telling him what we found on WebMD.

“Well, I guess it could be a tumor or a slight stroke, but my guess is that it’s this thing called Benign Positional Vertigo”. He goes on to explain what it is (an inner-ear condition), how it’s caused (free-floating calcium carbonate crystals in the inner ear chambers), that it’s not life-threatening, but to go in and see a doctor about it.

We schedule an appointment for later that day (Friday) with Dr. Berger, our family practitioner. By the time we get to see him on Friday, most of the symptoms have gone away. We explain to him what happened, and he nods and whips out a piece of paper and explains what he thinks is happening. Basically, it’s what’s described here.

By Saturday, hardly any symptoms. I dance my ass off at the MESS party, Realm (Matthew Dear was excellent). Go home, stay up with Missy (Jalen was spending the night at a friends — sniff, sniff, but that’s another topic) for a bit, go to sleep, and wake up on Sunday morning with the BPPV back with a vengeance. Guess my brain hasn’t adjusted yet.

As I write this, I’m feeling a bit of vertigo, but not much. I managed to drive myself to work, but I’m trying to keep my head from turning too much. Dr. Berger says that it can take upwards of a month for your brain to adjust to it’s new environment. Let’s hope it happens soon.


  1. 11.03.2003 at 14:54

    Wallace, I had something similar, but not identical, some years ago. I would hear a POP, and my visual field would rotate 90 degrees or more for a split second. This was enough to make my legs drop out from under me. Fortunately, when I was driving it never made me swerve.
    Doc said it was like a migraine but in my inner ear. Said I wasn’t staying hydrated. Started sucking water after that, especially after boozing, and it hasn’t recurred.

  2. 11.03.2003 at 15:03

    Yeah, my doctor said that although he couldn’t say for certain, it was his opinion that I was building up fluid pressures in my inner ear plumbing as a result of dehydration and allergic reactions. He pointed out that the dark circles under my eyes are what they call “allergy shiners”, and that I should start working on eliminating dairy, then if needed, wheat, from my diet to see if that makes a difference. And drink a lot more water of course.

  3. Charlene
    11.14.2003 at 14:14

    I have had vertigo on and off for years. Finally I found someone to do the Eply Manuver, and it really worked well. But the crystals came back, it seems like wheat, dairy, and not drinking enough water can make things worse.

  4. jeff
    02.15.2004 at 14:41

    Good to run across this posting. I woke up this morning (I live on a sailboat) calm waters, and the room was spinning around so bad I couldent get up, I looked at the clock and I saw three of them. If I kept my head in one position it was OK, but as soon as I moved my head, MAN the room went spinning again. This has happened a few times befor in my life. The last time was about 3 years ago. Couldent help but to think of STROKE. Hmm. Not a nice thing to wake up to.

  5. Jazz
    03.11.2004 at 11:38

    I wake up this morning 3 times with the room swinging from side to side! It has happened a couple of times before but this was a lot more severe. I was feeling fait and sick with it. It was an hour till i was sick then i felt alot better. It makes me scared to go to sleep because i dont know whever i will wake up to it again.