Why Do I Feel Light-Headed When Standing Up?

June 21, 2019

Man feeling dizzy.
Christine Yu

We've all gotten up from our desks a little too quickly, only to feel light-headed when standing up and maybe even a little woozy. What's happening?

It turns out it's a phenomenon called postural hypotension. And don't worry, it's normal. Here's what you need know about that momentary dizziness.

What Is Postural Hypotension?

Sometimes when you move from sitting or lying down to standing, blood gathers in your legs and abdomen and rushes away from your brain and heart, thanks to gravity. As a result, your blood pressure can drop temporarily.

When your blood pressure is low, it can be harder for your body to work against gravity and return blood to the brain, which causes you to feel dizzy. It can take your body a moment to adjust and your blood pressure to return to normal.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of reasons why your blood pressure fluctuates. For example, if you're dehydrated, the volume of your blood may decrease, causing your blood pressure to dip and you may feel light-headed when standing up. Certain health issues, like thyroid or heart conditions, nervous system disorders and medication, can affect heart rate and blood vessel function, interfering with the body's ability to regulate blood pressure. Even something as simple as low blood sugar, overheating or pregnancy can make you feel dizzy upon standing. Older adults are also more likely to experience this faint feeling.

What Are the Symptoms of Postural Hypotension?

The telltale symptom of postural hypotension is feeling dizzy or light-headed when standing up. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may also feel nauseous or faint. Some people may experience blurred vision or even disorientation. However, for most people, this sensation occurs occasionally and these symptoms only last a few minutes.

Can You Avoid Feeling Light-Headed When Standing Up?

For mild cases, take your time when standing and sit down if you feel faint or dizzy. When sitting at your desk, try not to cross your legs since that can affect blood circulation. Better yet, try a standing desk as a way to vary your body position throughout the day and to alleviate the woozy feeling. But be sure to use proper standing posture since bad posture can place strain your muscles and joints and make you fatigued.

The Cleveland Clinic also recommends several easy changes to your daily life. For example, regularly drink fluids throughout the day to say properly hydrated, and limit alcohol and caffeine, which can cause dehydration. You can increase your salt intake and daily exercise to raise your blood pressure. Compression socks may help too by applying pressure to your legs and encouraging your blood to flow.

Feeling dizzy upon standing can be a nuisance, but for most people it's a mild and fleeting feeling. However, if you frequently experience lightheadedness or it lasts for longer than a few minutes, talk to your doctor to make sure it's not a sign of something more serious.

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