Can You Sneeze While You Sleep? Common Question And Answers Update 10/2022

Even with all the modern tools at their disposal, scientists still can’t figure out if it’s feasible to sneeze while you’re sleeping.

Even after researching hundreds of study participants, they say they had never seen it. Does the fact that they haven’t witnessed it for themselves disprove its reality?

Check out this explanation of Schrodinger’s Cat for a thought-provoking look at the question of whether or not something exists even if it is never witnessed.

Sneezing can typically be attributed to one of these three factors:

  1. The nasal mucosa get contaminated with foreign particles. First, they’ll need to remove all of the hair from your nose. Instead of complaining about your nose hair, you should be grateful to it because it prevents many sneezes from reaching your lungs.
  2. This can happen if you irritate the nerve endings in your face enough (for example, by tweezing your eyebrows or tickling the roof of your mouth).
  3. In people who carry a gene called photic sneeze reflex, intense light, especially sunlight, causes them to sneeze.

You’d think there’d be more going on, but in the end, those are the only two that matter.

Can You Sneeze While You Sleep? - Is It Possible? | Sleep Advisor

Can We Sneeze While Sleeping?

The general opinion is currently negative. It’s possible that we do it in bed, but our bodies need to be awake for a short period of time in order to trigger the appropriate biochemical response. We haven’t found a way to accomplish it in our sleep yet, but it seems impossible.

How Do We Sneeze?

When you sneeze, you’re expelling allergens and other irritants from your nasal passages and throat. It’s an automatic response triggered by any particle, allergen or otherwise, entering the nasal cavity. The hair in your nostrils is your body’s first line of defense against invading particles.

Some of these particles may still pass through to the nasal mucosa, where they might cause the production of the neurotransmitter histamines. Histamines are chemical substances consisting mostly of nitrogen particles that irritate nerve endings in the nasal mucous membranes and cause swelling. This triggers a chain reaction that culminates in a sneeze by activating the brain’s reflexes, which send signals to the pharyngeal and tracheal muscles to widen the nostril and tracheal openings.

Does Sleep Prevent Sneezing?

Lying on one’s side, back, or stomach can cause swelling of the mucous membranes, which can then cause a sneeze. Experts in the field of sleep science and neuroscience, however, argue that sneezing is impossible while one is asleep.

Each of the four cycles that make up a typical night’s sleep consists of three Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stages and one Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage (REM). Seventy-five percent of the time we spend asleep is in NREM sleep, while the remaining 25 percent is in REM sleep.

  • The first stage of sleep is a light sleep where awakening is easy. Your eye movements slow down, and you feel your muscles loosening and contracting.
  • The second stage of sleep is characterized by the cessation of eye movement and the beginning of the slowing of the heart rate and temperature that characterizes deep sleep. As this phase progresses, so do the brain’s alpha waves.
  • In stage 3, the body’s blood pressure decreases and rapid brain waves are interspersed with slower delta waves, ushering in the slumbering state known as deep sleep. There is a sense of disorientation at first awakening.
  • Dreaming when awake, or REM sleep. The eyelids are still closed, but the eyes are darting left and right quite a bit. While the body sleeps, the mind is active, producing brain waves that reflect the reactions to waking events or dreams. This is the phase where the majority of dreams occur. Because your mind is active, you often recall specifics from your dreams. In contrast, sneezing is not possible when in this stage of sleep since it leads to REM atonia.

The medical term “atonia” describes a condition in which muscles completely lose their strength. During rapid eye movement (REM) atonia, the body is unconscious and the muscles are completely relaxed while the mind is wide awake. At this point, the neurotransmitters are down, so even if an allergen or particle makes it through the nasal passages and onto the mucous membranes, it won’t set off histamine release. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a sneeze cannot be induced because histamine levels are very low.
Why Am I Sneezing So Much All Of A Sudden? 8 Possible Reasons

There is no atonia during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, therefore technically a sneeze could occur at any time. Here, however, the cerebral cortex and thalamus region of the brain are continually stimulating each other to inhibit reflexes to sensory input. It’s normal to not sneeze when you’re asleep, just as you don’t feel hungry, thirsty, or the need to go to the bathroom. However, you may sneeze if you are roused from NREM sleep by a very powerful stimulus.

While you’re sleeping, your environment doesn’t change, so there’s less of a risk that anything harsh from outside will enter your nasal tube unexpectedly. It’s common to sneeze in NREM sleep when you’re sick, but you have to wake up to do it.

How the Brain Suppresses a Sneeze?

The process by which our brains shut down during sleep is thought to be one reason why you will never see a sleeping person sneeze. This is in readiness for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the phase of the sleep cycle during which dreaming occurs. It’s characterized by a condition known as “rapid eye movement,” in which your eyes roll rapidly back and forth under your eyelids. The shutting down of certain parts of the brain during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is an essential survival strategy that keeps us from acting out our fantasies. It’s a natural defense system, too. Making our bodies less sensitive to environmental cues increases the likelihood that we will enter a deep sleep phase. However, if the environmental cues are sufficiently scary, such as the smell of smoke or a particularly loud noise, we will still wake up.

FAQs

Why can’t I sneeze?

Some people, ironically, have trouble resisting the temptation right when it’s strongest. Sneezing can be inhibited by a virus, such as a cold or the flu, making its successful release all the more rewarding. Overthinking isn’t the only possible cause of obsessive compulsive disorder. If you’re struggling to finish your “Achoo!”, try sniffing some pepper.

Can you cough while sleeping?

At least there’s a clear solution to this particular inquiry. Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t cough in your sleep. Someone who appears to be sleeping but who is actually coughing has awakened so that their body can finish the cough. Due to this fact, scientists have theorized that sneezing indicates consciousness.

Do the stages of sleep play a role in nighttime sneezing?

Yes, but only in a roundabout way. For instance, you are not fully rested in the early phases of sleep. Consequently, you can be roused by the most minute of impulses. You are more likely to experience a sneezing fit if there is pollen, pet dander, or another allergen present in the environment. Yet as we progress into later stages, the intensity of our responses to the outside world gradually decreases. By contrast, if someone touches us when we’re in a deep stage of sleep like REM, we’re less likely to wake up than if they touched us when we’re just starting to nod off. We can extrapolate from this that waking up for a sneeze is more common during the earliest stages of light sleep than the deepest stages.

How can I check sneeze reflexes during sleep?

The sudden, overwhelming need to sneeze is known as the sneeze reflex, and it can disrupt non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Keeping your bedroom tidy and vacuuming it frequently can help you control these desires. During allergy season, it is especially important to avoid keeping clothes on your bed and to frequently wash bedding and pillows. All of this works to keep your bedroom free of dust mites, pollen, and other sneeze-inducing particles, so you can breathe easier at night.

Does your heart stop when you sneeze?

Sneezing has no effect on the heart’s electrical activity. Blood flow to the heart is reduced during a sneeze because intrathoracic pressure rises. The increased blood flow is met by your heart slowing its rate of contraction, but it does not stop completely.

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Can you cough or sneeze in your sleep?

Neither rapid eye movement (REM) sleep nor deep sleep allow for coughing or sneezing, but light sleep does. Even if it’s so brief that you don’t even realize it, your body must enter a state of awareness in order to cough or sneeze. Because deeper, more restorative sleep is disrupted, chronic coughing or sneezing during sleep can lead to daytime weariness.

Conclusion

Even while there isn’t concrete proof, it seems safe to assume that sneezing can’t begin unexpectedly when we’re sleeping. A person who sneezes while pretending to sleep is, of course, not actually sleeping.

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