Can You Sneeze in Your Sleep?

Can You Sneeze in Your Sleep?

Written by Nectarsleep editorial team

Last Updated on Sep 06, 2022

In this article:

    Have you wondered: Can people sneeze in their sleep?

    The answer is simple. No. An individual is unlikely to sneeze during sleep because sleep causes the muscles to paralyze during sleep. Therefore, sneezing (an involuntary action) while the muscles are unconscious is impossible. 

    This article further explores the causes and effects of sneezing, with other related topics to the restful state of the body and involuntary urges or reflexes.

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    What Causes Sneezing

    Sneezing is a mechanism of the body that removes irritants and foreign matters such as dirt, pollen, smoke, or dust that's inhaled deeply and rapidly. These particles enter through the nostrils, causing an irritation in the mucous membranes of the nose or throat, during which the tongue partially closes the passage between the mouth and throat.

    While the passage is closed, the lungs release a burst of air, expelling any irritants or foreign bodies from the nasal cavity, which is what causes sneezing. Though there could be many reasons as to why do we sneeze, below are a few known reasons explained briefly.

    Allergies

    Allergies such as rhinitis allergies can cause a group of symptoms affecting the nose. These symptoms occur when an individual breathes in foreign particles or eats food that triggers an allergic reaction like sneezing, runny nose, and red, watery, and itchy eyes.

    Infections

    The common cold and influenza (flu) are the most common infections in human beings, caused by the influenza virus and rhinovirus. These viruses cause symptoms of sore throats, sneezing, headaches, muscle aches, and many more.

    Less Common Causes

    Besides the causes mentioned above, other reasons can trigger a fit of sneezing, such as breathing in corticosteroids (from certain nose sprays), dry air, spicy foods, intense emotions, certain medicines, and powders.

    How Does Sneezing Affect Sleep

    The reason why a person can not sneeze when they are asleep is that sleep is a mechanism that disconnects from the environment, including consciousness, muscle mobility, and all forms of sensory response. This is especially during the REM sleep cycle, which is a unique phase of sleep when the breathing increases and the body becomes temporarily paralyzed as the sleeper dreams.

    Unlike the REM sleep cycle, it is possible for the sleeper to feel external stimuli such as feeling ticklish or a sneeze during the lighter stage of sleep, known as the NREM (Non-REM) cycle. It’s because either the person is not asleep yet or they are about to wake up naturally.

    Above all, the nerve signals that control the reflexes during the wake cycle, such as muscle mobility or coughing and sneezing, occur at the brain stem. According to a study, it relaxes the muscles during REM sleep so that the sleepers don’t act out their dreams.

    Adults vs. Children Sneeze During Sleep

    A circadian rhythm is an internal, mental, physical, and behavioral process that follows a 24-hour cycle. It primarily refers to the body's "clock" that originates within an organism and responds to the environment.

    Circadian rhythm changes throughout a person's life since every stage requires different periods of sleep. As a result, an adult's sleep patterns (stages of sleep) differ from children's.

    Furthermore, the circadian rhythm in children develops around two to three months. Based on the findings, children appear to have longer REM sleep latencies than adolescents and thus spend more time in stage 3. Because of this, children are more likely to move around in sleep, such as coughing, crying, eating, urinating, and sometimes a child sneezing in sleep may also be possible.

    Does Sleep Suppress Other Urges

    Sneezing is not the only urge that sleep suppresses; there are other involuntary as well as voluntary actions that get suppressed during REM sleep.

    Which includes:

    • Coughing 
    • Hiccups 
    • Hunger 
    • Thirst 
    • Urination (in adults) 
    • Defecation, etc. 

    However, unlike sneezing or coughing, the body sometimes fails to maintain functions like continence. Even though the body loses its mobility during sleep, some neurons in the front of the brain become active, enabling bowel and bladder control while unconscious.

    Final Thoughts

    All things considered, REM sleep snoozes the body, which inhibits urges like sneezing. However, any strong external stimulants or urges may wake you up from NREM sleep. Besides, whether you sneeze in your sleep or not, it is vital to follow proper sneeze hygiene.

    This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
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