Sleep: is it really a sneeze-free zone?

 

We’ve had this question ringing in our ears for a while: can we sneeze in our sleep? We don’t think anyone has ever done it, but does that mean it’s impossible?

You’d think that with eating, talking and walking in our sleep being very much possible, that sneezing whilst asleep would be too!

Well, if we could sneeze in our sleep, you’d half expect anyone who’s had a cold to remember sneezing themselves awake – but as far as we know, and as far as the majority of sleep researchers know, it’s just not that common. Moreover, sneezing dreams are pretty rare, whereas everyone has a story about falling or flying in their dreams, and it’s not uncommon to wake yourself up from a dream where you’ve fallen or you’ve been flying.

When we’re awake, everything from dust particles to cloth fibres can irritate our senses, so how comes we don’t sneeze when we’re asleep?

We love a bit of research here at Mattressman, and sleep researcher Steven Shea from Popular Science thinks he may have the answer.

During certain stages of REM, it is very difficult for us to be woken up. Parts of our brain work together in order to block out sensory input, putting us in a deep sleep. Although the part of our brain that controls this doesn’t block the senses out completely, it just makes sensory stimuli harder to get through, which is why when in a deep stage of REM, soft noises or movements like being tapped on the hand, for example, are less likely to wake us up. If we hear something like a smoke alarm, car alarm or a baby crying, however, we automatically wake up, because the sensory stimulus is much stronger in these types of sounds.

During the stage of REM sleep when we are most likely to dream, our bodies go into a paralysed state that prevents us from moving our limbs too aggressively in our sleep – this form of paralysis extends to muscle contraction, which means it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to sneeze in our sleep. As our sleep cycle continues and we leave REM sleep, our bodies naturally come out of paralysis and we are then able to use our muscles again.

We hope that this goes some way in explaining this phenomenon and that tonight’s sleep is uninterrupted. Let us know in the comment section below if you’ve ever experienced sneezing yourself awake in bed – you never know, you could be a snoozing sensation!

Sleep well!

Kelly Clisby

Kelly Clisby

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