Can You Sneeze In Your Sleep? Learn The Truth


In this post, I’m going to answer the question: Can you sneeze in your sleep? Before answering this question though, you have to learn the mechanism of why people sneeze. The discussion of the physiological process that occurs will help you understand completely the answer to this interesting question. The first thing that you should learn is the reason why people sneeze.

Why do People Sneeze?

The mechanism of sneezing happens when an internal or external stimulus comes in contact with the sensitive mucus membrane inside your nose. Your nasal cavity is irritated and this irritation triggers the motor neurons that are responsible in nerve transmission to send the message to your brain.

When this message is recognized by your brain; the body’s natural defence mechanism kicks in to cause sneezing. This is to get rid of the foreign or invading object. Of course, there are instances when sneezing is caused by a pathological condition.

The other reasons why you sneeze can be attributed to the following:

  • The motor neurons or neurotransmitters responsible for detecting foreign bodies are also ‘asleep’; hence, they are unable to send the message to the brain. Take note that the body reacts only when the brain recognizes the stimulus. The brain is also in a state of rest that’s why.
  • You’re in a temporary coma, so your reflexes are not as active as when you’re awake. This happens during the REM phase of your sleep. Naturally, when you’re still drifting off to sleep, you could be easily awakened to be able to sneeze.
  • You have photic sneeze reflex because of your genes, and when you’re exposed to bright lights or periocular injections, you tend to sneeze. This is considered as a pathologic condition, but not a life-threatening one.
  • You have gustatory rhinitis. In this disorder you tend to sneeze after eating; most especially when you have eaten spicy foods. There are also individuals who sneeze several times after eating voraciously. This is called snatiation.
  • You have sonar sneezing, a disorder characterized by sneezing when exposed to sonar noise or loud sounds.
  • You have colds. Colds and flu-like conditions often cause sneezing because of nasal irritation. When this happens, the same motor neurons are triggered and the brain masterminds the sneezing.

Can You Sneeze in Your Sleep?

Based on these facts, we can derive the answer.

No, you cannot sneeze in your sleep. You have to wake up first, and then sneeze. This is because when you’re in your deep sleep (Rapid Eye Movement (REM) atonia, you’re dead to the world. Although your brain maybe alert your senses and reflexes go into a momentary ‘death’, as explained previously. That’s why poets call sleep a momentary death or going into the Arms of Morpheus.

During this phase in your sleep, it takes time to wake you up. This is similar when a person has a cough. Observe him and you will notice that when he falls into a deep slumber, he would stop coughing. But when he is awakened, he starts coughing again. This is the reason why bed rest is recommended for persons who have flu or other illnesses. Sleep provides reprieve and hastens your recuperation.

This is akin to swallowing and breathing; you cannot do them simultaneously. Therefore sleeping deeply and sneezing cannot be done simultaneously as well.

According to Don Watenpaugh, an expert in sleep and a member of the Sleep Research Society, the brain cannot react when asleep, but when the stimulus is strong, it can wake you up, so you can sneeze.

Also, when you sneeze, your eyes usually close. This is a reflex action that your body performs to protect your eyes. If you’re not careful, they might pop out from your head. That’s an exaggeration, but it’s quite interesting, isn’t it? Thus, it’s only when you’re awake that you can sneeze. Indeed, the body has certain mechanisms in place to protect itself from injury and sickness.


Hopefully, you can apply what you have learned from the answer to the question: Can you sneeze in your sleep? And the answer is “no”. It’s always significant to know how your body works, so you would know what to do and what to avoid in taking care of your body. You can read the rest of the health articles in this site and glean vital information about your health.


Hello everyone! I’m glad to have you here. I’m a medical technologist by profession. My second love is writing. So, I’m focusing on providing content to help other people with their health problems. I hope I can be of help to you.

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