Is It Possible to Sneeze in Your Sleep?

Is It Possible to Sneeze in Your Sleep

Sneeze is a reflex action that can be triggered by different factors. Primarily, it’s the body’s way of eliminating foreign materials such as allergens and irritants and protecting the respiratory system. Besides, you can also sneeze as a response to a cold virus.

But the question is, can you sneeze in your sleep? 

Sneeze is a biological response, and there’s no wonder it can happen at any time of the day, including at night when you are sleeping. 

However, while you are asleep, you won’t sneeze as loudly as you did in the days because the body automatically stifles it. 

If you wonder what controls sneezing and how it gets suffocated in the night, continue reading to find answers to all your queries.

What Causes Sneezing in Sleep?

sneezing in Sleep

The body’s response to clearing the nose causes a sneeze, called sternutation in medical terms. As any foreign material enters the nostrils, the nasal passage gets irritated. As a result, you feel like your nose is itching. 

The body sends the signal to the brain to get rid of the foreign material instantly before it makes its way to the lungs and upsets the respiratory system. As a response to the reflex, you sneeze, and the foreign material comes out. 

Substances that the body considers irritant or allergen and cause sneezing include the following-

  • Dust and dirt
  • Pollen 
  • Bacteria, viruses, and mold spores
  • Animal dander 
  • Smoke and a strong odor 

Besides these, some people also sneeze as a response to bright light or while plucking their eyebrows. It is believed that such people have sensitive nerves that get activated, sending the brain the signal to sneeze. However, in these cases, there are no foreign materials involved. 

Once the irritant is detected, the body immediately prepares itself for sneezing. The nerves get activated and control the muscles involved in the process. The airways constrict, building up the pressure within the respiratory system. It helps increase the force of exhalation during a sneeze. 

As the brain receives the signal, you inhale deeply, your eyes and mouth get closed automatically (a protective mechanism), and the sneeze is released forcefully through the nose. In the process, the foreign material comes out of the nose along with mucus and saliva.

This is the reason why it is advised to always sneeze on a tissue to prevent the spread of the irritant, virus, or bacteria. 

Sneezing During Sleep

If you often wonder, can you sneeze in your sleep? Here’s what you should know.

Sneeze differs in the different stages of the sleep cycle. For instance, when you are in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of the sleep cycle, the nerves involved in sneezing are at rest. At this time, your body will not feel the sensations that send nerve signals to the brain and induce sneezing. 

However, when you are in a light sleep stage (before entering deep sleep and right before waking up), the irritating or tingling sensation due to an irritant is felt by the body. As a result, the nerve sends a signal to the brain to induce sneezing. 

So, if you feel that you have sneezed in sleep, it means you are still in the light stage of the sleep cycle. 

At the same time, the sneeze in sleep won’t be as loud as it used to be in a wakeful situation. Often, it gets stifled due to the following reasons-

  • Decreased sensory input
  • Reduced conscious control 
  • Suppression by brain activity 
  • Positional effects 

Can Children Sneeze in Sleep?

Another common query revolves around children and their sneezing during sleep. 

Usually, it is believed that children can sneeze in their sleep, but that’s a misconception. The process of sneezing is the same in adults and children. However, the only difference is children sleep for longer hours than adults; therefore, they have a greater number of sleep cycles of short durations. 

So, if you hear your child sneeze during sleep, it is highly likely that they are in a partially awake stage. 

Other than sneezing, there are many other urges that are suppressed during sleep, such as

  • Coughing 
  • Hiccups
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Urination and defecation


So, the answer to your query about whether you can sneeze in your sleep is yes, but only when you are in your light sleep stage. Usually, in the REM stage, the nerves involved in sneezing are at rest and thus fail to send the signal to the brain to induce sleep. 

At the same time, sneezing during sleep is stifled due to various reasons, among which are your sleeping position and reduced conscious control, which play a major role. Likewise, suppressed brain activity and less sensory input also cause suffocated sneezing during sleep. 

Image Source : freepik

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