Back to blog

Why Don’t We Sneeze While We Sleep?

allergiesbody oddsleepsneezing • 2 min read • Sep 23, 2015 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith


While fall is not a peak blooming season, and pollen counts are generally low this time of year, autumn can still be a tough season for allergy sufferers who are allergic to mold and ragweed. If your allergies act up in the fall season, you might wonder what exactly is causing you to sniffle and sneeze when you step outside. Here’s a look at what happens when we sneeze and why you won’t ever find yourself sneezing in your sleep.

Why we sneeze

Throughout time, there have been many theories on why people sneeze and what happens during a sneeze. Despite popular belief, sneezing does not cause your heart to stop or skip a beat. Sneezing is also not your soul’s attempt at leaving your body. So what’s actually happening when you sneeze? Turns out it’s the easiest way for your nose to reset your nasal environment by clearing out irritants like dust, mold spores, or ragweed pollen – and it’s nothing to sniff at. Sneezing is a powerful reaction of the body, as it can cause a spray of up to 3 feet! That’s why you should always cover your nose when you sneeze – channel your inner vampire and be sure to use your elbow rather than your hand.

Why sleep and sneezes don’t go together

You might notice that even on your worst allergy days, you don’t sneeze while you are asleep. It is actually impossible to sneeze in your sleep, because sneezing is a reflex action (similar to how your knee will jerk when hit by a little rubber hammer at the doctor’s office.) The brain requires a good deal of stimulation in order for your sneeze reflex to be triggered – so, as we fall asleep, the part of our brain responsible for signaling to the body it’s time to sneeze becomes much less active. Still, you could lose sleep during allergy season, since you might wake up to sneeze in the presence of allergens and other irritants.

Why you sneeze in succession

Another question that commonly comes up when discussing sneezing is why it always seems to happen in succession. Many people will sneeze two, three, or even four times in a row, which can create lots of confusion when it comes to saying “bless you.” The reason for this trend is that air can only move with so much force through the nose, so the irritant may not be cleared with just one sneeze. This is why you often see allergy sufferers sneezing in a long chain, while someone with a cold might only sneeze once every few minutes. If you do find yourself sneezing in a series, remember that sneezing will always cause a commotion, because it is impossible to sneeze without making noise. Air can move at speeds up to 100 mph through the nostrils when you sneeze, so there will always be some noise that follows.

If you are caught in a sneezing fit because of fall allergies, MeMD can help you find relief with allergy treatment available anywhere you have an internet connection.

Reach the World. Giving Made Easy with Impact.

Kat Smith