The Sleep Advisors

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Last Updated on July 29, 2022 by Peter

Can You Sneeze In Your Sleep Without Waking Up?

Can you sneeze in your sleep? Well, the sleep is a restful state of the body and that is why many believe that unconscious activities are not possible. But is it really so? Whether sleep is a uniform state or are there different stages? Let’s discover the answers to these questions together.

It is natural to consider the period from when we fall asleep until we wake up as one cycle. But actually during that time our body and brain go through many different cycles. During each of these cycles, our level of alertness is different.

This is precisely why it is potentially possible to sneeze while sleeping, although for decades it was thought that this is not possible because the nerves should also be at rest. 

Even during sleep when most stimuli coming from outside go unnoticed, our body is ready to defend itself. Sneezing is certainly a form of defense because it cleans the nose of particles that have entered the nose, and they should not be there. 

In this article, The Sleep Advisors have analyzed the subject of sneezing during sleep for you.

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    Why do we sneeze in the first place?

    The medical term for sneezing is sternutation and it is a natural reflex. When something irritates the nose, the nerves send signals to the brain stem to sneeze in order to clear nasal passage and thus prevent anything dangerous from reaching the lungs and harming your health. Since the brain stem is in charge, it means that sneezing is an involuntary act, as you know. 

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    An image of a young lady stretching and staying awake .

    The brain stem is also in charge of other involuntary actions, most of which are crucial for life, such as heart rate and breathing. Following are some of the most common causes that trigger sneezing and we encounter them practically every day. That’s why a day rarely goes by without sneezing at least once.


    No matter how much we take care of the hygiene of our home, it can never be perfectly clean. It is enough to enter an apartment or a house with the shoes on and we will already bring in a certain amount of dirt. That dirt will later end up in the air and can irritate our respiratory tract leading to nighttime sneezing.


    Dust is even harder to prevent than dirt. Dust is all around us and already a few hours after you have vacuumed all the rooms, you will notice that the dust has appeared again. It is also often, if not always, present in the air, which is why dust is one of the most common allergens. As long as dust mites do not appear, it is enough to vacuum regularly.


    Odour usually refers to unpleasant smells, but perfumes and other scents can also cause sneezing during the night. We use too many chemicals daily, so although these products smell nice, they are not healthy when we inhale them. Our advice is not to keep cosmetics or household chemicals in the bedroom but in the bathroom. Long term exposure to chemicals can have detrimental effect on our overall health.

    Particles & pollen

    Pollen originates from the male reproductive part of the flower and that is actually a yellow powder. A large number of people around the world are allergic to pollen, and the allergy is only present when pollen is in the air. The highest concentration of pollen in the air is during spring because that is the time for pollination of plants. Stuffy and runny nose, as well as sneezing, are inevitable.


    Cigarette smoke is particularly unpleasant for non-smokers, but even most smokers find smoke very unpleasant. So don’t ever let someone smoke in your bedroom, and don’t do it yourself. If this happens, ventilate and turn on the air purifier before going to bed. Otherwise you can expect to cough and sneeze.

    a young man refuses a cigarette


    The air is not perfectly clean and free of bacteria. Especially if you don’t clean the air conditioner regularly and you have pets. Micrococcus and Staphylococcus can be found in the air as very dangerous bacteria, as well as some less dangerous bacteria that can certainly cause certain symptoms.

    Animal dander

    Animal dander, along with dust and pollen, is among the top 3 most common allergens in the world. Many who have pets or have spent time in a room where an animal is kept have experienced allergy symptoms, and the intensity varies from person to person. In order to reduce dander, bathe your pet regularly and it is better to choose short-haired or non-shedding breeds.

    Do we sneeze during the REM phase?

    There are four sleep cycles or, more precisely, four sleep stages of one sleep cycle. During the night, we have several such sleep cycles. There is also a division into five sleep stages, and whether there are 4 or 5 is less important. The basic division is into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

    a woman sleeps in a rem phase

    First we will answer the question do we sneeze during the REM phase. No, we do not sneeze during REM phase because those are deeper stages of sleep when the nerves responsible for sneezing are turned off, as well as those nerves that make us feel tickling. We can sneeze during non-REM sleep, which is period of light sleep and we are about to wake up any moment.

    Can children sneeze in sleep?

    There is no difference between adults and children when it comes to sneezing in sleep. Misjudgment on this topic is not rare. If you ask several parents if their child sneezes in their sleep, many of them would give you an affirmative answer. And why do parents think that when there is no difference between adults and children?

    An image of a little boy sneezes in bed.

    We can only guess, but one explanation stands out as the most logical. Children, especially newborns and infants, but also toddlers, sleep significantly longer than adults. This implies that while an adult goes through four to six sleep cycles per night, a child can have up to 10 sleep cycles. The more sleep cycles, the more periods of light sleep when sneezing is possible.

    Does sneezing affect our quality of sleep?

    Sneezing does not affect the quality of sleep. There may be some extreme cases when sneezing is accompanied by some other health problem and then sleep problem may arise, but generally sneezing is not something that will keep you awake at night.

    An image of a pregnant woman sneezing in bed.

    There is something called the photic sneeze reflex (PSR). When you go out in the sun and start sneezing, that’s PSR – reflex on bright light. But during the night you will certainly not be exposed to bright light, and that reflex would probably not even be activated while in the REM phase. So the bottom line is that sneezing does not cause insomnia or poor night’s sleep.


    What we have learned so far from peer reviewed studies is that we can sneeze if we are in deep sleep. If you sneezed while you were sleeping or your partner sneezed while he or she were sleeping, it means you was probably somewhere between waking and sleeping, and we all know that part of sleep cycle very well.

    However, clinical trials on this topic will continue to be conducted by sleep researchers because it is certainly clear that we still have a lot to learn about it. Sneezing, although something that is present all our lives and something that we don’t pay attention to, has much more importance than we think because it protects us from various infections and other respiratory problems.



    Sleep enthusiast & researcher Sleep is a crucial for a healthy life, in every sense. TSA gave me the place to express my feelings and opinions about the state we spend one third of our lives. In free time - a huge fan of dreams and lucid dreaming. Even started making own dream map
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