Do you sneeze in your sleep?

Welcome back reader, here is the next installment in what strange things go through my brain when I am trying to sleep.

You’ll remember, if it didn’t make you catatonic, a post I wrote a few weeks ago about canals and why don’t they flood, which resulted in some decent knowledge, for me anyway, about how their water levels are regulated and usually the Canal and Rivers Trust can be alerted when levels start to rise.  That was a long sentence, if my English teachers could see me now…Mrs C especially.  I genuinely liked that woman, as did we all in the class.  At the time our English classroom overlooked Tynecastle stadium which wasn’t as developed as it it now and every now and again, it had to be done, the odd derogatory shout to the players training on the pitch.  I’ll admit Mrs C was patient, more than she should have been.  We also discovered that she had a fear of birds flying into the room.  Once she left the room and I opened the window wide.  When she returned she noticed this open window and queried it to which I replied “It’s okay, I was just putting some bread out for the birds.”  It was a joke and she took it as such.  I was pleased to meet her several times in later life and for her to reiterate she liked the jokes.

Anyway, back to the point.  There I was, lying in my bed, I had been asleep, so had the dog of the house when out of nowhere he starting barking like the devil himself was on his way.  I scraped myself off the ceiling and then tried to calm him down.  This was about four in the morning (he is, if anything, consistent with his timing).

After convincing him that the hounds from hell were not their way, Le Dug settled down and I attempted to do the same.  Got back into bed, rolled up in the duvet, turned the lamp off and started to drift away back to sleep…

…then it happened, the tickle in the nose, the build up and then WAAAAACHOOOOO! Then that sheer relief you get after you sneeze, like some sort of satisfaction.  All it really means is the body is getting rid of some irritants, which probably explains the feeling of satisfaction.

Anyway, sneeze over, satisfaction accepted and it was back to getting to sleep again.  I was tired and chilled so it didn’t take too long to start drifting off…

…then it hit me like a bolt of lightening in the middle of a golf course.  The question of all questions (well, at least since the canals one) DO YOU SNEEZE IN YOUR SLEEP?

My eyes flew open instantly.  I didn’t know the answer.  It had never occurred to me before.  Why would it? So, I thought about it.  People snore in their sleep, not me – obviously – and fart – again, not me.  People talk in their sleep.  People sleep walk.  So, can we sneeze while we are asleep?

No is the answer! We can’t.  Which is good, I think.  The reason we don’t sneeze in our sleep? Here it is;

We actually should be more prone to sneezing during our sleep, as the mucous membranes swell when we lie down. This makes them more sensitive, but there usually isn’t as much airflow or movement to stir up irritating particles, so they aren’t as exposed to stimulants.

When we’re awake, particles, allergies or an illness can stimulate the nerve cells in the nose. The nerves then send signals to the brain in order to initiate a sneeze to get rid of whatever is irritating it.

But during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, certain neurotransmitters shut down- this state is known as REM atonia. This means that the motor neurons are not being stimulated, so they aren’t sending these signals to the brain.

In some cases, sufficient external stimulates will trigger the need to sneeze. But you will wake up to do so.

Thank you Science Illustrated for that answer.  I can now sleep easier.  Or can I? Probably, as long as nothing (dog) wakens me up around four in the morning I should be fine.  Still, no doubt in that moment between being awake and falling asleep the unanswered questions in my mind will surface and I’ll feel compelled to share it with you.

Sorry about that.  Sweet dreams.