Does your heart really stop every time you sneeze?

You sneeze and your body reacts. Your eyes squeeze closed and your heart seems to jump. Did your heart just stop?


According to the UAMS’ Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, your heart doesn’t exactly stop.


When you sneeze, the intrathoracic pressure in your body momentarily increases. This will decrease the blood flow back to the heart. The heart compensates for this by changing its regular heart beat momentarily to adjust. However, the electrical activity of the heart does not stop during the sneeze.

Cardiologist Dr. David Rutlen would agree with this logic. However, he says that when this change happens, the heart could momentarily stop.

“This is something comparable to a valsalva maneuver,” Dr. Rutlen says. “Built up pressure in the chest can cause a vagal reaction pertaining to the vagus nerve, which is part of the nervous system that control the heart, that slows down the heart. The heart could hold in place for several seconds.”

Even if it’s possible for the heart to stop, Dr. Rutlen says that this is nothing to be concerned about.

To learn more about the personalized care provided by our doctors using state-of-the-art equipment and technology, please visit our medical services section and cardiology services.

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