Decoding The Science Behind Closing Of The Eyes During Sneezing

2,153 Views Updated: 31 Jul 2017
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Decoding The Science Behind Closing Of The Eyes During Sneezing

We all love to sleep like babies and enjoy a good night's sleep after a long, long day at work. However, people often sneeze while sleeping. That tickling sensation in your nose and the pressure in your chest serve as a warning that you are about to sneeze really loudly. Your instant reaction is to close your eyes and cover your mouth. While covering your mouth is quite understandable as it prevents germs from transmitting from your mouth as you sneeze at a speed of 75 to 100 miles per hour, closing your eyes has always befuddled people. Is it an instant reaction of the body or there is a deeper, logical and more scientific reason as to why we always close our eyes before sneezing.

Is it an instant reaction of the body or there is a deeper, logical and more scientific reason as to why we always close our eyes before sneezing. Head over to read what the studies and researchers have to say about this augmented problem.

Urban myth

If you ask a young kid as to why we close our eyes while sneezing, he will tell you it’s because it prevents the eyes from falling out of the socket. Might sound funny but many parents including ours always gave us this insane reason to explain the mechanics of closing eyes before sneezing. This urban myth is backed by no logical reasoning whatsoever. This myth seems to have started after an 1882 story surfaced where a woman traveling in a taxi had a sudden fit of sneezes and her eyeball popped out. This phenomenon is also called as eyeball subluxing. This rare problem only happens to those who suffer from weak eye muscle and simply sneezing won’t make your eyeballs fall out. Also, simply closing keeping your eyelids closed will not prevent the eyeballs from popping out as the eyelids are not strong enough to do that. Six extra-ocular muscles actually hold the eye in the socket making it virtually impossible for them to fall out.

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Deep Tendon Reflex

Whenever you sneeze, the eyes automatically close. It is an involuntary response or to put it more specifically an involuntarily reflex. When our brain sends the muscle message, a part of the message is to close our eyes. This is quite similar to a Deep Tendon Reflex. In a normal person, when their muscle is tapped briskly, it immediately contracts due to a two-neuron reflex arc involving the spinal or brainstem segment that innervates the muscle. Simply putting, it is simply an uncontrolled body response very similar to how your knee jerks when the physician taps on it with a tiny hammer.

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Prying your eye open during sneezing

It is a common body response to close your eyes during sneezing and your muscles only act as the brain commands them to. If you actually try to keep your eyes open during the act of sneezing then firstly rest assured that your eyes will not be popping out of the socket. Instead, they would remain firmly in, and it would take a vast amount of effort to work against natural body reflexes to keep your eyes open. You will have to use your fingers to force your eyelids apart while sneezing to actually keep your eyes open as the body puts as much force as it can muster to clear out the nasal airways.

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Keeping the soul intact

If keeping your eyes open won’t affect your eyelids then there is no way your soul would leave your body if you are not careful sneezing. The story though was different in the ancient times when people believed that soul was made of air and lived inside the head and can be accidentally dispelled if one sneezes with eyes open. In middle ages, illness was very frequent so someone sneezing could ring warning bells hence to counter the danger; people said God bless you. In the modern age, people believe that the heart momentarily stops beating when you sneeze.

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What other common bodies and sneeze-related myths do you know of? Share them with us using the comment box given below. We look forward to your opinions.

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