Can You Lose Consciousness While Sleeping?

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Woman sleeping with her hand under her head - Can You Lose Consciousness While Sleeping?

Consciousness and sleep are two words that are often used together when discussing sleep cycles and what happens in them.

A popular assumption is that we do lose consciousness as we fall asleep until the dreams begin to kick in. In other words, until we reach REM sleep, we are unconscious.

But is that accurate? Do we lose consciousness while sleeping? This is something that is very interesting to a lot of people and important if you are looking to improve your sleep and prepare your body.

So if this is something you’re interested in, we thought we’d take a deep dive into this and see what consciousness and sleep have to do with each other.


What Does Losing Consciousness Mean?

Before we get into understanding how consciousness and sleep relate to each other, we have to really understand what loss of consciousness means. In its purest sense, the loss of consciousness means the loss of being able to fill yourself and everything around you.

This loss of consciousness can be something for an extended period, which in medical terms tends to be called a coma.

But the loss of consciousness can also be for a very short amount of time as well. This loss of consciousness is also known as syncope or blacking out.


Does It Happen Every Time You Fall Asleep?

So there’s a loss of consciousness when you’re falling asleep every time you fall asleep? The answer is yes, according to many scientists and experts.

Consciousness is lost when we fall asleep, that is, until we dream. This is when the cognitive abilities of our brain begin to function again, almost like a reboot.

So the length of unconsciousness is what varies from person to person. For example, suppose you fall asleep quickly and drop into REM sleep fast. However, if you’re someone who struggles to get into REM sleep, that unconscious state will be quite a bit longer.


How Long Does It Take to Happen?

So following that train of thought, if you’re unconscious while falling asleep is only until you start dreaming, then the amount of time that it takes for you to start dreaming is how long the unconsciousness will last.

Most adults will take anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes to get into a deep sleep. However, some fall asleep within minutes, and this in and of itself is not a great thing either.

If this is a persistent issue, it could be because you’re not getting enough sleep or quality sleep or a sign of a medical condition.

Either way, as we said, the length of time it takes for you to slip into unconsciousness is tied directly to the length of time it takes you to fall asleep.

That unconscious state will last until your body and brain can drop into REM sleep, and that is when you begin to be self-aware once again.


Is Losing Consciousness While Sleeping the Same as REM Phase?

Losing consciousness while sleeping is one of the many steps our bodies go through to get us into the deep sleep that we need to recoup and heal ourselves from the rigors of the day.

Loss of consciousness takes place from the moment your eyes shut, and you begin to fall asleep to create waves and fall into the REM phase of your sleep cycle.

So that in and of itself means that the two are very different. The best way to understand this is that when you lose consciousness, you do not know what is happening around you, and you have no sense of yourself.

As you begin to drop into REM sleep, the consciousness wakes up, and you are aware of your surroundings as well as your being.


Can You Lose It While Being Awake?

Loss of consciousness can happen even when you’re awake. Many things can cause this, from a spike in blood sugar to any number of other medical conditions. A loss of consciousness is what happens when you faint or pass out.

Short spurts of unconsciousness can be harmless and an indication of the simple changes in your lifestyle that need to be made.

But the prolonged loss of consciousness can be far more serious, and you should consult a physician at that point. In fact, any type of unconsciousness should result when you seek out medical consultation.


Final Thoughts on Can You Lose Consciousness While Sleeping

According to most experts, losing consciousness is part of the sleep process. So not being aware of where you are or even of your body is normal.

However, if you are sleeping and you get to that phase but never continue to the REM phase of your sleep, then it is cause for concern, and you should definitely seek out medical help.