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I read the following quote in a paper:

When you sneeze, all your body functions temporarily stop working. That also includes you heart beat.

There is of course no explanation, reason, source, or reference of any sort. Is this really true? I don't have a heart rate monitor at my hands fast enough when the urge to sneeze comes up, so I can't test for myself.

If it is really true, I would also like to understand why.

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If this is a quote from the paper then a link/title/citation would be highly appreciated. – Konrad Rudolph Sep 15 '11 at 9:28
Anecdotally, when a patient sneezes while attatched to an ekg, we usually don't even see a pause in heart rate, just motion artifact caused by the sudden movement – Monkey Tuesday Sep 16 '11 at 3:19
@Konrad Rudolph: I cannot find it online, it was some time ago, plus it was not in English. They did also not mention any source. – BaGi Sep 16 '11 at 6:14
up vote 32 down vote accepted


From the Library of Congress:

Dr. Block said that what is called the Valsalva maneuver, the creation of positive pressure in the chest when sneezing or coughing, is a complex and fairly violent physiological process. It may change the rhythm of the heart beat, he said, but it does not stop the heart.

So where did the myth originate that your heart stops when you sneeze? The changing pressure in your chest due to sneezing also changes your blood flow, which may change the rhythm of your heartbeat. Dr. Richard Conti, past president of the American College of Cardiology, speculates that the belief that the heart actually comes to a stop during a sneeze could result from the sensation of having the heart "skip a beat." When there is a prolonged delay before the heart's next beat, he said, that beat is then more forceful and more noticeable, perhaps as a funny sensation in the throat or upper chest (Ray, 1992).

Found the original article from the NY Times.

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Correct. On an ekg you'll usually not even ser a pause if the patient sneezes (anecdotal, I know) – Monkey Tuesday Sep 16 '11 at 3:14
@MonkeyTuesday: would be nice to find an image of an ECG or EKG during a sneeze. – nico Oct 16 '11 at 6:04
@nico it's usually distorted by motion artifact from the sneeze, but if i run across a good one, I'll share it. – Monkey Tuesday Oct 16 '11 at 8:26

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