We, humans, have more than five senses and touch is one of them. Unlike other senses, the sense of touch doesn’t completely turn off while you are asleep. It stays half active which helps you wake up in case of an emergency.
However, it is still possible to touch someone without waking them up. For example, if you want to turn your sleeping partner onto their side. The trick to touch someone while they are asleep lies in three things: apply gentle pressure, move your hands or fingers slowly, and avoid direct contact with their skin.
In this post, we will be discussing how to keep someone asleep while touching them. Regardless, why you need this, you can find this information useful.
How does sleep work?
Before onto any further details, we need to first understand how sleep works. Here is a detailed explanation that will answer all your questions related to sleep.
We have a complex sleep cycle as it comprises multiple stages. It is mainly divided into two main categories including rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). This refers to the movement of your eyeballs beneath your eyelids while sleeping. Your eyeballs will either move rapidly or stay still.
Both REM and NREM make up a single sleep cycle. When you are asleep, your brain moves through different sequences. This can also be referred to as the different stages of sleep. Here are the details:
Wake: Stage 0
The wake stage happens just after you fall asleep. In this stage, you stay slightly awake. This is very common in adults.
Light Sleep: Stage 1 & 2
This is the stage where you transition into deeper stages of sleep. At this point, your breathing becomes slow, your muscles start to relax, and your heart rate becomes stable. When you are in this stage, you may experience lower body temperature, muscle jerks, and lighter breathing.
Deep Sleep: Stage 3 & 4
This is called the restorative sleep stage. At this point, your body promotes muscle growth and recover faster. You tend to feel disorientated when you suddenly wake up from this stage. During these stages, your body has a lower blood pressure level.
REM Sleep: Stage R
This stage is considered to be the most important one as it helps in re-energizing your mind. During this stage, we dream. However, you should know that this stage gradually decreases with age.
You may see vivid dreams, experience increased breathing, and blood flow to the genitals. By understanding this stage of sleep, you can understand how to touch someone without waking them up.
Every person has a different touch sense. While some people are more responsive, others are not. You should keep this in mind while touching someone when they are asleep.
What happens to your sense of touch when you are sleeping?
As mentioned before, the touch sense in humans is complex. It is not only determined by how you interact with things around you, but also the way you perceive factors such as wind, temperature, and other things.
The sense of touch becomes dimmed when sleeping. But it never turns off completely. This is why you can wake up someone by just touching.
The touch sense remains partially active, so you can wake up if there’s an emergency. But the sensitivity to touch may vary based on the sleep stage you are going through.
When you are in the deeper sleep stages, your brain becomes less aware of external stimuli. This is said to be the lowest point in the brain’s activity. During this stage, our body recovers faster and restores energy. Touching someone when they are in the deep sleep stage is the best option as there are lesser chances of them waking up.
In the Rapid Eye Movement stage, we see dreams. This is also called ‘paradoxical sleep’. That’s because our brain stays close to the waking state even if we are not moving much. Touching someone in this sleep stage can wake them up easily.
This means the NREM sleep stage is the best time to touch someone in their sleep. Those of you who were wondering how to touch someone in their sleep without waking them up, this should answer your question.
How your touch affects someone’s sleep quality?
The first thing you need to know is that every person has a different level of touch response. For instance, some are more sensitive to touch than others.
A more sensitive person is likely to wake up even from the slightest touch on their skin. But others may continue to sleep even when you are slapping them.
People who have a very sensitive nervous system such as someone from a certain illness, babies, or people with a mental disorder, usually find it difficult to fall asleep. So if you wake them up in the middle of the night, they will find it hard to fall asleep again. It is needless to say that deprivation or fragmented sleep can have a bad impact on your health.
This is why you should never wake up such a person from sleep unless it is not needed. But if you want to touch them without waking up, we have some tricks you can try.
How to understand if you can touch the person sleeping?
By now you already know that the sense of touch remains half active when you are asleep. This helps you to wake up in case of an emergency. Now the question is how to understand if a person can be touched while they are asleep.
For this, you need to determine the sleeping stage the person is in. As mentioned before, there are two sleeping stages and REM is the stage where a person can wake up from your touch.
Now you must be wondering how to keep someone asleep and touch them. Well, you can do so when the person is in the NREM stage. This is a deep sleep stage when our eyes and bodies are all motionless.
The NREM sleep stage can be divided into three sub-stages including deep sleep, moderate, and light.
The deep sleep stage is when a person is sleeping even after disturbance. To understand whether the person is in the deep sleep stage or not, you should look out for the following signs:
- A motionless and relaxed body
- Slow and deep breathing
- No motor reflexes
Touching Someone While They Are Sleeping: Four Different Scenarios
Sometimes you may feel the need to touch someone while they sleep. For example, you want to move someone on their side or to a more comfortable position while they are asleep. You can also feel the need to touch if you find someone sleeping in a dangerous position so that you can take them out of danger.
There are different situations where you may have to touch a sleeping person. In this section, we will discuss four common scenarios where you have to touch someone but without waking them up.
A snoozing partner or friend
Let’s say your friend is sleeping on the couch in a very uncomfortable position and you want to correct their sleeping position. So how do you do it without waking your friend?
The first thing you should do is check the sleeping stage they are in. You should look for obvious signs such as no eye movement and slow breathing. To confirm, you can raise your friend’s arm and drop it. If there is no response from your friend, it means he/she is in a deep sleep stage.
Now comes the difficult part where you need to move to your friend. Here’s is what you can do:
- Apply gentle push
You can start with a gentle push and then increase the pressure to turn the person on his/her side.
- Make one move at a time
Inspect your friend’s sleeping position to figure out how to accommodate them. You can use his/her natural inclination and push them into a cozier position. Gravity should make your task easier, so you don’t have to put in much effort.
- Make things cozier
If your friend is sleeping in an uncomfortable position, you can make things more comfortable for them. For example, you can add an extra blanket to keep them cozy. You can also remove the irritant and help your friend to adjust to a more comfortable sleeping position naturally.
Yes, babies look the cutest when they are asleep. But that doesn’t mean you will cuddle them in their sleep and wake them up.
Babies are way more sensitive to touch than adults. This is why you need to be very careful while touching them in their sleep. After all, you wouldn’t want to wake your baby up suddenly. This will leave them cranky and crying all night.
Sometimes you may feel the need to touch your little one. For example, to move him/her in a more comfortable sleeping position to check their body temperature. So how do you do it without waking them up?
Once again, you need to determine the sleeping stage your baby is in. Here’s what you should do:
- Check the breathing and eye movement
When a person is in the deep sleep stage, there is no eye movement beneath the lid. Also, they breathe deep and slow. This is the same for babies as well. If you notice any of these signs, you know that your baby is in a deep sleep. Now you can touch or move your baby gently without waking him/her up.
- Induce grasp reflex
It’s the motor neurons that control the grasp reflex. This has a reduced activity when a person is in the deep sleep stage. You can gently rub your baby’s palm and see if he/she grasps your finger.
- Move your baby’s hands
Another thing you can try is to lift your baby’s hand and drop it. Make sure you do it gently. If your little one is still asleep that means it is safe to move him/her.
But there are chances that your baby can wake up when you are moving them from one place to another. If this happens, just pat their tummy gently and make them feel relaxed. If your baby is advanced than others, then just wait for him/her to calm on their own.
So your partner occupies most of the space in bed while they are asleep. In this case, you may feel the need to move them away from you to their corner of the bed. But at the same time, you don’t want to upset them by ruining their sleep.
Well, you can easily deal with such inconvenient situations by following the steps below.
- The first thing you do is check and determine the sleeping stage your partner is in.
- Now try to regain your space by gently pushing them to the other side of the bed. Make sure you push them gently and then slowly increase the pressure.
- You can follow the same steps to move your partner away if he/she is a snorer. Sometimes, just their head to the side can stop the snoring.
Patient in hospital
Whether in the hospital or home, handling a patient is a tough job. Every patient is different and therefore, you have to deal with them differently. But in no way, you wouldn’t want to wake them up from their sleep. Because they may have a hard time falling asleep again.
But sometimes, you are left with no choice, but to touch them for checking their vital signs or to perform some procedure. In that case, you should follow these steps:
- For checking vital signs
While checking vital signs, you should maintain steady contact with the point you are applying pressure to. But make sure that you don’t move your hand too fast.
- For adjusting equipment
Some people can be very active even when they are asleep. They can move the cords and tubes attached to them without even knowing. In this case, you may have to adjust the attachments from time to time. While adjusting equipment make sure that you perform one step at a time. Also, don’t move your hands too quickly.
- For checking body temperature
To check the body temperature, gently place the backside of your palm onto the person’s forehead and gently press for a few seconds.
- For moving the patient
When it comes to moving a patient, you need to be very gentle and careful. You should start with a gentle touch and then slowly increase the pressure to move the person onto their side. Also, maintain steady contact with the person and keep your motions smooth.
In case, the patient is heavy, you may want to ask for help. You need to coordinate your movements with the person helping you to reduce any jerk movements.
Will a person wake up if you finger them?
Many of you want to know will someone wake up if you finger them. This is again based on two things: what sleeping stage they are in or how sensitive they are to touch.
Moving your fingers slightly over someone’s body will most likely not break their sleep. But if you do the same thing while applying more pressure, it can wake them up.
So if you want to comfort your partner or baby by touching them or sliding your fingers over their body, you should do it the right way. By now you already know how to determine a person’s sleeping stage.
Touching a person in their sleep without their consent is never a good thing. You should not use these techniques described in the article without the permission of the person. It doesn’t matter what type of relationship you share with them, you should never enter someone’s personal space especially when they are not awake. However, this excludes babies, patients, and people who genuinely need help in their sleep.
If your partner is making it difficult for you to sleep, you can move them away by gently pushing them. You can also move your baby from the bed to the crib. For this, you don’t need any permission. Not just that, but you can also touch a patient to check their vital signs or move them. These types of situations are completely fine.