How to touch someone in their sleep without waking them up

How to touch someone in their sleep without waking them up

Unlike other senses, the touch sense does not turn off while you are asleep, instead, it remains active in case of an emergency which requires you to immediately wake up. 

Despite this, it is possible to touch someone while they are asleep without waking them, for example, if you want to move them away from you or turn them onto their side.

This article will, therefore, aim to cover the following topics:

  • Touching someone while they sleep without waking them up

  • How to wake up without waking up your partner

Topics covered on this page

How does sleep actually work?

The first step in understanding how to keep someone asleep while you touch them is to understand how sleep actually works. Our sleep cycle is complex and has many stages to it.

Traditionally, sleep has been divided into two categories: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM).

As their names would suggest, these stages refer to the movement of your eyes beneath your eyelids during sleep, they either remain still or move rapidly as you sleep.

Together, NREM sleep and REM sleep make up a single cycle, wherein your brain moves through the following sequences: wake, light sleep, deep sleep, REM, repeat. 

Here is a video that explains more about REM sleep.

The information below provides a brief overview of the stages of sleep and what to expect during these stages.

Stage 0 – Wake:

This stage occurs before and just after you fall asleep, as well as including any brief moments of being awake during the night, and are completely normal for a healthy adult.

Stage 1 & 2 – Light Sleep

This stage initiates the sleep cycle, acting as a transition to deeper stages of sleep. It is at this time that your muscles begin to relax, your heart rate and breathing rate slow down, and you are more likely to be awoken. You may experience muscle jerks, lower body temperature, and lighter breathing.

Stages 3 & 4: Deep Sleep

These stages are the most restorative when your body can recover and promote muscle growth. If awoken at this stage, you will likely feel groggy or disorientated. You may experience lower blood pressure during these stages.

Stage R: REM Sleep:

This stage is crucial in re-energising the mind, and is when dreaming occurs. Alongside dreaming, learning is consolidated, although time spent in this stage usually decreases over time with age. 

You may experience increased breathing, lack of temperature regulations, vivid dreams, and blood flow to the genitals.

Understanding these stages can help you understand how to keep someone asleep while touching them. 

This is important if you want to move someone while they sleep, without disturbing them, particularly if they are in an uncomfortable position or potential danger.

More importantly, everyone has a different sense of touch, and some people may be more responsive than others. Despite this, we hope this article provides some useful tips to allow you to touch someone while they are in a deep sleep without waking them.

Touching someone while they sleep

If you have a newborn baby, the last thing you want to do while they are sleeping is to wake them. So, in order to check their temperature or move them without disturbing their sleep, first, check their eyes.

If your baby’s eyes are moving rapidly beneath their eyelids, then they are in the REM stage of sleep. Another way to check is to gently pick up and drop their arm from a small height, and if this does not wake them, then you are probably OK to move them.

If, however, your baby does wake up, gently rub their stomach until they fall asleep, and if you do need to move them, maintain contact until the baby is settled to prevent any disturbance.

"If you have a sleeping partner who is a deep sleeper and snores, takes up your side of the bed, or all of the bed, then you may need to move them without waking them up"

If you have a sleeping partner who is a deep sleeper and snores, takes up your side of the bed, or all of the bed, then you may need to move them without waking them up. This can not only prevent unwanted arguments in the middle of the night but ensure that your partner and yourself get a good, deep sleep.

It is completely normal to move throughout the night – in fact, scientists believe it is an evolutionary adaptation to prevent injury from pressure sores. If your partner begins to infringe on your side of the bed, then gently, and slowly, push them to encourage them to roll over or move.

At first, begin with a light touch and slowly increase the pressure if they do not move, or if a particular body part – such as arm, leg or back – are in the way. If you want to move their whole body, then push their back and or shoulder to encourage them to turn over, without making too much noise as to wake them.

Further, if your partner begins to sore during the night and you find that this is affecting your quality of sleep, then you can gently push them to relieve any pressure causing the snoring.

touching someone while they sleep

If you begin to notice any signs of them waking up, such as a change in breathing rate or small muscle jerks, then tone down the pressure in your pushes until they are asleep again. And, if this does not work, then try communicate with your partner before you both fall asleep since this might help if you do have to wake them in the night to move over.

If you are a healthcare worker who looks after an ill patient, then getting vitals and moving them into a proper position that is comfortable for them while they sleep can be both difficult and stressful.

However, by following some easy steps, you might find it easier to move them with little disturbance. Firstly, if you need to take some vitals, begin by gently checking their eyelids for any related signs of rapid eye movement sleep. If you can determine that they are in a deep enough sleep to proceed, then do so.

If you are unsure, you can gently pick up their arm and drop it from a small height, and if this does not disturb them, then you are OK to proceed. By also maintaining a constant amount of contact with a point of pressure, you might prevent them from waking, for instance, while you measure their pulse or take blood pressure.

If you need to move the patient into a new position while on their mattress, for instance into the recovery position while they sleep, then follow the steps outlined previously. 

As well as this, use the patient’s natural instinct to turn to your own advantage, and begin this by encouraging movement with a slight application of gentle pressure while keeping contact as you move them.

How to wake up without waking your partner

If you need to get up before your partner, for instance, if you start work earlier than them, then you probably do not want to wake them from their sleep.

One particular option is the silent alarm, which can wake you without waking your partner or someone else you are sleeping near or with. 

These can come in many different forms and price ranges, so it is best to look around and find a product that is suitable for your budget.

If you do not like sleeping with wires, then try out some wireless earphones. And if you don’t like sleeping with earphones in, then try to set an alarm that begins at a lower volume, and gradually increases until you wake up.

Remember, there are many signs to look out for in people who are sleeping that might indicate they are waking up. These can include changes in breathing and increased activity.

However, you can also look out for signs that they are in a deep sleep, such as heavier breathing and REM.


You should never use the techniques described in this article without the consent of the person, no matter your relationship with that person. This can be very invasive of their privacy and you should always ask for their consent beforehand.

If your partner is causing you to have difficulty sleeping, then make sure you have a conversation with them about this, and ask them if it OK that you move them sometimes in their sleep if they are disturbing you.

If you are a health care worker then it is likely that the patients have been informed and are aware that they may require moving at times, and the reasons for this.

They do have the chance to reject this and can be in complete control of their treatment plan, however, and can consent to some aspects of treatment and not to others.

Finally, moving someone while they sleep does not have to mean that you wake them up. You can use the useful tips outlined in this guide along with the person’s instinct to move throughout sleep as a way to improve both yours and your partner’s sleep.

Ultimately, you should not have to worry about waking your baby or patient up, since it is possible to move them without waking them if you practice the tips and look out for the signs of waking up while respecting their privacy.

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