What's it like to be rendered unconscious by physical force?

I was thinking today about a really dumb and possibly dangerous initiation process done at a military school I attended where they attempted to cut off blood flow to your brain in order to render you unconscious for a short time. I know in MMA, people will lose consciousness if they are choked out before they submit or a ref stops it, and of course in boxing people occasionally get knocked completely unconscious.

So for those of you who have experienced it, what’s it like? For me, it wasn’t like sleep at all. It was as if I didn’t exist, and then I did exist again. I had the impression of a great deal of time passing, even though only 3 seconds had passed.

Also, I’d welcome comments about the science of unconsciousness vs. the state of sleep. From what I understand, unconsciousness produced by chemicals, such as during an operation, is more like sleep, whereas unconsciousness caused by physical trauma is something completely different.

Being put in a sleeper hold, as you mentioned, is like being asleep for quite a while when it’s really only a few seconds. I’ve seen youtube videos of people being knocked out and waking up almost before they make it to the floor and thinking they were out for 45 minutes or so.

As for being knocked out for an operation, that’s not at all like a ‘deep sleep’. I’ve had ‘twilight sedation’ for endoscopes (3 times) and regular sedation for actual surgery. I believe versed was used in twilight cases and I know it was used in the surgery (it was the last thing I remember). But in all cases the time is erased, you blink and it’s over, they inject something into you and then you wake up. There’s nothing particularly restful about it because it was like nothing happened.

To be extra clear about the difference, when I was out I coudn’t tell you if was 45 minutes or 12 hours, it literally felt like seconds. In fact, in the case of the surgery I remember waking up and thinking ‘why does my shoulder hurt, musta slept funny…oh, I finally had that surgery’.

My experience was unpleasant, to be sure. It occurred due to a plane crash, and I went from thinking “I’m going to die!” to thinking “why does everything hurt so horribly?”

I certainly did not mistake the interval between those thoughts for sleep. Why I knew it wasn’t sleep, I am not sure. But it definitely was apparent to me.

I wigged out at the dentist one time. I wasn’t being hurt at all, it was a cleaning. But when I stood up from the reclining chair the next thing I remember was laying on the floor and the dentist and hygienist arguing about what happened. I was fine, but I shook those folks up. I just stood up too quick. It felt like I missed time, but I didn’t, it was about 3 seconds. The lil’wrekker faints a lot, we are always catching her on the way down. She has been examined by her doctor a couple of times for it. Maybe a slight anemia is all they say. She says she feels like she is floating in a dark sky. Kinda poetic, don’t you think?

I got rear ended at a stop light a few years ago and was out for a few seconds. I had no idea I was out at all until my girlfriend told me I was. I didn’t even know we got hit.

I have been knocked out from blows to the head where I was aware of the blow but had no idea how long I was out, I doubt it was more than a few seconds.

Like Joey, I’ve been put under for surgery once and to have all four wisdom teeth removed at the same time. It was weird, for the teeth, there was the mask with instructions to breath deep and count backwards from 10 (almost made it to 8) and then there was a period of not quite awake, but conscious enough that I was talking to the girl who went in right before me. For the surgery, I don’t even remember being administered any drugs, then I was sort of woke up about half-wayish through and then I was waking up in the recovery room talking to the attending nurse about repairing the vitals monitor. For that procedure, I had the impression of time passing, seemed like it was forever, but that was probably because they woke me up in the middle of it.

Ummm, passed out once as a kid, thought I had fallen out of my sleeping loft, when I was actually sitting in my mom and dads bed reading the sunday comics from the newspaper.
Knocked myself out on a door. The neighbors were having blown-in insulation put in their house and I somehow managed to walk into the back door of the contractor’s truck. Woke up in my mom’s lap on our front porch with no memory of that day up to that point. It was like I went to bed the night before and POOF it was suddenly late afternoon the next day with no interval at all. (had a hell of a shiner too) In both those cases I was out for a few minutes apparently. Long enough for the next door neighbor doctor to be fetched in the first case and for my friends to carry me a block and a half to my house in the second case.

Back when I was kickboxing, I got clobbered pretty hard while sparring and had an entire dream sequence which in reality was about 3 secs. I didn’t fall over or anything, but I was dazed on my feet.

I’ve been rendered unconscious through means other than natural sleep twice, that I am aware of.

The first was when I was working n a drainage pipe in my yard. I have a bi-level house, with the second story jutting out a few feet from the first. I had a trench dug in my yard, and went to hop over it. I remember lifting off with my feet, then I was wondering why it was suddenly so bright. I quickly realized that that was because my sunglasses were over there ---->, but I didn’t know how they go there. Then I realized I was laying down in the trench that I had dug, and started feeling a throbbing coming from my head.

Turned out that I had smacked the top of my head into the corner of the siding on the house, denting it quite badly. Had a bit of a concussion from that.

The other time I’ve been rendered unconscious was when I had my wisdom teeth out. It was a bit of an involved process, as we were waiting on the cadaver bone to become available, so I was sitting in the chair, breathing nitrous for quite a while. I kept cracking up at stuff, especially when the dentist tried to turn on the light, which didn’t turn on, and he ended up calling several others to help fix it. I had to blurt out “how many dentists does it take to change a lightbulb?”. Finally, the bone was on its way, so they went ahead and poked a needle in the back of my hand and told me to start counting back from 10. At first, I resisted the effects, but realized that I probably shouldn’t, and I got down to 8 before going under. Or at least, that’s the last number I remember saying before I woke up with my mouth stretched to its breaking point, and the dentist’s both hands inside of it. The noticed that quickly, and the next I remember is being helped up out of the chair. I remember feeling anxious, as if I was running behind for something, and needed to get going quickly, but that may have been just them rushing me out so they could get the next patient in (apparently, my surgery went way over schedule).

Anyway, point is, I don’t really remember any time in between bouts of consciousness in either case, it was just here one instant, somewhere else the next.

I was once unconscious from a snow sledding incident. I was going down a hill in a snow saucer, and hit two big bumps. The first bump sent me slightly in the air and then when I hit the second one a shock went up my spine and knocked me out. Probably less than a minute. It was not at all like waking up from sleep. It was more like that time was just missing. I also had mild amnesia afterwards. I wasn’t sure what day or time it was or what had happened, although some memory came back later.

Brain activity during sleep has been studied pretty intensely and there is a lot understood about the cycles, REM sleep, and so forth. I do not know a thing about brain activity after you’ve been knocked out but I am guessing it’s quite different. In sleep the brain is responsible for this state and manages it, whereas with trauma it’s a victim and not in control.

I’ve had twilight sleep for endoscopy. I’ve been put under for surgery. And I’ve been knocked out by a shot to the brachial plexus origin. The first two were far more pleasant.

It sucks really hard. I had a talk with my step-dad as an adult just before he died and enjoyed hearing him cry and beg for my forgiveness.

He made us kids fetch beers for him at the snap of a finger or pay dearly for any delay.

His favorite punishment was the “choke out”.

He worked at the state hospital on a ward and enjoyed bringing his work (and a twelve pack) home.

My mother never saw this happen but she was being abused too.

I was knocked unconscious for a few minutes in an oil rig accident. We were pulling something out of the water with a winch and the cable parted. It hit my hardhat with enough force to knock me out. I fell to the deck and knocked out some of my teeth (I hit some deck hardware on the way down, not the flat deck plate, got me a nice slash just below my eye too). According to them, I was completely out for a minute or two, then woke up.

From my perception, I was standing on the deck awaiting the winch, then I was groggily looking up at a bunch of guys around with my ears ringing and my mouth and throat full of something sharp (the remnants of my teeth). There was nothing in between the two events for me.

It’s not like the movies. You don’t get up after you come to and resume your normal day. It took several days to return to normal balance and awareness. They loaded me onto a supply boat and I spent the next three days throwing up and trying to protect the exposed nerve endings in my mouth. The crew was all Norwegian and spoke no English, but I was able to communicate my plight and they supplied me with soft stuff to eat (soup, bread, etc.).

At school, I was strangled unconscious in a playground.
Last thing I remember was thinking I was going to die.
I woke up lying in a puddle (probably just a few seconds had passed) and felt very relieved.

As Pullin said, there was nothing in-between.

See “Space Monkey.” When I was a kid at Boy Scout summer camp, we did this a few times via the second method described at that link: hyperventilate until you’re dizzy, then hold your breath while someone gives you a bear hug from behind. Once you go limp, the bear hugger gently lays you down on the ground. I don’t remember the transition to unconsciousness, but I do remember auditory and visual experiences during unconsciousness that slowly faded away as normal consciousness was restored; it definitely wasn’t like the sorts of dreams I have during normal sleep. I don’t recall how long I was actually unconscious on the ground, but at the end the gradual transition to consciousness took maybe ten seconds, and it took that long for me to accept reality as being real.

Yes, that’s exactly what was done to me now that I recall it better. I also don’t remember the transition, nor what I might have seen during being out, but I do remember what felt like being born. As if I’d been gone a long time, or perhaps had never even been before that moment, and now here I was.

I was rendered unconscious by being beaten over the head with a blunt object.

I not only don’t remember that, I don’t remember an interval of time prior to that, I don’t remember entering the hallway where the assault occurred, I don’t remember being picked up off the floor, I remember nothing of the next day, a bit of the second day after, and fuzzy recollections from the third.

It was NOT like getting versed - that was like a switch that turned me off then turned me back on again, with no lingering fuzziness or headache. Post-concussion was very much headache and fuzzy memories although I was told I spoke normally and coherently from within a half an hour of regaining consciousness.

It is not an experience I care to repeat. Hence my wearing of things like bike and motorcycle helmets.

Holy shit! Care to share that story?

Hit by a cricket ball to the head. Out for 2 years. Or actually more like 2 seconds per everybody else. But it felt like two years. And at the same time it felt that no time had passed at all, like a scene had been cut in a movie. How can both be experienced at the same time.

When I was around 10 or so, I was hit in the side of the head by a line drive on a hit and run play. It knocked me out for a few seconds, I only remember running and then opening my eyes and seeing everyone huddled around me, the pain in my head and nausea hit a few seconds after that.
Fast forward 20 or so years and I was put into a chemically induced coma. I was out for 6 weeks. When I woke up, I felt like I had woken up after sleeping in on a weekend. The reality of being out for 6 weeks took a while to sink in. In fact, I flat denied it and thought it was a really elaborate joke until my wife told me to feel the hair on my head. I had been shaving my head daily for several years, but when I reached up, I had enough hair to grasp onto.