If you’re like me, you have limited experience with anesthesia – and that’s exactly how you like it. I’ve only had to do it a few times and every one made me so nervous, because what if I just never woke up?

I think that understanding what goes on biologically during the process might go a long way toward making me feel better, so I researched it – now I’m sharing the details with you so you can go under with confidence, too!

There are four stages of being put under general anesthesia, the first of which is induction.

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This period takes place between when you are administered the anesthesia and when you actually fall unconscious. You’ll feel strange and detached from the situation, with a sense of tingling or lightness that increases as it works its way into your extremities.

It will become difficult to talk (or remember why you were trying to), and in the very last moments you’re conscious, you’ll stop feeling pain.

Stage two is known as the excitement stage, and honestly, it’s pretty weird. It’s a short phrase, one in which your body kind of freaks out but them immediately forgets the entire thing.

Your body recognizes the anesthesia as a foreign substance that interferes with its normal thinking, breathing, moving, and feeling functions and in a matter of moments your brain tries to counteract it with twitching, erratic breathing patterns, heart rate changes, and even vomiting.

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Then you’re moving on to stage three, surgical anesthesia – which actually puts you into a coma.

There is a difference between simply being unconscious and being in a coma. In the former, you brain still displays three stages of non-REM sleep on EEG readings, but with the latter, no such readings are apparent.

Here, the drugs shut down your nervous system, blocking pain signals to the brain so you can’t feel anything that’s going on. It slows your responses to certain stimuli, shutting off parts of our brain that respond to pain.

Your brain also won’t be able to talk to itself the way it normally would, a practice that keeps you aware and alert. Researchers think this is because anesthetics bind to the GABAA receptor in your brain, which turns what is usually chaos into an order that keeps you from trying to wake yourself up.

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Another part of your body that’s really impacted by general anesthesia is your spine. The drugs get into your blood stream, finding their way to your spine, and impairs the flow of neurological and electrical activity until you’re effectively paralyzed.

Occasionally, people experience a residual paralysis upon waking, so try not to panic if it happens to you.

Normally, you won’t be attached to a machine to control your breathing and heart rate. You’ll probably have a breathing mask instead, though some surgeons will opt for a tube down your throat if they feel i’s warranted.

Even if the tube is used/required, it should be removed long before you wake up.

During the entire process, an anesthesiologist will monitor your vitals, because things can and do go wrong. If you do vomit during that quick, second stage, it could lead to choking. Seizures are also a possibility during the second.

Once you’re in the third stage you could have a strong reaction, like fluid filling your lungs. Strokes are possible, allergic reactions can happen, and if you slip too far into stage four – where the medication overwhelms your body and your brain, nerves, and body are so suppressed that your heart and lungs stop working – quick and skilled intervention is necessary.

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For a majority of people, though, all you’ll remember is waking up in recovery – your brain essentially pushing the restart button.

The restart begins in little clumps or clusters, your brain coming back bit to bit, different areas coming back to life randomly, as your brain figures out how to connect to itself again.

Studies show that during the reboot process your brain may even revert briefly to a more primitive evolutionary state.

When you first wake up, you might still not feel right. Confusion is common, your motor skills might be lagging, and people often feel agitated or distressed (I wake up crying!).

You might not remember those first moments, though, because the part of your brain that creates and stores memories doesn’t revive as quickly or effectively as some more essential parts.

You’ll likely be pain free for awhile, too.

There you go! Try not to be nervous, and take heart – for the vast majority of people, a morning spent under anesthesia is nothing more than a much-needed nap.