What Is Twilight Sleep That's Caused By Anesthesia?

Twilight sleep occurs when a patient is given both local anesthesia and sedation (via Medbelle). It was a common form of anesthesia for women during childbirth back in the early to mid-20th century (via Medical Humanities). Moms-to-be were given a cocktail of morphine and scopolamine to induce twilight sleep.

This type of sedation helped facilitate a "painless birth," according to Business Insider. It kept the woman alert yet drowsy, and sometimes, it erased the memory of the experience altogether. However, the practice fell out of favor with clinicians due to evidence that it was harmful and could depress the baby's central nervous system. Also known as "conscious sedation," some say this technique is a dying practice (via World Journal of Gastroenterology).

A form of twilight sedation is still used during some medical or dental procedures, reports Medbelle. A doctor administers a safe local anesthetic medication to block out the pain from a targeted area of the body and a sedative to help the patient relax. The combination of the two causes the patient to feel drowsy and calm while remaining conscious and aware. The patient is able to respond to instructions and may still experience sensations throughout their body.

The possible risks and complications

Nowadays, twilight sedation can be used for various types of surgeries, including biopsies, minor bone repair, or foot surgery, notes MedlinePlus. It's often considered to be safer than general anesthesia, per Medbelle. Not only is the recovery process shorter and less complex, but the process tends to be less daunting.

A local anesthetic is usually given via an injection into a muscle, per Medbelle. This can also be administered as a cream that's applied topically to the skin. Although you're awake, you may not be able to talk during this process (via MedlinePlus). Some people may experience breathing difficulties if they're given too much anesthesia, in which case they could need an oxygen mask.

The side effects and risks of twilight sedation are generally low, says Medbelle. These may include nausea, dizziness, headaches, soreness, muscle weakness, and strange tingling sensations. It's rare that the complications of twilight sedation can be life-threatening. On the more severe end of the spectrum, people can experience paralysis, an allergic reaction, or death. Any symptoms you experience will wane and subside shortly after surgery, but it's important to reach out to your healthcare provider if they linger.