What It's Like to Be Buried Alive

In film and television, people get buried alive all the time, and most characters make it out unscathed. That's not at all what being buried alive is actually like. 

It's rare anyone survives such a horrible fate, and those who do suffer irreparable damage to their bodies and minds. Some survivors aren’t able to walk without the help of physical therapy, while some can’t speak the same, due to the lack of oxygen while buried. Survivor accounts help the rest of us understand what being buried alive is like.

On this list we’re going to take a look at what it's actually like to be buried alive. So start taking shallow breaths, and continue reading for some live burial facts, and to find out what it's like to be buried alive. 

  • You Have a Panic Attack

    You Have a Panic Attack
    Photo: The Vanishing / Argos Films

    This may be obvious, but whether you wake up in a coffin with nothing but a cell phone, find yourself stuck in an abandoned mine, or get buried in the sand, odds are you're first going to experience a severe panic attack, which will more than likely use up most of your air. Of which, if you're in a standard coffin, you've probably got about a little over 800 liters at your disposal. And the more you panic, the more air you lose. Seems like there's never been a better time to start learning controlled breathing than right now. 

  • You're Going to Over-Exert Your Muscles

    You're Going to Over-Exert Your Muscles
    Photo: Kill Bill: Volume 2 / Miramax Films

    Upon waking up in a coffin and realizing you're likely going to die in a confined space kicks your natural instincts for self-preservation into overdrive. But kicking, punching, or a combination of the two is a very bad idea, not just because all of the air it wastes, but also because you'll over-exert your muscles, tiring yourself out faster than you would if you stay calm. 

  • Your Eyes Adjust to the Dark

    Your Eyes Adjust to the Dark
    Photo: Timothy Smith / United States Navy / Public Domain

    If you find yourself buried alive, there's good news and bads. The good? Your eyes will eventually adjust to see in the dark. The bad? It's because you've been trapped underground for so long that your body has had no other option than to adapt.

    In 2005, three Pakistani boys became trapped underground after an earthquake struck their nearby town. After they were rescued, the boys had to be shielded from the sunlight because their eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness. 

  • Things Are Going to Heat Up

    Things Are Going to Heat Up
    Photo: Buried / Lionsgate

    In 2008, a Chinese builder was accidentally buried alive while working in a ditch in Ningbo City. He survived by controlling his breathing. But after he was rescued, he brought up something that most people don't think about when the topic of premature burial is broached: the intense heat.

    He explained, "Later, it became very hot and suffocating. I thought I might not make it back to the surface."

    A person's normal body temperature is already 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and it makes sense that even if you're handling premature burial as best you can, your own breath is going to heat things up significantly.