Suffocation is a game mechanic which occurs when a player or mob's upper body is inside a solid block, preventing them from breathing, similar to realistic causes of suffocation. Suffocation can also occur by having your upper body in water for long enough that your air meter has become empty. When a player dies of suffocation, the contents of their Inventory will spill out onto the ground and remain somewhere near or inside the block where he/she died.
Sources of suffocation
- Drowning of a Mob or Player in Water.
- Sand or Gravel is arguably the most common way of suffocation after water. Standing directly under sand or gravel when it is falling will cause it to begin suffocating the player once it makes direct contact with them.
- Riding a Boat, Minecart or Pig or throwing an Ender Pearl into a 1 block high area.
- Using Bonemeal on Mushrooms or saplings to instantly grow them directly under a mob or player.
- Using faulty piston mechanisms.
- Standing or swimming where Water and Lava are about to make contact could place an Obsidian, Stone or Cobblestone block where your head is, causing you to suffocate.
- Squids suffocate outside of water.
- Tamed Wolves and Cats might suffocate when they teleport to their owner, if they teleport directly into a wall.
- There is a glitch that can cause a player to suffocate whilst walking down a diagonal stone tunnel for no apparent reason.
- Sleeping in a bed with blocks one block above ground adjacent to it may cause you to suffocate when you wake up.
Preventing Drowning in Water
When a player or mob is submerged in water long enough that their air meter has fully emptied, their health bar starts to lose half a heart every second. Other than simply swimming up to the water's surface every so often for air, there are a few situations where a player can stay underwater for a longer period, even indefinitely, effectively preventing suffocation:
- A Potion of Water Breathing will temporarily prevent a player's air meter from depleting, allowing him/her to stay underwater until it wears off.
- Eating a Notch Apple will grant the player a similar temporary Water Breathing effect as the potion mentioned above.
- The Respiration enchantment allows a player to stay underwater for a longer period before succumbing to drowning, as the air meter will drain at a slower rate. However, this will not make the player completely immune to drowning, as he/she will still eventually run out of air.
- Staying in close enough proximity to a Beacon which has the Water Breathing status effect enabled, will make the player immune to drowning, allowing him/her to stay underwater indefinitely.
- The best way to avoid suffocation from gravel or sand when mining is to first place a Torch directly under the blocks you expect to fall, and then mine the blocks above it. The falling gravel or sand will drop as an item when it hits the torch.