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Have you ever been laying down in your bed after hours, just about to drift away and fall asleep while suddenly your body decides that it has its own approach? It shakes you awake and right out of the blue, you start feeling your heart racing. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, rest assured that you’re not the only one and this is something a lot more common than you think.
You’ve fallen victim to something which is quite natural. It’s called a hypnic jerk or a sleep twitch, and while it might be entirely normal, this doesn’t make it any more pleasant. It is defined as nothing but an involuntary twitch which tends to happen just as you are about to step into dreamland. While it comes with a few different names, they all stand for the same thing.
What is Hypnic (Hypnagogic) Jerking?
This relates to the actual movement as well as the feeling that you will come to experience. Its main characteristic is that it is sudden and it could easily disrupt your bedtime, leaving you feeling wide awake after the time of the jerk.
Some people would lash out or move their legs and arms as well while others would jump up or twitch ever so slightly. In very few cases, though, this same sleep twitch is accompanied by a scream or shout as your body reacts to the violent nature of this phenomenon.
As we’ve mentioned before, the hypnic jerk has a few variations of its name. It is commonly referred to as hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, night start or a regular sleep twitch. While the names might differ, these are pretty much the same names describing one condition.
Additionally, it is also called myoclonus or myoclonic jerk – this is the actual medical term which is used to describe that particular involuntary muscle twitch.
Check out this amazing video made by SciShow if you want to know more about this:
Now, the thing that you ought to consider is that this is not an actual condition or disorder. Even though we will elaborate more on that down below, it’s important to note it. Therefore, there are no symptoms as per the medical definition of the term.
The most obvious thing to consider is that you are likely to wake up if the twitch is considerable. Apart from that, mild jerks are not going to affect your bedtime. However, what’s characteristic about them as seen from the side is that they are uncontrolled and they don’t seem to have a connection of any kind. Hence, you could twitch your pinky toe and your left arm one after another.
When it comes to the actual causes, it is quite important to note that there are a lot of theories behind them. Unfortunately, no one has currently been able to identify the most definitive answer to this problem which seems to be as old as time.
The AAOSM, however, studied this particular issue and the scientists have already come up with a few potential causes. Some of them include stress, coffee, anxiety as well as exercising late at night. Even though these twitches happen to people with certain bad sleeping habits, they also tend to take place within completely normal and healthy-living individuals as well.
Tips to Cure Hypnagogic Jerk
One of the first things you could potentially do is avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Even if you get some refreshing coffee in the afternoon, this could have a serious effect on your overnight sleep. The lack of the latter, on the other hand, could easily cause a hypnic jerk.
It would be most reasonable for you to keep caffeine down to a minimum and if you need to have it, make sure that you do so in the morning and make sure that you avoid it past midday. This would give you best crank at getting rid of the jerks.
This is another thing that you might want to consider. Saying no to the sweet nectar would allow you to enhance your sleep and prevent the hypnic jerk as well. The thing about alcohol is that it is, in fact, a stimulant as well as a depressant. As such, it could easily affect the overall chemical make up which is found in your brain and make it quite difficult, if not impossible, to go or to stay asleep.
Sure, we get that it’s quite tempting to knock back a glass of wine, it’s also important to note that this would compromise the quality of your sleep and you may find yourself twitching through the night.
Don’t get us wrong – exercising is great for your body, and you should consider it if you haven’t already. However, there are appropriate times of the day when you should be exercising. If you do it too close to your bedtime, this could easily cause hypnagogic jerks. In fact, as we’ve stated above, this is one of the leading causes.
You should try to keep your exercising activities for the morning hours. If you don’t have time for it then, stick to more relaxed undertakings late at evening, like Pilates or yoga.
There is a range of different herbs and essential oils which could easily induce a deeper sleep and one which is stress-free and relaxed. Eucalyptus, for instance, is one of them and it’s known to produce a cooling, relaxing and particularly enjoyable aroma.
The list goes on and virtually everything that smells nice and it’s not strong would help you go through the night in a more relaxed manner. This would also result in a lot less hypnic twitches if any at all.
Get yourself in the habit of a pre-bedtime routine. This includes a series of things that you should do half an hour before you fall asleep. First off, it might be a good idea to relax your mind and quit thinking about the issues of the day.
Second, blackout technology entirely. Turn off the TV, forget your phone, put the laptop in the other room and simply stay there in the dark. Your mind would quickly adjust to that as a stress-free environment which induces relaxation. This would translate to a deeper, twitch-free state of sleep which is more beneficial.
There are a few additional supplements that you could use to reduce twitching through the night. Calcium, as well as magnesium, are known to relax your muscles and to prevent spasms. In fact, magnesium is overly responsive to proper blood flow and, as such, it would also prevent minor clotting which is usually something that could cause twitching.
How to Reduce Anxiety Before Bed
Just say to yourself that you don’t care about sleep. Plan the night as if you are not going to bed at all. This is an odd advice, and it sounds strange, but the truth is that a lot of people get overly obsessed with the idea of getting six to eight straight hours of sleep that they try to force it. This will inevitably cause anxiety as soon as these expectations are somewhat disrupted and, in turn, you’d get caught up in the aforementioned vicious circle.
Of course, you can also rely on a bunch of other things such as the ones that we’ve mentioned above, including herbs, supplements, proper and timed exercising and others of the kind.
Watch this DNews video for more info on anxiety before bedtime:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Hypnic Jerk a Sleep Disorder?
The twitching itself is not a disorder. However, as we’ve already stated, there are certain sleep disorders which could lead to it. Anxiety, as well as panic attacks, could be caused by repeated sleep starts. The fear of suffering a twitch is also something that could set off a lot of issues, and it could dramatically disrupt your bedtime.
Do not confuse the hypnic jerks with the far more dangerous sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. This is a condition where you get your breathing airways obstructed because your tissue and muscles in your throat are overly relaxed. This could cause some serious issues.
Why Do You Twitch in Your Sleep?
There is no one-off definitive answer to this questions and scientists are quite thorn about it. However, there are a few well-known causes for this sleeping phenomenon. Excessive alcohol, too much caffeine, exercising far too close to bedtime, stress, anxiety, and others of the kind are common causes. On the bright side, there is a lot that you can do to reduce or prevent the twitching in its entirety.
Can Hypnic Jerk Be A Near Death Experience?
Hypnic twitches tend to last for no more than a microsecond. None of your vitals are shown to stop, and there is no chance of this being a near-death experience. People who have these issues show absolutely no change of pace regarding breathing, and as such, there’s nothing serious going on within their body.
The issue is that it could cause serious anxiety as it starts to happen over and over again. In additional, it will undoubtedly disrupt your sleep which is definitely something that you want to avoid.
What Does It Mean If You Jump In Your Sleep?
Well, the truth is that there are a few different explanations for that with one of them being related to our breathing patterns. Heavy snorers usually experience this “jump” feel because their airways are commonly almost blocked. As soon as the airflow gets disrupted more substantially, you will quickly experience the jump sensation and wake up.
Another explanation is related with our dreaming. When you dream, you are most commonly on solid ground. However, as soon as you lose the ground under your feet or you experience a fall in your sleep, this would immediately send the same signal to your brain which would cause an overly protective reaction. So, the jump is pretty much you trying to find a quick solution to the falling issue.
Can It Happen While You're Awake?
Hypnic jerks while awake can’t happen, obviously. Regular muscle twitching, on the other hand, is a common phenomenon. It could be caused by a range of different things, but it’s mostly indicative of magnesium deficiency.
Can You Cure Hypnic Jerk?
There is nothing to cure. You can reduce the twitching or get rid of it entirely if you follow the advice that we gave you above. Reduce caffeine and alcohol, exercise in normal training hours, give yourself a break in terms of stress, unplug and make sure that you have a good night of sleep. Don’t think about it too much and you will be able to see the difference quite quickly.
How Might It Affect My Life?
If the situation becomes chronic, and you got some severe hypnic jerks, this could have a rather serious impact on your life. It would result in sleep deprivation which quickly translates to stress and anxiety. Additionally, the lack of sleep is also known to cause a lot of issues such as depression, weight gain, higher blood pressure, heart conditions and others of the kind. Of course, these are worst-case scenarios in the event of a chronic hypnic twitching.
Our Final Thoughts
While a sleep jerk could be an accidental reaction of your body, it could also be indicative that you need to take a step back and look at your overall lifestyle. They should be regarded as an issue to the extent that you take responsibility and fix the bad habits which are known to cause this unwanted reaction.
There is nothing that major that you’d have to account for. A few small alterations to your daily life could put a damper on these quickly and effectively.
Sources and References:
- Hypnic jerks possibly induced by escitalopram – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Why your body jerks before you fall asleep – bbc.com
Author: Jill Thompson
I've been self-employed for almost four years and I would not change it for anything! I believe that anyone can achieve their goals with the right attitude and determination.
I'm an avid traveler (25+ countries and counting) that loves to meet new people doing amazing things.
When I'm not researching for the Sleep Advisor, you can find me reading, running, traveling, golfing, or meditating.
I wish you the very best on your journey!