You are drifting off to sleep, suddenly you feel like you are falling down — and you jerk awake. This involuntary muscle contraction that you feel while falling asleep is called ‘Hypnic jerks’. Hypnic is short for hypnagogic, it is a type of myoclonus.
Twitching before sleep is quite common and occurs when people are entering the deeper stage of their sleep. 60 to 70 percent of people experience hypnic jerks when start to fall asleep.
10 percent of people experience them every single night.
In this post, we will learn what exactly is sleep twitching, how common are these involuntary movements, and how to reduce their frequency.
What is Sleep Twitching?
Twitching in sleep known as a ‘hypnic jerk’ which is short for ‘hypnagogic jerk’ got its name as twitching occurs when we are in the hypnagogic state which is the transition between wakefulness and sleep.
Experiencing a hypnic jerk is compared to unplugging an electrical appliance — you sometimes see a spark. In the same way, your body may experience involuntary muscle contraction as your body transition to the sleeping stage.
They are quite common and they may occur once, twice, or more than that. They usually last a second. Hypnic jerks can be subtle or sudden that may cause you to fall out of bed.
In addition to the jerking movements, some people also experience other sensations such as dreams, hallucinations, falling, bright lights, or loud noises.
For most people twitching is painless although some people have also reported a painful sensation.
The hypnic jerks can happen at different times and people can experience it differently. Sometimes they are so strong or sudden that they wake up the person. Other times, they are so mild that a person won’t even notice them at all.
Adults and kids, males and females, anyone can experience hypnic jerks. Though the most common causes are excessive consumption of caffeine and elevated stress.
Twitching in sleep isn’t a serious disorder and it is unlikely to cause any side effects or complications. However, there are some things you can do to prevent involuntary jerks. Continue reading to know more about it.
Can Hypnic Jerks Wake you up?
Hypnic jerks can wake you up suddenly. However, it varies from person to person and also depends upon the intensity of the muscle contraction.
If the twitching is mild, people won’t even notice them and they are unlikely to wake up. Though, this can annoy or disturb the person sleeping next to you.
What are the Symptoms of Hypnic Jerks?
Hypnic jerks are a natural phenomenon so you don’t need to think much about them. For this reason, symptoms of hypnic jerks aren’t really a problem. There are a few things that you may experience:
- Jerk of a muscle or body part
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dream or hallucination
- Falling sensation
- Sensory flash
What Causes Hypnic Jerks?
Why do people twitch in their sleep? The exact reasons and causes are unclear, though there are certain explanations.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can keep your brain awake even if your muscles try to relax while you sleep. This affects your sleep cycle and you are more likely to get disturbed.
When you are not getting enough sleep, whether due to chronic insomnia or poor sleep patterns, it can lead to sleep deprivation. This may increase the risk of hypnic jerks.
Exercising late in the evening can make it difficult for your body to fall asleep. This can cause hypnic jerks.
Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine consumption can impact your body’s ability to fall asleep. Chemicals in these substances can prevent your body from sleeping and thus the chances of hypnic jerks are increased.
How to Prevent Hypnic Jerks?
While it may not be possible to get rid of hypnic jerks as it is a natural phenomenon though there are certain lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent it.
You are more likely to experience hypnic jerks when you are sleep-deprived so make sure you get 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep. Stick to a regular sleep and wake-up schedule.
Before you go to bed, practice relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga especially if you are going to a stressed life.
Caffeine is the biggest culprit. Eliminate your caffeine consumption especially after 4 P.M. you can drink a glass of wine that will help you fall asleep easily.
Exercise in the morning. If you are exercising in the evening, try to do low-intense exercises. Last but not least, take a long warm shower to relax your muscles.
Are Hypnic Jerks Dangerous?
Hypnic Jerks are considered a normal part of falling asleep so they are not dangerous. Around 70% of people experience sudden twitching while they are falling asleep.
However, they can be annoying as they can wake you or your partner but that’s the worst they can do. Lots of people fall asleep right after they experience hypnic jerk.
While it is common to fall from the bed when you experience hypnic jerks but major injuries are quite uncommon. So, there’s nothing much to worry about them.
When to See a Doctor for Hypnic Jerks?
For most of the time, you don’t need to see a doctor for hypnic jerks. However, if you experience hypnic jerks more frequently while you sleep, it could be due to some other sleep disorders.
If these movements keep you awake regularly, give you anxiety while you think about going to sleep, you may need to see a doctor. A doctor will be better able to give your treatment options.
Hypnic jerks are completely normal and almost everyone experiences so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Most of the twitches are so mild that you won’t even notice them.
However, if you are awake by the jerk, there’s nothing to worry about that, you can easily go back to sleep in no time. You can try the suggestions given in this guide to prevent hypnic jerks.