Do you ever wake up in the middle of your sleep with a sudden jerk? Have you felt a sudden spasm in your arm or leg? Perhaps, you woke up to a sensation of falling suddenly. If this seems familiar to you, what you have been experiencing is known as a hypnic jerk.
Let us tell you; it is a common occurrence.
Indeed, you are not the only one experiencing this weird sleep sensation. Estimates show that 60% to 70% people suffer hypnic jerks at some point in time during sleep.
So we are listing down the causes and remedies of this occurrence that will help you understand hypnic jerks better.
This experience has different names.
When someone narrates a similar experience they had while sleeping with a different name, don’t get confused. Hypnic jerks are also known as:
- Sleep starts
- Night starts
- Hypnagogic jerk – hypnagogic is a term used to describe the period when falling asleep.
- Myoclonus, or myoclonic jerk – the medical term to describe an involuntary muscle twitch.
So, what are hypnic jerks exactly?
The International Classification of Sleep Disorders manual explains hypnic jerks as ‘Sleep starts, also known as hypnic jerks, are sudden, brief, simultaneous contractions of the body or one or more body segments occurring at sleep onset. Sleep starts (or hypnic jerks) usually consist of a single contraction that often affects the body asymmetrically. The jerks may be either spontaneous or induced by stimuli.’
So basically, these are an involuntary twitching experience of one or more of your muscles, which is similar to experiencing hiccups. These jerks usually occur just as you are falling asleep, during the hypnagogic state of consciousness. They occur autonomously or in reaction to external stimuli in the room, for example- a movement or noise made by your partner.
What are the accompanying sensations with the hypnic jerk?
Some people experience sensory reactions along with physical twitching of muscles, which could be pretty upsetting:
- A feeling that you are falling.
- A sensation of pain or tingling.
- Hearing an unusual noise, like a large bang or crackling.
- Flashing or unusual lights.
When do these occur?
While you fall asleep, there could be several unusual phenomena taking place, like sleep paralysis or hallucinations. Though, hypnic jerks are not dangerous at all; they tend to be disruptive and unsettling.
So technically, even though there isn’t anything to worry about, hypnic jerks can sometimes cause anxiety and insomnia if you think too much about these and frighten yourself.
What causes hypnic jerks?
Now that you know that hypnic jerks are simply a twitch of muscles let’s find out what causes it.
As easy as it is to fall asleep, the science of sleeping is just as complex. Scientists are still finding the actual cause of this occurrence. However, they do believe that the following factors could contribute to experiencing hypnic jerks:
- Caffeine or other stimulants
- Anxiety or stress
- Heavy physical exercise or work
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position
- Being very tired or sleep deprived
In addition to these factors, here are a few theories that might explain the reasons:
- The first theory is that hypnic jerks occur due to the relaxation of your nervous system, as it slows down while transitioning from wakefulness to sleep. Your body temperature drops as breathing slow down, and muscles relax. So it might occur when nerves fail to slow down, leading to a muscular spasm.
- Another theory says that hypnic jerks happen as a reaction hallucinations or the onset of dreams, both of which are a common occurrence of sleep. Maybe, this explains the fact why some people feel like they are falling.
- While a third theory suggests, your brain wakes up for one last time before surrendering to deep sleep. This happens so you can make sure you have done everything to keep yourself safe at night.
How can you stop hypnic jerks?
Hypnic jerks are a common phenomenon and are not dangerous at all. It also might not be possible to prevent them completely. Though, here are a few steps that you can take to reduce the factors that are causing the jerks:
- Reduce the intake of alcohol and caffeine; avoid it especially before 3 to 4 hours of going to bed.
- Reduce heavy exercising or stressful work in the evening.
- Make sure you get sufficient magnesium and calcium in your diet.
- Make sure you have are comfortable while sleeping. Invest in good bedding and mattress and a luxurious cooling pillow.
- Try to do some relaxation and mindfulness exercises if you suffer from anxiety or stress.
- Avoid getting too tired or fatigued. It is important to chase your goals, but it is more important to take care of your mental, physical and emotional well being.
The best way to avoid hypnic jerks is by making the sleeping environment extremely comfortable, especially the bed, pillows, blankets, so sleep does not get disturbed, and mind remains at rest. It is best if you invest in comfortable, luxurious Waikite pillows. These are anti-bacterial, odorless cooling pillows that provide a good sleep at all times. Visit our website to know more!