Hypnic Jerking Explained – The Comprehensive Guide For 2023

Hypnic Jerking Explained – The Comprehensive Guide For 2023

Hypnic Jerking Explained – The Comprehensive Guide For 2023

Have you ever been lying in bed and on the verge of a deep sleep when your body suddenly jolts you awake? Your heart begins to race as a sudden twitching causes you to jump out of your skin. 

If you’ve ever been in this position, know you’re not alone; it happens more frequently than you imagine.

A hypnic jerk, a sleep twitch, is responsible for your unfortunate predicament. It’s perfectly normal, but that doesn’t make it any more bearable. 

Hypnic jerking is an involuntary twitch that occurs right before you fall asleep. People have used many names to refer to it, but they all mean the same thing. 

What is Hypnic (Hypnagogic) Jerking?

Hypnagogic jerking occurs when you try to fall asleep, and involuntary muscle contractions cause brief twitches. 

“Hypnagogic” and “Hypnopompic” refer to the period before sleep and wakefulness, respectively. Because of how startling they are, hypnic jerks can easily interrupt your sleep and leave you awake.

Others may jump up and down or twitch slightly, while others may lash out or move their legs and arms. However, in extremely rare instances, the body’s response to the violent nature of this phenomenon manifests as a scream or shout during the same sleep twitch.

Different Names

We’ve already established that the hypnic jerk goes by several names. 

A hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, night start, or simply sleep twitch are all names for this phenomenon. While the terms may vary, the underlying medical condition is the same.

Myoclonus or myoclonic jerk is the medical term for this involuntary muscle twitch. 

Symptoms

These sudden and involuntary jerks render you helpless in their wake. Some attribute the sensation of being startled or falling to them. 

People who frequently experience startle responses often display pronounced reactions, potentially indicating the existence of anxiety spectrum disorders. Discussing these reactions with a physician is advisable as they are quite common. 

These tics may accompany hypnagogic hallucinations or intense dreams in some people. The most obvious thing to remember is that if the cramp is significant, you will probably wake up. 

Additionally, because they are so startling, they may disrupt your sleep and lead to sleep-onset insomnia if they occur frequently.

Causes

Up to 70% of all people experience hypnic jerks occasionally. Although their etiology in adults is unknown, some widely accepted theories exist, such as:

  • Insomnia, chronic sleep deprivation, and frequent awakenings are all risk factors for involuntary muscle movements.
  • Stimulants affect the body and brain and can increase the likelihood of these movements.
  • Despite its many health benefits, exercise can stimulate the brain and cause twitching if done too late.
  • Anxiety: stress and worries can stimulate the brain, making it hard to wind down for sleep and possibly increasing the likelihood of hypnic jerking. 
  • These tics are more common in people with poor sleeping habits, but healthy people can develop them. 

What Causes Hypnic Jerks?

There are some hypotheses about what triggers hypnic jerks, but no one knows. 

Myoclonus, including hypnic jerks, originates in the same brain region that initiates an alarm response. Some researchers believe a misfire occurs between nerves in the reticular brainstem when a person falls asleep, causing a hypnic jerk. 

Even though complete muscle relaxation is a natural part of the sleep-inducing process, your brain may mistake it for actual falling and respond with twitching muscles. The accompanying dreamlike imagery may trigger a physical response in the person experiencing hypnic jerks.

Caffeine and stimulant overdose, intense exercise before bed, emotional stress, and lack of sleep are all factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing a hypnic jerk.

Consuming Excessive Amounts of Caffeine or Nicotine

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can jolt your mind into action. As a result, these substances may interfere with sleep for several hours after consumption. 

According to one study, even if you cut out coffee completely six hours before bedtime, you may still have trouble sleeping. 

Hypnic jerks can occur if you consume too much caffeine or nicotine, especially if you do so right before bed.

Nighttime Vigorous Exercise

When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, exercise almost always helps. Research has shown that regular exercise improves sleep quality. 

However, remember that exercise is a rejuvenating pursuit that enhances your alertness rather than diminishing it. As a result, if you work out too hard at night, you risk experiencing hypnic jerks.

Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation can result from consistently having trouble sleeping or not getting enough sleep regularly. Sleep deprivation has many negative consequences, including mood and concentration issues and possibly an increased likelihood of hypnic jerks.

Anxiety and Stress

Common stresses and clinical anxiety disorders can cause insomnia, which leads to sleep deprivation and increases the likelihood of hypnic jerks. 

Elevated cortisol levels cause a lack of relief from stress and anxiety during sleep. 

Anxious thoughts can jar the transition between wakefulness and sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep and increasing the risk of a hypnic jerk. 

The cycle of sleep deprivation and hypnic jerks can become self-perpetuating if the person who experiences them regularly develops sleep anxiety.

Are Hypnic Jerks Dangerous?

While hypnic jerks may be unsettling, they pose no threat. Hypnotic jerks affect as many as 70% of the population.

While hypnic jerks may be annoying and prevent you or your partner from resting well, they typically do not cause serious harm. Minor injuries are possible, especially if the jerk is particularly violent, but they are uncommon.

When to See a Doctor About Hypnic Jerks

Hypnic jerks stand out compared to other movements that can happen while awake or asleep. Hypnic jerks occur as a person drifts off to sleep and are brief, painless occurrences. You don’t need medical attention if your only symptom is hypnic jerks.

Some people, however, may need medical help for symptoms that look like hypnic jerks. 

If you have multiple, persistent muscle contractions throughout the day that spread to other body parts, it may not be a hypnic jerk but a different type of myoclonus. These forms of myoclonus are sometimes precursors to more severe illnesses. 

In addition to hypnic jerks on falling asleep, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) can cause other jerking movements during sleep. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried that the muscle jerks you’ve been experiencing could be a sign of something more serious.

Tips to Prevent Hypnagogic Jerk

Decrease Caffeine Intake

Avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon and evening is advisable as a first step. 

Even if you enjoy an afternoon cup of coffee, it may hurt your ability to sleep soundly at night, and the combination of sleep deprivation and caffeine’s stimulating effects may result in a hypnic jerk.

You should limit caffeine; if you must consume it, do so first thing in the morning and not in the afternoon. With any luck, this will reduce the number of jerks you encounter.

Don’t Drink

If you want better sleep and to reduce your risk of a hypnic jerk, don’t drink alcohol before bed. Because of its dual nature as a depressant and stimulant, alcohol can alter brain chemistry, making it difficult to sleep and stay asleep.

We understand how alluring it can be to relax with a glass of wine. However, remember that this may cause you to experience nighttime twitching and reduce the quality of your sleep.

Exercise

If you still need to start exercising, only work out at certain times. Performing this activity too close to bedtime increases the risk of hypnagogic jerks.

You should schedule your workouts first thing in the morning. If you can’t fit it in during the day, try something refreshing like Pilates or Yoga in the evening.

Relaxing Herbs

Research has shown that certain herbs and essential oils improve sleep quality and duration — for example, lavender has a soothing and pleasant aroma.

A seemingly endless variety of calming scents and herbs could aid you in sleeping soundly. They could also reduce or do away with hypnic twitches altogether.

Unplug

Establish a routine that you follow every night before bed. This includes a checklist of tasks you should complete half an hour before bedtime. First, it could help to take a deep breath and ignore the day’s stresses.

Second, unplug completely in the hour leading up to bedtime. Shut down the electronics, including the TV, the phone, and the computer, and retreat to a dark room. 

Your brain will quickly learn to associate that setting with feelings of calm and ease. This would result in a more restful sleep, free of muscle cramps.

Supplements

You can alleviate nighttime muscle twitching by taking a few dietary supplements. Avoid muscle spasms and tension by consuming calcium and magnesium. 

Research has linked magnesium deficiency to myoclonic jerks due to the mineral’s role in controlling muscle contractions.

How to Reduce Anxiety Before Bed

Relaxing the body and mind are the keys to reducing stress right before bed. Relaxing exercises like yoga, meditation, journaling, or even taking deep breaths can help. Redirecting your thoughts away from whatever is causing you to stress and toward something calming is crucial.

Taking five minutes to write down your worries can be therapeutic for some people because it allows them to dwell on their problems for a limited time. 

When you finish writing, put the journal away and move on to other things. Try light reading (but nothing too exciting) or meditation before turning it in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Hypnic Jerk a Sleep Disorder?

Twitching is not a disorder in and of itself, but some sleep disorders can cause this. Recurrent awakenings during the night may increase the risk of developing anxiety and panic attacks. 

Worrying that you might experience a twitch is a major sleep disruptor and can set off a cascade of other problems.

Sleep apnea is more severe than hypnic jerks, so the two should be clear. 

The over-relaxation of the tissues and muscles in the throat can obstruct the airways, making breathing difficult or impossible.

Can Hypnic Jerk Be A Near Death Experience?

Despite how terrifying they may feel in the moment, hypnic twitches rarely last longer than a microsecond and are harmless. There is no evidence that your vital signs have stopped, so this is not a possible near-death experience.

The problem is that it could lead to severe anxiety if it keeps happening. Furthermore, it may cause sleep disruption, which in turn may increase twitching.

What Does It Mean If You Jump In Your Sleep?

There are several causes of “jump” while sleeping — common in people who snore loudly because their airways are frequently blocked. There’s a chance you’ll wake up with a start if your breathing is suddenly restricted.

Dreaming provides an alternative explanation. When deeply asleep, your brain knows acting out your dreams is unsafe. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t occur, and you sleepwalking or thrashing about in your dream state with no idea what you’re doing.

Is anxiety the cause of jolting awake from sleep?

Anxiety is a known cause of sleep disruption. Hypnic jerks may be more likely in people with trouble sleeping due to stress or anxiety. Nighttime exercise, sleep deprivation, and nighttime consumption of stimulants like coffee can all lead to hypnic jerks.

How can I avoid hypnic jerks?

You can’t stop hypnic jerks from happening, but you can lessen the likelihood that they’ll wake you up by changing how you sleep. It’s essential to have a completely dark and quiet room to sleep in. 

Use earplugs or a white noise machine to block out ambient noise if it keeps you up at night. Maintain a regular bedtime routine and put away electronics at least 30 minutes before turning in.

Can hypnic jerks occur while you’re awake?

No, hypnic jerks do not occur during wakefulness. Only during sleep or upon waking do people experience hypnic jerks. A fasciculation is a type of muscle twitching and quivering that can sometimes be strong enough to move a joint and can occur even while you’re awake.

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