Everything You Need to Know About Hypnic Jerks

When you drift into sleep, there’s a situation when your body jerks and in doing so interrupts and resets the process of falling asleep. It happens to most people, and it is actually quite common. It is called the Hypnic Jerk, or twitch. There are several names for this occurrence, but it seems the symptoms are all the same. 

It is called Sleep Jerk due to it happening when we are falling asleep. It is called the hypnagogic state which is the magical transitional space between sleeping and being awake. It’s an involuntary movement that spontaneously happens as we drift off to sleep. 

Different Names of Hypnic Jerk

  • Sleep starts.
  • Night starts.
  • Hypnagogic jerk
  • Myoclonus, or myoclonic jerk (Medical Term)

Feeling or Sensation of Falling 

Hypnic Jerks are also accompanied with a feeling or sensation of falling. It may include muscle spasms or jerks, or stiffening of muscles. Most people don’t even remember the event, just the lingering sensation as we pause to understand what happened.

Hypnic Jerk is more prominent in people who suffer from sleep deprivation, addiction to caffeine, and overworking. If they are a constant in your nighttime activity, be mindful of caffeine intake, heavy or strenuous activity and try to regulate your sleep.

Hypnic Jerk, What Causes it?

The actual cause isn’t entirely known, but there are some theories. One is that it is just a natural occurrence as we start to fall asleep. Our heart rate and body temperature drop, muscles tone changes, and these twitches just happen through the transition. While this is happening, it’s been thought the muscles and nerves just twitch as they relax in preparation of sleep.

It could also be as simple as a sudden noise or light that we are not directly aware of, but our brain subconsciously jerk us as a protective measure. It could be a dog barking, a sudden light coming on, or an unusual noise we are not used to hearing that can cause the Hypnic Jerk.  

Early adoption of Hypnic Jerk - The Primal Theory:

There is another theory that suggests that this was a lingering primal instinct that we inherited from primates who slept in trees. Theory goes, The Hypnic Jerk was a protective measure for primates as an alert to signal falling from a tree to prevent impending death or injury. 

How to Help Prevent and Manage Hypnic Jerks

If you suffer from Hypnic Jerks, you can try to manage their frequency by cutting down on the caffeine and alcohol before bed. It also helps to keep a healthy diet. Make sure high energy activity is done during the day and reduce physical activities at night. If you are able, use the time in the evening for relaxation, and try to meditate once or twice a day for three minutes. 

Yoga can help with Hypnic Jerks!

Try stretching before bed or doing Yoga. A warm bath can also loosen up tight muscles and to help you better relax. Getting the heart rate and blood pressure down before getting into bed can help you fall asleep faster. Massage your feet and legs to help loosen up your body, and get them to relax better.

Stay hydrated. You should be drinking enough water before before bed so your body can heal properly through out the night. Water is needed to break down molecular bonds and for chemical reactions to take place fluidly. 

How falling asleep in the car relates to Hypnic Jerk 

When you’re in a car and you’re driving long distances, it’s easy to get drowsy and slip into a Hypnic Jerk like moment. It happens to most of us. When we start to fall asleep, our body alerts us by Jerking us back into head right position to prevent an accident. We usually feel a heightened sense of awareness and a dose of adrenaline keeps us alert for another five minutes until the process repeats itself. 

About the Author

Peekaboo! Barbara speaking. I'm currently the Chief Editor at Sleep Titan and my job is to make sure that the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed on all of our amazing content! The lovely people here at Sleep Titan often tell me that my Friendly Superpowers come out after a glass of wine, but personally, I prefer a strong IPA. The sort of strength that screams alpha all the way! Maybe that's the reason why everyone wants me to have a drink around here. Right?!

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