Have you ever gotten into bed, settled right down into a peaceful slumber before your body violently jerks you awake again? While you might feel like you’re the only one experiencing this, it’s a lot more common than you may think.
This random jerking motion that your body does sometimes when you’re going off to sleep is called a sleep twitch or hypnic jerk.
Just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s enjoyable. It’s defined as a random, involuntary jerk that your body does just as you’re going off to sleep. Let’s talk a bit more about it.
What is a Sleep Twitch or Hypnic Jerking?
These names relate to not only the physical feeling of being jerked around by your body but also the emotional feeling of being woken from a peaceful slumber by your muscles. What’s interesting about this phenomenon is that everyone experiences it slightly differently.
Some people lash out with both their arms and legs while others just experience it with their legs. Others still only jerk slightly and don’t experience too much motion. There are also some people who will scream in response to this issue.
While you’re heard it being referred to as a sleep twitch or hypnic jerk, it actually has other names associated with it as well. These include night start, sleep start or just normal sleep twitch. Hypnic is also short for hypnogogic, another strange yet creative term for this sleep scenario.
Hypnic Jerk Symptoms
Now, while you may think otherwise, surprisingly this muscle movement isn’t categorized as a medical condition or disorder, because of this, there are no official symptoms that can be associated with it.
However, we certainly know that there are some things you can expect to experience with an issue like this. One of these is that you will most likely wake up as a result. Another is that you will most likely move muscles involuntarily. In saying this, apart from this initial disturbance of sleep, a hypnic jerk doesn’t get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Hypnic Jerk Causes
Again, like the possible symptoms, because a hypnic jerk is not officially a medical condition, it’s hard to pin down the correct cause. Of course, there are many possible theories out there based on the natural curiosity of sleep experts.
Among the possible theories regarding causes of this scenario are too much coffee, anxiety, stress and even working out right before you go to bed. There have been patterns found in people who have certain sleeping habits – but the sleep twitch has also been seen in people that don’t follow these regular sleep patterns.
How to Avoid a Hypnic Jerk
Based on the possible causes, we can postulate a number of ways that you could try and prevent this scenario from occurring every time you lie down and try to go to sleep. Let’s take a look at some ways to avoid experiencing a sleep twitch:
Reduce You Caffeine Intake
One of the first and most obvious things you could do to avoid encountering a hypnic jerk would be to reduce your caffeine intake either in the morning or in the afternoon.
The more time there is between your last caffeine hit and going to bed, the better. One of the best rules to follow with this is only to have coffee or tea in the morning, and try to avoid it altogether after lunchtime.
Reduce or Avoid Alcohol
Another thing that you may want to think about cutting down or avoiding altogether is alcohol. As well as being a depressant, alcohol is also stimulant.
This means that it can alter your chemical makeup, which may result in your body doing funny things at night like a sleep twitch. Alcohol is also known for making it harder to fall asleep and then have good quality sleep throughout the night.
We all know that exercise is actually good for us, and the more we’re getting, the better off we’ll be – to a certain point, of course. However, beyond just finding time to work out during the day or even after work, figuring out the best time of the day to exercise is also recommended as well.
If you work out too close to when you go to bed, you can end up being too stimulated when you lie down, which can cause you to experiences things like a sleep twitch.
For this reason, we recommend limiting your workouts to just the morning – this way, you can burn off the extra energy throughout the day and be ready for the pillow when bedtime comes around.
Essential Oils and Herbs
There is a vast range of essential oils and herbs that can assist in relaxing you even further at night, which can set you up for a good sleep overnight. While the list is seemingly never-ending, there are some herbs and essential oils that are particularly beneficial for this. They include chamomile, eucalyptus, and lavender.
Reduce Screen Time
Having a relaxing bedtime routine is key to feeling calm and collected when you climb into bed. This means instead of thinking about the stresses of the day you need to find activities that are going to relax you.
These may include things like reading or taking a bath. These could also include cutting down on your screen time. Your body is going to have a much better chance of producing melatonin, the sleep hormone when it doesn’t have a screen in its face. Screens only serve to stimulate you, which could be the cause of your hypnic jerking.
Try a Supplement
If all of some of the above isn’t working and you’re tired of experiencing a sleep twitch as you fall asleep every night, there are other options available.
These include trying a supplement, like magnesium, to encourage your body and muscles to become relaxed. Magnesium, in particular, can also help to increase blood circulation, which reduces the risk of blood clotting, another possible cause of sleep twitching.
How to Stay Calm Before Bed
If you’re someone who experiences high levels of anxiety before you go to bed, then there are a few things you can do to reduce this. One of these is reverse psychology.
Perhaps the reason why you have so much anxiety around bedtime is that you’re psyching yourself out. Instead, try telling yourself that you don’t actually care about how much sleep you get.
Sleep doesn’t matter, and it also doesn’t matter if you can’t get to sleep. This type of reverse psychology can really help your mind to fight for sleep, and good sleep at that, ultimately reducing any anxiety you may be feeling.
Is Sleep Twitch a Disorder?
Like we mentioned above, the actual act of sleep twitching isn’t officially considered a disorder. However, there are a number of medical sleep disorders that are considered the cause of it. These include anxiety.
It’s vital that you don’t confuse sleep twitching with sleep apnea, which is an entirely different issue altogether. Sleep apnea is where you struggle to breathe due to tight muscles in the throat, which can disturb your sleep patterns.
Why Does Sleep Twitching Exist?
While we don’t know precisely why sleep twitching exists, we do know about some of the causes. As previously discussed, these may include things like anxiety, too much exercise, and alcohol. The silver lining here is that there is a lot you can do to try and prevent it from happening as well.
Is Hypnic Jerking a Near Death Experience
While it may feel like you’re never going to wake up, surprisingly hypnic jerking only lasts for a few seconds when it’s happening. We know through studies that nothing in your body shuts down or stops for these few seconds, so when it comes to being near death, you’re far from it.
One of the most significant issues that can come out of experiencing sleep twitching over and over again is developing severe fear and anxiety around it occurring.
What’s Happening if You Jump in Your Sleep?
While you may chalk jumping in your sleep up to a sleep twitch, there are actually a number of other reasons why you may be experiencing this type of movement overnight.
If you’re a snorer, your snoring pattern may be causing you to jump in your sleep. You could also be jumping as a result of sleep apnea. Dreams also are a big reason why we sometimes jump in our sleep, especially if you’re dreaming about falling suddenly.
Can You Sleep Twitch While You’re Awake?
No, you can’t experience a hypnic jerk while you’re awake. This is because sleep twitching is involuntary muscle jerking, which can only happen when your mind is relaxed and almost in sleep mode.
Is Hypnic Jerk Curable?
Again, because this issue isn’t officially a medical condition, there’s not really anything to cure. However, as we mentioned above, there are things you can actively do to try and reduce your chances of experiencing it. Additionally, if you don’t overthink it, then you may find it slowly being cut out of your life.
How Will it Affect Me Long-Term?
If you’re someone who experiences sleep jerking almost every night and has developed credible anxiety around it, then it could end up negatively impacting your life – especially the quality of your sleep.
It could even lead to sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. However, it’s important to remember that these symptoms would be the result of a worst case scenario.
While sleeping jerking is a physical experience that your body goes through, it could also be your body trying to tell you something. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your lifestyle and consider what things you could try changing for the better.
Remember, reducing your chances of experiencing hypnic jerking doesn’t require drastic changes. A few small daily changes here and there could end up making a world of difference to your sleep quality and what you experience as you go off to sleep.