A hypnagogic jerk is an involuntary muscle spasm that occurs as a person is drifting off to sleep. The phenomenon is so named in reference to the hypnogogic state — the transitional period between wakefulness and sleep. Hypnagogic jerks are also commonly known as hypnic jerks or sleep starts.
A hypnic jerk is basically – sleep start, sleep twitch or night start, or jump – an involuntary twitch which occurs just as a person is beginning to fall asleep, often causing them to awaken suddenly for a moment. They generally occur during the transition between wakefulness and sleep. All of these things are very, very brief, lasting a half second or less.” Hypnic jerks are myoclonus twitches, or involuntary muscle spasms, but sleep starts occur during hypnagogia, the stage when the body is falling asleep.
If you are suffering from sleeping disorder – hypnic jerk (hypnagogic jerk) you experience a jolt, the jolt you feel just before dropping off. That startle when you’re safe in bed that feels like a falling sensation. That electric shock that wakes you from the earliest stage of sleep.
Hypnic or hypnagogic jerks are a fact of life for many people around world.
They can be episodes of frighteningly vivid life-like dreams or a simple physical reaction that causes a mild surprise. Around 70% of people experience this phenomenon.
Nobody knows for sure but there are several theories as to the causes of the jolt while sleeping. It happens most often when we are stressed, in an uncomfortable position, over tired or anxious.
The viscous circle is that a hypnic jerk which wakes you up can make you anxious about falling asleep, which leads to another jerk. Anxiety leads to insomnia and the restless night and bad morning which result can all to quickly follow this cycle.
Tips to minimize the Hypnic Jerk effects
- Follow good sleep hygiene, develop a routine and follow it every night.
- Watch what you eat before bedtime
- A magnesium, calcium or iron deficiency may be to blame. First try to improve your diet, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Or try a supplement, with those minerals and vitamin C.
- Heavy exercise too close to bedtime can have an effect. Try to limit heavy weights or cardio sessions in the evening. Conversely a gentle walk an hour before bed may help.
- Smoking or drinking will reduce the quality of your sleep. One drink before bed may help you to fall asleep and avoid the hypnic jerk, however it will reduce the quality of your later sleep. If the jerk is severely dehabilitating then this may be a way to get things under control.
- Meditation can help relive those negative feedback loops that will make you dread going to bed.
- Maintain a positive outlook, and get some tips of relaxation or yoga. The techniques taught in even the most basic class may be enough to allow you to get your mind in a state where sleep comes naturally.
- A relaxation CD played at night may be the answer. It will give your brain something to do instead of worrying and may quickly become an essential part of your sleep routine.
- Medication, if the sleeping disorder is having a negative effect on your life then see a doctor, who may prescribe some medication to help you get that much needed sleep.
Most importantly remember that if you rarely or regularily experience a hypnic jerk you’re completely normal, take a few deep breaths and relax. The more you worry about it, the worse it will get.