A hypnic jerk, also known as a hypnagogic jerk or a sleep start, is an involuntary twitch of muscles that occurs when a person is beginning to fall asleep, i.e. the hypnogogic state. This state is when a person moves from consciousness into unconsciousness.
Usually, people awake for a moment after experiencing a hypnic jerk with a falling or jolting sensation or something that resembles a jump.
Why Do Hypnic Jerk Happen?
Namely, 70 percent of people experience hypnic jerk once in a while and the exact cause of this phenomenon hasn’t been discovered yet. However, the following factors may have an influence:
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Sleep deprivation
- Hard workout few hours before bedtime
- Uncomfortable sleeping position
One theory implies that hypnic jerks occur as the nervous system slows down and relaxes while shifting from being awake to sleep. At this point, the breathing slows down, the body temperature reduces, and the muscles relax. During this process, the nerves may send signals improperly and thus cause muscle spasms.
Furthermore, another theory claims that the brain gets confused sometimes during the relaxation process before sleeping. Thus, it may send signals to the arms and legs to move to an upright position because the brain thinks that you’re falling.
Can You Stop Hypnic Jerks and How to Do It?
As it was already mentioned, hypnic jerk is a common occurrence that happens to the majority of people. Unfortunately, you cannot make this jerk disappear completely and permanently. Still, you can take some precautions regarding the factors that can increase the chances of experiencing these jerks. Here’s what you can do:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least 3-4 hours before bedtime;
- Avoid doing exercises late in the evening;
- Increase the intake of magnesium and calcium, because they are beneficial for muscle and nerve spasm;
- Make sure you are in a comfortable position, and that you have a comfortable mattress and pillow;
- Introduce some relaxation exercises for sleep in order to reduce stress and anxiety.