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A hypnic jerk, hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, sleep twitch, myoclonic jerk, or night start is a brief and sudden involuntary contraction of the muscles of the body which occurs when a person is beginning to fall asleep, often causing the person to jump and awaken suddenly for a moment. Hypnic jerks are one form of involuntary muscle twitches called myoclonus.
Physically, hypnic jerks resemble the “jump” experienced by a person when startled, sometimes accompanied by a falling sensation .  Hypnic jerks are associated with a rapid heartbeat, quickened breathing, sweat, and sometimes “a peculiar sensory feeling of ‘shock’ or ‘falling into the void'”. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine , there is a wide range of potential causes, including anxiety , stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, stress, and strenuous activities in the evening. [ citation needed ]  Nevertheless, these repeated, intensifying twitches can cause anxiety in some individuals and a disruption to their sleep onset. For example, the occurrence of hypnic jerk arises only at sleep onset and it happens without any rhythmicity or periodicity of the movements and EMG bursts. This physiological phenomenon can also be mistaken for myoclonic seizure but it can also be distinguished by different criteria such as the fact that hypnic jerk occurs at sleep onset only or that the EEG is normal and constant. In addition, unlike seizures, there are no tongue bites, urinary incontinence and postictal confusion in hypnic jerk.  One hypothesis posits that the hypnic jerk is a form of reflex , initiated in response to normal bodily events during the lead-up to the first stages of sleep, including a decrease in blood pressure and the relaxation of muscle tissue. The reflex may also have had selective value by having the sleeper readjust or review his or her sleeping position in a nest or on a branch in order to assure that a fall did not occur”, but evidence is lacking. According to a study on sleep disturbances in the Journal of Neural Transmission , a hypnic jerk occurs during the non-rapid eye movement sleep cycle and is an “abrupt muscle action flexing movement, generalized or partial and asymmetric, which may cause arousal, with an illusion of falling”. In addition, some people may develop a fixation on these hypnic jerks leading to increased anxiety, worrying about the disruptive experience. Many also experience sudden muscle contractions called hypnic myoclonia, often preceded by a sensation of starting to fall.
Hypnic jerks, which people also refer to as hypnagogic jerks or “sleep starts,” are involuntary muscle contractions that some people experience as they are falling asleep.
Share on Pinterest Hypnic jerks occur when a person is transitioning to a sleeping state and may wake them up. A hypnic jerk is an involuntary twitch of one or more muscles that occurs as a person is falling asleep. The authors of a 2016 study noted that hypnic jerks occur randomly and affect both men and women of all ages. The researchers found that 60 to 70 percent of people experience hypnic jerks, usually just as they are about to fall asleep. Stress and anxiety : A high-stress lifestyle or feeling very anxious can make it difficult to relax in preparation for sleep. An alert brain may be easier to startle, so a person may be more likely to wake up when these involuntary muscle twitches occur. However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine note that adults are more likely than children to complain about frequent or intense hypnic jerks. It is possible to wake up from a hypnic jerk, but this does not always happen, as the strength of the muscle contraction that a person experiences will vary. Exercise is vital, but too much physical stimulation close to bedtime may increase the likelihood of these muscle twitches. Exercising earlier in the day instead can give the body plenty of time to relax and unwind before bed. Researchers know that light stimulates the brain to be more alert, which means that it can help a person wake up more easily in the morning but could make sleep more difficult. Something as simple as taking slow, deep breaths for 5 minutes may help a person reduce their stress levels. Anyone who is experiencing hypnic jerks regularly and is concerned about their overall health or sleep quality should talk to a doctor. In some cases, doctors can prescribe medications to help a person get more restful sleep and avoid hypnic jerks.
Twitching in sleep is something nearly every person has experienced at least once in their lifetime. Twitching in sleep is an incredible occurrence, in which there is muscle movement even during and after we’ve fallen asleep.
Such occurrence has been characterized as a body’s response to the transitional period between being awake and falling asleep. At sleep onset, brief muscle jerks occur due to the sense of falling asleep and other sensory phenomena we experience in this transition period. Other than these possible triggers, twitching in sleep can also occur due to irregular breathing, sudden and uncontrolled reflexes, and tachycardia. Source: Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ Hypnic jerks or twitching in sleep consist of two phases . Cases with such disorders are pretty rare, so if you believe they can be an indicator of a more complex situation, make sure to discuss it with a medical professional. Some of the most common manifestations of the SRMD include head banging, body or leg rocking to either fall asleep or during sleep. The movement usually starts with fingers and toes, ankles, flexion and extension of legs, knees, and muscles in general. Source: Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQHere are few recommendations on how you can help reduce and eventually stop hypnic jerks from occurring; Cut down on caffeine – drinking too much coffee or caffeine-containing teas can increase the frequency, length, and severity of the hypnic jerks you experience. Certain types of food make you fall asleep easier and faster, as well as prolong the length of deep sleep . Take care of your sleeping environment – before bedtime, make sure not to look at screens (this way you’ll let melatonin do its thing).
As we give up our bodies to sleep, sudden twitches escape our brains, causing our arms and legs to jerk. Some people are startled by them, others are embarrassed. Me, I am fascinated by these twitches, known as hypnic jerks. Nobody knows for sure what causes them, but to me they represent the side effects of a hidden battle for control in the brain that happens each night on the cusp between wakefulness and dreams.
As the mind gives in to its normal task of interpreting the external world, and starts to generate its own entertainment, the struggle between the reticular activating system and VLPO tilts in favour of the latter. In dreams, the planning and foresight areas of the brain are suppressed, allowing the mind to react creatively to wherever it wanders – much like a jazz improviser responds to fellow musicians to inspire what they play. Whilst a veil is drawn over most of the external world as we fall asleep, hypnic jerks are obviously close enough to home – being movements of our own bodies – to attract the attention of sleeping consciousness.
APhysically, hypnic jerks resemble the “jump” experienced by a person when startled, sometimes accompanied by a falling sensation.Hypnic jerks are common physiological phenomena.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there is a wide range of potential causes, including anxiety, stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, stress, and strenuous activities in the evening. It also may be facilitated by fatigue or sleep deprivation.Sometimes, hypnic jerks are mistaken for another form of movement during sleep. For example, hypnic jerks can be confused with restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, hypnagogic foot tremor, rhythmic movement disorder, and hereditary or essential startle syndrome, including the hyperplexia syndrome. But some phenomena can help to distinguish hypnic jerk from these other conditions. For example, the occurrence of hypnic jerk arises only at sleep onset and it happens without any rhythmicity or periodicity of the movements and EMG bursts. Also, other pertinent history allows to differentiate it.This physiological phenomenon can also be mistaken for myoclonic seizure but it can also be distinguished by different criteria such as the fact that hypnic jerk occurs at sleep onset only or that the EEG is normal and constant. In addition, unlike seizures, there are no tongue bites, urinary incontinence and postictal confusion in hypnic jerk. This phenomenon can therefore be distinguished from other more serious conditions.Scientists do not know exactly why this phenomenon occurs and are still trying to understand it. None of the several theories that have attempted to explain it has been fully accepted.During an epilepsy and intensive care study, the lack of a preceding spike discharge measured on an epilepsy monitoring unit, along with the presence only at sleep onset, helped differentiate hypnic jerks from epileptic myoclonus.According to a study on sleep disturbances in the
There are ways to reduce hypnic jerks, including reducing consumption of stimulants such as nicotine or caffeine, avoiding physical exertion prior to sleep, and consuming sufficient magnesium.Some medication can also help to reduce or eliminate the hypnic jerks. For example, low-dose clonazepam at bedtime may make the twitches disappear over time.In addition, some people may develop a fixation on these hypnic jerks leading to increased anxiety, worrying about the disruptive experience. This increased anxiety and fatigue increases the likelihood of experiencing these jerks, resulting in a positive feedback loop.
Avoiding late-night exercise
Exercise is vital, but too much physical stimulation close to bedtime may increase the likelihood of these muscle twitches.Exercising earlier in the day instead can give the body plenty of time to relax and unwind before bed.
Caffeine sources, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, may help a person wake up in the morning, but having caffeine later in the day can stimulate the body and brain too much, making it difficult to transition to sleep.
Avoiding other stimulant drugs
Other stimulating drugs, such as nicotine and alcohol, may lead to restless sleep, which can result in issues with sleep deprivation or disruptive hypnic jerks.
Creating a bedtime routine
Creating a bedtime routine may help the body relax and reduce stress. Some people drink calming teas or warm milk and read a book before bed. Others may prefer to do gentle stretches or listen to music.
Turning down the lights
Blue light, which is the cold light from some light bulbs, televisions, computer monitors, and smartphones, tells the body that it is daytime.Turning down these lights or avoiding technology before bed will reduce the levels of blue light and may help a person relax.
What Are Hypnic Jerks, Or Twitching In Sleep?
Hypnic jerks, or twitching in sleep, are spontaneous, sudden jerking movements that usually occur right before we fall asleep. At sleep onset, brief muscle jerks occur due to the sense of falling asleep and other sensory phenomena we experience in this transition period.It is believed that twitching in sleep occurs during sleep deprivation, stress, fatigue, or sleeping problems like insomnia. The triggers of hypnic jerks can vary from person to person.
How Do Hypnic Jerks Occur?
It is believed that the occurrence of hypnic jerks is closely associated with sensory phenomena. This means that people experience some kind of fear, a familiar feeling of falling or other unusual and unexplained sensations or feelings.Moreover, an inner shock or light flash can also be considered as direct triggers of these twitches. Other than these possible triggers, twitching in sleep can also occur due to irregular breathing, sudden and uncontrolled reflexes, and tachycardia.
What Do Hypnic Jerks Consist Of?
Hypnic jerks or twitching in sleep consist ofThis phase is characterized by abrupt and brief flexion and extension movements. The movements are generally characterized by the abrupt arm and leg movement, which can vary from light jerks to strong and more prominent twitches and jerks, that can even wake a person up.People usually describe this phase asThe second phase of the hypnic jerks occurrence is characterized by a significant decrease in the twitching occurrence. The jerks are becoming more segmental and occur randomly in limbs or the neck area.During this phase, a person is already deep into the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Abrupt leg and arm movement, as well as sudden waking up decreases during this phase, and the person is more likely to continue the regular sleep cycle without waking up.