Everything You Need to Know About Hypnic Jerks
Have you ever been laying in bed just about to drift off to sleep when your body shakes you awake and your heart starts racing? If this happens to you, it might feel like the relaxing and calm bedtime is a long way off for you. You may have even come to dread laying in bed at night and trying to sleep as the shock you feel through this natural phenomenon is unpleasant.
What you might not realise is that thousands of people around the world suffer from this same experience and it has a name – hypnic jerks.
The hypnic jerk definition is an “involuntary twitch” that happens just as you are about to fall asleep. It is also known as a hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, sleep twitch or night start and it feels just like someone shocking you or making you “jump” while awake.
You may experience hypnic jerk symptoms other than the initial twitch or shudder which include a racing heartbeat, quickened breathing, sweating and even a feeling of shock as if you have narrowly missed being hit by a car or received a shot of adrenaline.
If you are suffering this every night, then life can seem unbearable and it can cause you anxiety. The good news is that there is a cure and there are natural treatments to help you drop off to sleep soundly without this involuntary muscle movement.
I’ve put together a guide to hypnic jerk causes and treatments to help you if you are suffering from this problem.
So read on to become better informed about this phenomenon and find out what you can do to reduce them and even prevent them from happening altogether.
Another really interesting theory is that this involuntary stimulation is actually a result of evolution. As we are descended from primates, the hypnic jerk would have helped our ancestors stay gripping onto a tree as the brain mistook the feeling of muscles relaxing for falling from the high point! This peculiar brain wiring may have stayed with us even though we have evolved over millions of years.
Another evolution-based explanation for this feeling is that your brain is shaking you awake so you can check the area is still safe – a handy safety mechanism for our ancestors who had large and dangerous predators to look out for but a modern day annoyance when we are snuggled up safely in bed. It may be that you identify with some, or even all, of these causes but it can still happen at random even if you are sleeping right, exercising early and staying away from stress, caffeine or alcohol. Some medication can also cause this problem so it is worth checking with your doctor if this has come on suddenly and you are taking new or different medication.
Hypnic jerks look different to every person and some are more violent than others. This YouTube video shows someone who is suffering from an extreme case of hypnic jerks and it shows her repeatedly shaking, being vocal, and lashing out strongly as she tries to fall asleep.
This kind of chronic hypnic jerk is thankfully rarer than the kind suffered by 70 percent of the population but it is easy to see why it is upsetting not just for the sufferer but for partners or husbands and wives who have to witness their beloved struggling with this awful feeling. It is even present in babies and small children which adds fuel to the fire of speculation that it is not just related to stress or exercise before bed.
Try videoing yourself or ask for a consultation at a sleep clinic to get to the bottom of the problem. Untreated sleep apnoea can lead to cancer, strokes or even cause death so if you suspect this might be the cause of your hypnic jerks then go straight to your doctor.
One of the best things to do is stop caring about how much sleep you get and plan to not sleep at all. This sounds like weird advice but many people end up brooding and worrying about how much sleep they will get before their head even hits the pillow. This just makes the whole situation worse.
However, if you say to yourself that you aren’t going to get a full eight hours and make peace with that, you take away the main worry which is likely the thing keeping you awake. It could lead you to having a good night’s sleep and then the anxiety and extreme fatigue will go as well – reducing your risk of having a hypnic jerk. There are other things you can do during the day to deal with anxiety and stop worrying about not being able to sleep.
Chronic or violent hypnic jerks can cause real problems for people and impact on their work and home life. If the hypnic jerks are causing you to lose sleep then you could be storing up problems for the future. The side effects of sleep deprivation can cause damage in the short term but continued lack of sleep can be really dangerous. We all know the feeling after a bad night’s sleep, the groggy slow feeling, bad mood and a weakened immune system are immediate problems that you can suffer after just one night of no or disturbed sleep.
Over time, you could suffer weight gain, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure. This lack of sleep can cause you to become less productive at work or have lower energy levels to spend time with your family. This is why it is so important to tackle the causes of this unpleasant feeling as soon as you can before it escalates.
We hope you enjoyed this list and have learned something about hypnic jerks, why they happen, what it actually is and how you can help to reduce them or stop them altogether.
We’ve gone through the probable causes and although no one knows 100% what is behind these strange episodes there are a few things which are known to make them worse or bring them on including drinking caffeine, late exercise and even a lack of magnesium.
If you are someone struggling with hypnic jerks or you are stuck in the cycle of anxiety and these involuntary spasms then we hope this article has given you more insight into the condition, its causes and given you some ideas as to how you can treat it and bring it down to a manageable level.
Please share this article if you have found it helpful and comment below if you’ve got any more tips and advice for people suffering from hypnic jerks.