What are hypnic jerks and why do they happen?

As you fall asleep, a sudden twitch causes your arms and legs to jerk, and you feel as if you are falling from somewhere. These are known as hypnic jerks!

Have you ever been so close to falling asleep and woken up with a sudden jolt or jerking just as you were failing from somewhere asleep? If you’ve found yourself in this situation ever before, you’re not the only one, and this is more common than you think. This terrifying, falling feeling while sleeping is called a hypnic jerk. And it is also known as sleep twitch and sleep starts.

Come, let’s learn more about it!

What are hypnic jerks?

Many of us would have experienced a dream where we feel like falling from a height and find ourselves on our bed as we come closer to the ground. This is known as hypnic jerks or even sleep starts. Dr Vipul Rustgi, MBBS, MD Medicine, consultant physician and diabetologist, Apollo Spectra, Delhi, tells HealthShots that this happens because of contractions of involuntary muscle as we fall asleep. “Hence, during this situation you experience dreaming about being startled, jumping or falling from the top, rapid heartbeats, and breathing,” he says.

hypnic jerks
Hypnic jerks are common. Image Courtesy : Shutterstock

This is common, and the condition isn’t a serious disorder. But what causes them? Well, no one really knows!

Here’s what an expert says about hypnic jerks

In most cases, the hypnic jerks are hardly noticeable and have no clear cause of it. This occurrence is without any underlying medical condition. Dr Rustgi says, “The sudden jerk, when you feel like falling off, gives you a sudden jerk while dreaming. These are common and randomly occur within people of any age or sex. However, the causes behind these jerks are not yet clear.”

Possible reasons may include:
  1. Exercises stimulate the body. Hence, it could be the reason behind these jerks.
  2. Stressful lifestyle and anxiety, poor sleeping habits could lead to hypnic jerks.
Is it normal to have hypnic jerks every night?

These jerks are sudden and involuntary, which means you have no control over them. Some people may feel started and some may feel falling. But whatever the case, it is considered to be absolutely normal to experience hypnic jerks during sleep. “It’s a kind of signal to the body that is going into sleep mode. It’s not a disorder. In fact, it is a natural phenomenon,” says Dr Rustgi.

Although it might not pose any harm, this involuntary contraction that usually happens just when you’re drifting into sleep can disturb your sleep. So you will want to stop it somehow. Wonder if there’s any way to reduce or stop hypnic jerks? Well, yes! There are some ways.

hypnic jerks
Waking up in the middle of the night due to hypnic jerks is normal. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
How do I stop hypnic jerks when falling asleep?

There is no need for treatment, as it’s not a disorder. Instead, a few changes in your daily lifestyle may help you prevent hypnic jerks while sleeping. Dr Rustgi suggests some ways.

Here they are:
  1. Avoid consuming caffeine, especially during the evening and afternoon
  2. Avoiding doing exercise in the afternoon, also you can slow down and relax before going to bed and regularly practice breathing exercises
  3. You can do breathing exercises before going to bed
  4. Adopt better sleep habits like going to bed on time and stop using electronics at least one hour before bed
  5. Try to reduce your stress

That’s it! This is how you can reduce the occurrence of hypnic jerks.

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