Hypnic Jerk: Why You Twitch Before Falling Asleep

Updated

July 20, 2021

Sleepy's Express is reader-supported, that means if you buy something via a link on this page, we might earn a commission. Thank you kindly.

When you start to fall asleep and twitch awake, that's a hypnic jerk. Also, it’s common to experience a sudden body jerk when falling into your dreams. 

  • Why does your body twitch before falling asleep?
  • Why do you jump in your sleep?
  • How to reduce the chances of twitching while sleeping
  • What is a hypnic jerk?
  • Do guys twitch more in their sleep?

It is unclear why you twitch before falling asleep, although it is a common occurrence. Exercise, poor sleep, or stress, among other factors, can cause your body to jerk involuntarily. 

What is a Hypnic Jerk?

A hypnic jerk, also known as a hypnagogic jerk, is a brief yet sudden contraction that a person experiences while on the verge of falling asleep. Sometimes, the jerks occur following a falling sensation. You might dream that you are falling when in reality, you are just drifting off to sleep. The sudden fall will trigger your muscle to twitch in the form of a startle. 

Hypnic jerks are involuntary and may involve the twitching of one or more muscles. In a sense, the experience can be as involuntary as hiccups as they both belong to the same involuntary muscle movement type known as myoclonus. You don't know when they're coming, and there isn't much of a thing you can do to stop it once it starts. 

People experience hypnic jerks, especially when they reach a state between being awake and asleep. People who experience a mild hypnic jerk may twitch in their sleep, but the jerk may not be noticeable or intense enough to wake them up. However, there are more severe jerks that can startle and wake you up from your sleep.


Why Does Your Body Twitch Before Falling Asleep?

A hypnic jerk is a common phenomenon and isn't usually a cause for concern. It happens at least once to about 70% of people. But the real question is why? Why does my body twitch when I sleep? Some possible factors that can trigger hypnic jerks;

Exercise 

People work out to stimulate their bodies. However, if you exercise in the evening, your body may become too active to settle down and relax in a deep sleep. When the body is overworked, it may cause hypnic jerks while falling asleep. 

Stimulants

The use of stimulants such as nicotine, caffeine, and certain drugs such as escitalopram may also cause hypnic jerks and make you jerk in your sleep. These stimulants usually bar the ability to fall asleep or have a deep sleep and may lead to hypnic jerks.

Poor Mental Health

Your mental health can significantly contribute to your sleep. When you are stressed and anxious, your mind is filled with all kinds of thoughts that keep you alert. So when you are drifting off to sleep, your alert mind can easily be startled and lead to what is called a hypnic jerk.

Irregular Sleep Patterns

When you don't have proper sleeping habits such as sleep loss or excessive sleeping, the chances of experiencing a hypnic jerk are higher. Sleep deprivation can cause your mind to cloud up and make it difficult to distinguish between reality and the subconscious. 

Check out this video for a clear understanding of why your body jerks while falling asleep.


Why Do You Jump In Your Sleep?

If you have experienced a hypnic jerk while falling asleep, you might wonder, "why do I jump in my sleep?" But what happens to your body while you are going through a hypnic jerk? We have seen the factors contributing to hypnic jerks, but other factors such as vigilance and consciousness levels may also contribute to hypnic jerks. 

While the exact cause for sleep jerks is vague, researchers have come up with some theories. They are a type of myoclonus involuntary muscle contraction. So, the part of the brain that monitors the startle/surprise reaction is where hypnic jerks start. Researchers feel that a sleep jerk happens when there is a misfire between the reticular brainstem nerves.

Your body is in a relaxed mode when you are falling asleep. But sometimes, your brain can create a scenario of falling by which the muscles twitch to alert and make you jump in your sleep. The word jump stems from the physical sight of a person experiencing a hypnic jolt. They appear as if someone startled them and gave them a jump. These hypnic jumps can be accompanied by rapid heart rate, sweating, and shortness of breath. 


How to Reduce the Chances of Twitching While Sleeping

Hypnic jerks are usually benign and should not be a cause for concern. However, if it is bothering you, there are several ways you can reduce the chances of twitching while sleeping.

Opt For Early Exercises

If you're looking for a way to reduce twitching while sleeping, make sure you finish your exercises before noon and give your body adequate rest to settle down in time for bed. 

Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine may serve as a great stimulant when you want to get things done. But it is best to avoid them in the afternoons and evenings as they may disrupt a proper sleep pattern. 

Limit the Use of Stimulants

Just like caffeine, stimulants like alcohol and nicotine may boost your energy and creativity. But they aren't the best choices if you're trying to prevent hypnic jerks. So, keep your consumption at a limit, especially after mid-day. 

Get Yourself Ready For Sleep

Tone down your activities and energy 30 minutes before going to bed. Let your mind wander free before you settle in for a shut-eye.

Take Deep Breaths

Before you go to sleep, try taking deep breaths by inhaling and exhaling ten times with five counts of hold between each breath. Deep breaths help with several things. It relieves stress, clears the mind, slows down the brain and heart rate, and more. 

Do Guys Twitch More In Their Sleep?

Men are known to twitch more in their sleep than women. However, it is still a common and random occurrence that can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender and age. People with irregular sleep patterns are the ones who are likely to twitch more than someone with a proper sleep schedule.