Hypnic Jerk: Here is Why You Get The Feeling of Falling In Your Dreams
Have you ever been jolted awake by the sensation of falling, just as you were drifting off to sleep? Yes, it’s an entirely normal experience, and your great grandfather’s ghost is not haunting you. A recent study shows that you’re among an estimated 60-70% of Americans who regularly experience this strange phenomenon. As always, I love to write about things that I experience personally and hypnic jerks still happen to me to this day. Often, I find myself being chased by a mysterious villain from one of the many horror movies I’ve seen (Curse you Hollywood ?️?️?️) and suddenly, I step on a banana peel, trip, and fall off a cliff or bridge. Well, I immediately spring off the bed startled and confused.
A hypnic jerk or sleep twitch is an involuntary muscle twitch that occurs just as a person is beginning to fall asleep often causing him or her to awaken suddenly for a moment with a jolt. These involuntary muscle twitches in the arms, legs, or entire body are called hypnic jerks and they’re actually very common. Up to 70 percent of people experience them occasionally—but no one knew precisely what caused them. Well, now you do.
People who experience hypnic jerks report increased heart rate, quickened breathing, sweat, and sometimes a peculiar sensory feeling of ‘shock’ or ‘falling into a void. Study shows that hypnic jerk occurs more in people with irregular sleep schedules. So what does science have to say about this strange phenomenon? What causes hypnic jerks?
Hypnic Jerk Causes
Physically, hypnic jerks resemble the “jump” you experience when startled, often accompanied by a falling sensation. A Hypnic Jerk is an involuntary twitch that happens during hypnagogia – the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the triggers of hypnic jerks are numerous and they include poor sleep hygiene, exercising before bed, taking stimulants like caffeine-rich drinks (soda, coffee, teas), and stress.
In rare cases, hypnic jerk is a sign of other underlying conditions most often related to some sort of seizures like Nocturnal seizures, Non-epileptic seizures, Restless legs syndrome. Other conditions may also include hyperekplexia, parasomnias, periodic limb movements in sleep, and others. However, most hypnic jerks occur mostly at random in ordinary healthy people.
Hypnic jerks occur more in children than adults, and the frequency reduces with age. A study at the University of Colorado has suggested that a hypnic jerk could be “an archaic reflex to the brain’s misinterpretation of muscle relaxation with the onset of sleep as a signal that a sleeping primate is falling out of a tree. 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.”
Hypnic Jerk Medication or Cure
Okay ?, I wouldn’t use the word ‘cure‘ or ‘medication‘ especially if it occurs at random, but here are some tips to help reduce the frequency of occurrence of Hypnic jerks.
- Follow good sleep hygiene, develop a routine, and follow it every night.
- Watch what you eat before bedtime. Maybe this is where my problem lies ?.
- Magnesium, calcium, or iron deficiency may be to blame. First, try to improve your diet, take lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, or try a supplement with those minerals and vitamin C.
- Heavy exercise too close to bedtime can have an effect. Try to limit heavy weights or cardio sessions in the evening (your quest for 6-pack abs can wait). If you must exercise, a gentle walk an hour before bed should do the trick.
- Meditation can help relieve those negative feedback loops that will make you dread going to bed. Maintain a positive outlook, and get some tips for relaxation or yoga online. The techniques taught in even the most basic class may be enough to allow you to get your mind in a state where sleep comes naturally.
- A relaxation CD played at night may be the answer. It will give your brain something to do instead of worrying and may quickly become an essential part of your sleep routine. Try listening to something cool, like Mazzy Star’s ‘Look on Down From The Bridge.’ The song sends me to dreamland in a matter of minutes. ?
- If you’re a student, cutting back some of the time you spend studying late will probably help you a lot. If it’s having a negative effect on your life, see a doctor who may prescribe some medication to help you get that much-needed sleep.
Hypnic jerks are really nothing to worry about. If you find yourself jumping out of bed at night, simply roll over and go back to sleep. If you suspect that one of the triggers may be worsening your frequency of hypnic jerks, try cutting back on caffeine, using relaxation techniques to help you de-stress, or practice better sleep hygiene.
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