Have you ever been dozing off in bed, only to be pulled out of sleep by a sudden rush or jerking motion?
It’s as if the universe glitched, spawned you at the top of a skyscraper, pushed you off, let you free fall for a moment, realized it made a mistake and then dumped you back in bed.
Scientists refer to that sensation as a hypnic jerk. 70% of people experience it at some point in their lives.
What Is It Exactly?
The space between wakefulness and slumber is known as the hypnagogic stage. During this stage, it’s easy for your brain to be ‘jerked’ back into wakefulness by something like an involuntary muscle twitch.
And that’s exactly what happens during a hypnic jerk; your muscles twitch and your brain goes, “Hey! Wake up, something’s happening!”
Why Does It Happen?
In most cases, a hypnic jerk is nothing to worry about.
In such a case, the muscles begin to relax in preparation for sleep. The brain gets confused by this, thinks the body is falling and tenses the muscles to brace for impact.
It’s just a simple misunderstanding. Usually.
For some people, a hypnic jerk can actually be a symptom of a serious health condition.
Medical Causes For Hypnic Jerks
Restless Leg Syndrome
10% of the population suffers from restless leg syndrome, which causes one to experience throbbing, painful sensations in their legs.
Researchers suspect it to be hereditary but it’s also linked to the following:
- Kidney failure
- Alcohol abuse
- Sleep deprivation
Studies have shown that hypnic jerks are more common among those with brain lesions.
Brain lesions occur when an area of brain tissue has been damaged by disease or physical trauma.
In addition to hypnic jerks, a brain lesion can in some instances cause headaches, neck pain, nausea, memory loss and seizures.
Researchers have noted that an individual’s risk of experiencing a hypnic jerk increases or decreases along with their stress and anxiety levels.
Many sleeping disorders, such as narcolepsy, result in abnormal brain activity. This activity can include neurotransmitter changes and an increase in hypnic jerk risk.
When caused by sleeping disorders, hypnic jerks are often accompanied by paralysis and hallucination.