Falling, while in sleep?
What is the feeling?
When we fall asleep our bodies are as good as paralysed, yet most of us have experienced sudden twitches while asleep that make our arms and legs jerk. These unexpected twitches are referred to by numerous names such as night starts, sleep starts, or hypnic jerks.
Hypnic jerks are myoclonic movements, or involuntary muscle twitches, and they are perfectly normal though they can be unsettling. These twitches will feel very similar to the feeling of being startled, and also resembles a falling sensation.
So why do we experience hypnic jerks?
What causes Hypnic Jerks?
The exact cause of these twitches is still a mystery, but there are many factors that could potentially contribute to Hypnic Jerks. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has suggested that likely causes include Anxiety, Stress, Caffeine, Strenuous exercise and Fatigue. There are also a few theories trying to explain why it happens.
One theory is a tug of war that takes place in our brains while we fall asleep. As we fall into deep sleep, the energy left inside our bodies from the previous day accumulates and manifests itself in the form of indiscriminate twitches. Our bodies are not built with an on-off button that can put us to sleep and wake us up in an instant.
There are two opposing factions (sleep-wake) in our body which have to wrest control from each other. Hypnic jerks manifest themselves during the tug of war between wake and sleep, showing the brain is undergoing a transition.
Another theory says that these twitches are the result of relaxation. As we pass into sleep our breathing begins to slow, we become increasingly comfortable and our muscles and nerves relax. As our senses begin to dull down, it is possible that our nerves may miscarry a signal which results in a twitch in an arm or leg which startles us.
One theory that’s interesting is a more direct theory. Our brains, for a second, convince us in our sleep that we are falling.
As our bodies calm themselves into sleep, our brain sometimes gets confused and puts us under the illusion of falling. When we fall our brain triggers our arms and legs to move into a position where in they can defend our bodies. If this happens during sleep, it results in a jerking sensation which is the same twitch we’ve been speaking of.
How can we avert this feeling?
- Caffeine is believed to be one of the main causes of hypnic jerks. So cutting down or avoiding late night coffees could help reduce the twitching.
- Avoiding strenuous tasks a few hours before you sleep is also said to help avert the twitching, try not to get yourself too fatigued before you go to sleep.
- If you suffer from stress or anxiety, see a professional who will help you control this as they are believed to be catalysts in hypnic jerks.
- And also make sure you sleep in a comfortable position on comfortable mattress built for your needs.
We at Ministry of sleep have created a platform to build awareness & educate around sleep related issues and equip you with necessary tools and techniques to manage it effectively.
If you’re interested in learning more about sleep disorders we recommend you visit Pillow Picker, a blog that covers everything sleep related.
Do you have any experience to share which can help India sleep better?
SLEEP RIGHT. LIVE BRIGHT.