Hypnic Jerks – How To Avoid Waking With A Jolt

cartoon of a man having a hypnic jerkIf you’re unsure if you’ve ever experienced a hypnic jerk, ask yourself this question:

Have you ever woken up with a sudden jolt just as you’ve started falling asleep? Or maybe it felt like you were falling?

It could be that it felt like you were having a huge muscle spasm. You may have even felt a small shock sensation or a bouncing feeling.

Perhaps it was even your partner that was experiencing it, and this in itself startled you back to consciousness. It could be then (though not necessarily) that you experienced a hypnic jerk. And if so, you’re certainly not alone.

It’s estimated that around 70% of people experience hypnic jerks at some point in their lives. I know I definitely have.

Different names

The world of sleep can be confusing, and there’s no exception when it comes to hypnic jerks. It can be confusing because it’s also sometimes referred to by the following names:

  • Night starts.
  • Sleep starts.
  • Hypnagogic jerk – hypnagogic being a term used to describe the period of time when falling asleep.
  • Myoclonus, or myoclonic jerk – this is the medical term to describe an involuntary muscle twitch.

What is a hypnic jerk exactly?

A hypnic jerk is an involuntary twitching of a muscle, or muscles (the myoclonus as mentioned above). They usually occur just as you’re falling asleep, during what’s known scientifically as the hypnagogic state of consciousness.

That’s why they’re sometimes call hypnagogic jerks: you most commonly experience them when falling asleep.

Note that hypnic is also a shortened version of the word ‘hypnagogic’. So you can see why there various possible expressions to describe the same thing.

When you experience a hypnic jerk it often causes you to wake up suddenly. And when you wake up you may feel like you’re experiencing a sudden and dramatic falling or jolting sensation.

Interestingly, the muscle twitching you experience also occurs in other situations, for example hiccups are also muscle twitches.

That strange time of the night

It’s during the phase of falling asleep that several unusual phenomenon may take place. For example, I discussed in a previous article the various sleep paralysis experiences people have. Those often come with bizarre or frightening hallucinations and even out-of-body experiences.

Luckily there’s nothing to be worried about – hypnic jerks along with these other phenomenon aren’t dangerous. They may be unsettling or annoying, but you don’t need to fear going to sleep just because they may happen to you.

Polls

During 2015 I ran 3 polls for readers to share their experience of hypnic jerks. With thousands of people participating, the results provide an interesting look at how hypnic jerks affect people.

Poll 1

a graph showing the results of a poll about how frequently people experience hypnic jerksPoll 2

a graph showing the results of a poll about the impact hypnic jerks has on their sleepPoll 3

Poll 3 shows something very interesting: that many people feel stress or anxiety makes their hypnic jerks worse (7,437 out of 14,638 votes).

This is in fact something I’ve read many times in the hundreds of comments readers have left. So it seems that tackling stress or anxiety is definitely something worth considering trying to do if you’re struggling with hypnic jerks.

a graph showing the results of a poll about whether or not stress makes hypnic jerks worse

What causes the hypnic jerk?

So now you know that the hypnic jerk is a twitching of the muscles. But what causes the muscles to twitch in the first place?

As is often the case in the complex world of sleep, scientists still aren’t 100% certain about the cause. However, they do believe that the following factors can all contribute to hypnic jerks happening:

  • Anxiety.
  • Stress.
  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • Heavy exercise late in the evening.
  • Sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
  • Being very tired or fatigued.

In addition to these factors which can contribute to the likelihood of a hypnic jerk occurring, there are some theories as to why they happen:

1. The first theory is that they happen as your nervous system relaxes and slows down when transitioning from wakefulness to sleep. Your breathing slows down, temperature drops and your muscles relax. So they might happen when nerves misfire during this slowing down process, resulting in the muscular spasm.

2. The second theory is that while relaxing as you fall asleep, your brain sometimes gets confused and thinks you’re falling. So it sends signals to the arms and legs to move to an upright position, resulting in the jerking sensation.

3. Following from the second idea, a popular evolutionary theory suggests that the ancient primate brain may have mistaken relaxation for falling out of a tree, and so the jerking is the brain waking you up quickly to take action.

4. Another evolutionary theory suggest that your brain wakes you up one last time so you can check that you’ve take the necessary steps to keep yourself safe at night.

Is it another sleep disorder?

If you’re experiencing what you think are hypnic jerks, for some people it could be something more serious like Sleep Apnea.

If you have breathing difficulties when sleeping, or wake up with a gasp or croak it may be wise to consult a medical professional to rule out Apnea.

A doctor would also be able to rule out the possibility of epilepsy. A small number of people with epilepsy only experience seizures during the sleeping hours.

If you also experience strange or uncomfortable sensations in your legs, or have regular twitching during the day or evening then it’s possible that you may have restless legs syndrome. Again this would need to be diagnosed by a medical professional or sleep expert.

And most rarely of all, is the possibility of exploding head syndrome. This sleep disorder is also harmless and is characterized by a very loud noise in your head. It could sound like a bang or any other loud noise, and will wake you up suddenly.

For the majority of people though, the hypnic jerk is a common and harmless phenomenon.

How can you stop hypnic jerks?

The hypnic jerk is such a common occurrence that it may not be possible to prevent it happening completely. However, you can take steps to address some of the factors thought to increase the likelihood:

  • Cut down on alcohol and caffeine, especially in the 3-4 hours before going to bed.
  • Try not to do heavy exercise late in the evening or night.
  • Ensure you’re getting sufficient magnesium and calcium in your diet – this can help with muscle and nerve spasms.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and bedding, and that you sleep in a comfortable position, even with a partner. Personally I’ve found that I often experience hypnic jerks when I’m cuddling my partner to fall asleep, but am not really in the most comfortable position.
  • If you suffer from anxiety or stress, this is an important issue to try and address. You may find some useful advice in the section about relaxation exercises for sleep and also the article about mindfulness exercises. These cover both practical short-term exercises and also ideas for more long-term techniques to tackle stress and anxiety.
  • Try not to allow yourself to get too tired or fatigued. Obviously this depends on your particular circumstances, as some people understandably have very busy and tiring lives. But it may be up to you to try to give more importance to how much sleep you get.

Avoid the vicious cycle of worry

Hypnic jerks can become cyclical if you start worrying about them. This is a very common thing that happens with many sleeping difficulties.

For example, people who have insomnia will often start worrying that they won’t be able to get to sleep. This worrying then becomes the thing that causes their insomnia, even if the original cause has long gone.

So in the same way if you worry about hypnic jerks you may start to get less sleep and become more fatigued. Being fatigued is thought to contribute to the frequency of hypnic jerks, and so it’s more likely you’ll experience them.

You now know that hypnic jerks aren’t dangerous and that many people experience them. So hopefully you can start to relax about them and not go to bed thinking about them.

Readers’ ideas, tips and techniques to cure hypnic jerks

If you look below you’ll see a vast number of comments from previous readers, many of whom have offered their own ideas on what can make hypnic jerks better or worse.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge and thank everyone for such detailed comments and for sharing your thoughts.

Secondly, I’m going to start a list of ideas which people have provided. Please note that many of these have no evidence to back them up. It’s simply a list of some things which other people say can contribute to hypnic jerks or improve them.

  • Magnesium supplements have been helpful for many readers, as has rubbing magnesium oils or transdermal magnesium into the area where you most commonly twitch. One suggestion was to get a blood test to check if you have a deficiency. On reader reported that after several months of taking 2 x 500mg magnesium citrate supplements every day, the hypnic jerks reduced significantly.
  • Continuing with the theme of hypnic jerks being made worse by a mineral deficiency, it’s important to assess your current diet. Try to have a healthy, balanced diet. Eat less sugary and salty foods, and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Don’t stress about it, as worrying about it makes it worse.
  • Try to deal with major stress in your life – many people say they’re worse when they feel stressed.
  • If you suffer from anxiety, take steps to tackle this in your daily life as it may help reduce the hypnic jerks.
  • Drink cayenne pepper tea (I suggest doing some research into this online first).
  • Try to see the funny side! Many readers have said that they just laugh them off.
  • Try acupuncture.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium in your normal diet, or take supplements.
  • Stop working out for a while if you’re doing strenuous exercise and see if it improves.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, coffee or energy drinks for a week and see if it improves.
  • Try to see them as a sign that you must be falling asleep, and that it’s a positive thing as you know you’ll soon be asleep.
  • Talk to your doctor about any medication you’re taking, including over the counter sleep aids to check if any could be increasing the frequency or strength of your hypnic jerks.
  • In addition to the above, check that medication you’re taking doesn’t have a side-effect of myoclonus – a surprising amount do.
  • Sleep aids and allergy medication containing the anti-histamine diphenhydramine can sometimes cause twitching. Try stopping them temporarily if you use them regularly.
  • Try taking electrolyte pills or solutions which athletes use and are also given for fluid loss.
  • Try to sleep in a different position from your back – one suggestion was that the fetal position can help.
  • Don’t go to bed late at night.
  • In terms of prescription medication, some people say clonazepam has helped them (benzodiazepines are not a long-term solution though).
  • Film yourself sleeping or use a sleep monitor. One reader said he discovered through doing this that he was snoring, and that the hypnic jerks occurred while he was snoring heavily.
  • Some female readers feel that it can be connected to hormonal changes.
  • Ask for a referral to a sleep clinic if you’re able to and it’s particularly troubling.
  • Ensure you have a quiet sleeping environment – it could be a sudden noise which startles you awake.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day.
  • If you’re being bothered by them repeatedly, get up and do something relaxing for 10-20 minutes, then try to sleep again.
  • Have a light snack before bed. And if they’re occurring repeatedly, get up and have a light snack.
  • Have a warm shower before bed, then do relaxation exercises before getting into bed or even while in bed.
  • If you do exercise, it could be excess lactic acid contributing to hypnic jerks. So try looking into ways to reduce the lactic acid, and don’t do heavy exercise in the 3 to 4 hours before bed.

Once again, a big thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute to this list of ideas to try. I know many future readers will appreciate having so many possible options to consider.

And hopefully it will inspire them to continue adding more ideas in the future. If you do have any other ideas, or found any of the above helpful, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Your views

There isn’t much research published about hypnic jerks, mainly because it’s thought to be harmless, so I’m interested to know what your experience is.

How often do you have them? What seems to make them worse or more frequent? What do you find helps to reduce them?

Please share your experiences in the comments box below and help out other readers with your ideas and theories. And if you just want a place to express what you’ve been going through, then you’re most welcome to do so here.

814 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi,

    Just some advise to help people who suffered Hypnic Jerk Daily. I used to suffered hypnic jerk Daily and i can only sleep 1 hour and sometimes no sleep at all. This due to after taking a course of Antibiotic due to my sinustisis problem. For more than 4 months i suffered from it and finally i know what is the solution for it. ” LESS INFLAMMATION IN THE BODY LESS HYPNIC JERK”. For me the reason is due to Antibiotic my flora bacteria is out of balance and i also have B12 and Iron Deficience. I also suffered Acid Reflux (Some people silent reflux). So my technique is, i followed a starch based dietby drmacdougall. I eat lots of low GI carbs which can help increase DOPAMINE to help you sleep. And also i reduce animal products 99%, i only eat half small chicken breast once a week. I eat lots of veges and fruits to alkaline my body. THE RESULT:

    After 5 months i am totallly 100% no more suffer ACID REFLUX and Stomach Inflamation.
    Hypnic Jerk become less and almost gone 99%. I only suffered if i did not eat properly.
    If it comes and attack at night time dont worry… Drink some water and relax.
    For me the main vitamin has help a lot is vitamin B12 and i eat lots of beans (black,green and red) for Iron. B12 + Iron really helps subside the jerk until i almost cannot feel it anymore. But avaoid too much animal food as it makes your body produce more acid and becomes acidic environment due digesting the meat. Once your body is acidic then the jerk will start again because acidic environment creates inflammation and also CANCER.

    Hope this information can help everybody.

    Thanks
    Dave

    • Hi Dave
      Thanks for your comment, and for sharing all of these ideas. It was interesting to read about what helped you. I do wonder how easy it was to work out exactly what it was that made the difference when you made such a big change to your diet in general. But the main thing is that it helped you!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • hello,

    Ive just read your articles with great interest.
    Im a 59 year old male fit and active. Ive been experiencing Jerks for many years probably
    30 years in total and have in the main ignored them until recently when they have become far more prominent and severe most nights. They always start with leg and hip jerks, quite often both legs at the same time, this can happen 20-30 time maybe more over 10-20 mins, then very often I get the whole body jerk and bolt upright in bed, it does sometime feel like Im having a heart attack or dying but you soon realise that after experiencing it many times that its just a feeling and nothing more. I find the alcohol sends me to sleep quickly but the night after alcohol always seems the worst for me so Im going to try a week or two free of alcohol (and coffee) to see if this makes a difference, I will also try supplements suggested ie calcium and magnesium.
    Ive seen my Doctor on a couple of occasions and he doenst seem worried about it (easy to say when its someone else experiencing it) It can be very frightening especially the whole body jerk and sometimes the head noise.
    Other feelings with the body jerk are like electric shock (without the pain) or like someone has used a tazar on me again no pain.
    Having read the article and I now know its fairly common, Im sure I will relax a little more at bedtime…. its not killed me in 30 years so I don’t expect it will now.

    Regards

    Paul

    • Hi Paul
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the article was useful, and I do hope that you can relax a little more now, as you think you might too. Perhaps the lack of caffeine and alcohol will have an effect; it’s certainly worth trying. And with the supplements too, with a little luck, the symptoms will ease off. Let me know in a couple of weeks if you have a moment – it’s always great to hear back from readers who are undertaking experiments like this.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I fall asleep in class ALL the time always waking up with a jolt. I have morning coffee everyday but why do my mid class naps end in a jolt. I need to wake more causally because I don’t want to be caught sleeping in class please help.

    • Hi Daniel
      Thanks for your comment. Do you only fall asleep in class, or at other times of the day when you shouldn’t do as well? If it happens regularly while doing things, it might be good to speak to a doctor to check you don’t have a sleep disorder called narcolepsy.
      In terms of not waking with a jolt though, that might be impossible to control! The only way would be to stop falling asleep in class. And the best way to do that is to make sure you get enough sleep every night. So my advice would be to set yourself a regular sleep schedule of at least 8 hours sleep a night, and try to stick to it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi Ethan,
    Nice article. I’m experiencing hypnotic jerk for the third time. In my life. Now I’m 31. First time at the age of 20, 27 and now. All these times I was very tired at work. Had some sweet salty or oily food in the night. When I woke up suddenly to go to restroom, I had sudden falling and a sort of giddiness was there. After few to several minutes I woke up and moved to bed. As you said it may be due to lack of calcium and magnesium supplements in food.

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment and compliment. It could be in part due to nutrition, but also I think tiredness can play a part. Many people, myself included, notice that it’s worse when they are under pressure and exhausted.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • My problem with hypnic jerks began many years ago and instead of feeling like I was falling I felt like I was dying. Actually I KNEW I was dying because my brain said “oh, I am dying now”. I had absolutely no clue about hypnic jerks and there was no “Google” then. I scoured my medical books and found nothing so went to my doctor and he sent me for an ECG, to an allergist and finally for counseling because it was determined I was anxious — well yeah, I thought I was dying. It all culminated in a nervous breakdown even though the hypnic jerks had stopped after a week or so. Then two decades later they came back with a vengeance and I got chronic insomnia because EVERY TIME I tried to sleep they woke me. I HAD figured out that I wasn’t actually dying of course but that was still the thought that accompanied the jerk. I wound up in the hospital–suicidal from lack of sleep. But I got on medication and that was good. I only finally discovered the term hypnic jerks about two years ago when I googled muscle twitches and it took me to Dr Andrew Weil’s website. He had good suggestions on breathing and muscle relaxing. I thought that it was very weird that I thought I was dying instead of falling. Maybe I fell to my death in a past life!

    • Hi Dale
      Thanks for your comment. What a terrible ordeal that sounds like! I think your story highlights how even though the internet can be problematic where self-diagnosis is concerned, it’s also a great source of valuable information. If it can help prevent people from spiraling downwards because of a lack of knowledge about what’s happening to them, it’s a positive thing.
      Regards
      Ethan

        • Hi again
          I’m not sure it is that common to be honest. Though I do recall a couple other readers mentioning similar feelings in previous comments. Perhaps a fear connected to the feeling of falling might lead some people to form the conclusion that they might die when they hit the ground! Equally, perhaps some people simply interpret the unusual sensation as what might happen when they die. Since we don’t really know what it feels like to die, maybe the brain wonders in moments like these if it might be that.
          Regards
          Ethan

    • Hi Dale,
      I would like to know more about your medication and how Dr Andrew Weil helped you. I am going through the same ordeal. Do you mind sharing a bit more?
      Thanks
      Teena

  • Hi,
    I am 19 weeks pregnant and from past two days I am unable to sleep. As I am slipping into sleep, I wake up with a forceful exhalation and I feel my stomach vibrate. I am sure its not the baby movement. Just a sudden puff of air I exhale and wake up with stomach feeling weird. I am dreading to go to sleep :( hope this will not effect my baby. Please reply.

    • Hi Aparna
      Thanks for your comment. I’m no expert in pregnancy, so wouldn’t like to give you any specific advice. I think the best thing to do is mention it to your doctor, just to be one the safe side and give yourself some peace of mind.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I’ve literally just had a Hypnic jerk. It was so severe and frightening, I’m now wide awake. I’ve had them before but not to this extent. I’ve decided to do some more research. Sometimes it might just be an arm or a leg that jerks but this time it was my whole body at such a force. By far the worst one I’ve had. I’m already taking Magnesium for RLS, I wonder if these could be connected?

    Regards
    Fiona.

    • Hi Fiona
      Thanks for your comment. If you have RLS, there could be a connection – especially if you’re taking medication or supplments for it. I’d talk it through with your doctor and see if they think there’s a relationship, and what – if anything – can be done about it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • hi
    i was a shift worker for 30 plus years with emergency services and suffered from sleep deprivation. I would regularly have very little sleep and on occasions would be awake for 24hrs before getting any sleep. I have now been retired for 18 months and my sleep patterns have not altered. Over the years i have tried all sorts but nothing works and i only sleep for a max of 4hrs. The pattern is that when i go to bed and start to relax i fall asleep quickly but within ten mins i have a massive jolt and i wake and then cannot get back to sleep for a couple of hours. I then sleep for 4 hours and wake. Within about a minute of waking i start sweating and get very hot and within a minute my body returns to its normal temperature. I get tired later in the day and feel lethargic in the afternoon to the point where i nearly fall asleep but do not. If i drink alcohol at all i fall into a deep sleep for 2 hours at bedtime and then am awake all night.
    Any help would be welcome.

    • Hi d
      Thanks for your comment. That must be very frustrating for you – I can imagine you were really hoping your sleep would change! Do you feel stressed or anxious a lot? I’m wondering if maybe there’s an element of that leading to the sleep problems, and your body’s response when you wake up. Have you spoken to your doctor about it at all? It might be good to get a professional opinion if you’ve tried different things, with no luck. And of course, do try the techniques listed by other readers in the article. Perhaps something in there might help to take the edge off the hypnic jerks, assuming that’s what they are.
      The alcohol thing is quite normal also. It’s been shown that alcohol can help you fall asleep faster and have more deep sleep, but less REM sleep and more noctural wakings are also likely, which results in less good refreshing sleep.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • After I have been asleep for a few hours I have felt a couple different shocking feelings. a few times I have felt like I was hit with a stun gun, I have felt a few times like someone has hit me in the face or if I was stung by a wasp. The last instance I was woken like someone shot a glass bottle right by my ear. I have gotten up to see if someone was in the room. it felt sooo real. I have had sleep jerks with the sense of falling before but the ones that really concern me are the ones that shock very hard after I have been asleep for a while. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Shawn
      Thanks for your comment. It could be exploding head syndrome from your description. It’s hard to tell, as it could also be a form of sleep hallucination on waking. But I imagine it’s probably one or the other.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • This would happen to me maybe twice a month but it was always when I was really, really tired. But, in the last 3 to 4 weeks, it’s occurs 3x a week (give or take). I then get into a cycle where I start thinking about it and really laying there “waiting” for one. I know this is actually causing them to happen more frequently but can’t seem to take my mind off them. Which of course, results in bad nights of sleep. What I’d say is a little troubling is that my heart starts beating faster (and “loud” enough I can feel it in my chest). I’m a very healthy 41 year old male with no issues of heart problems so I’m not really concerned about anything really wrong but the fact that the cycle of “jerks” is happening more and more has messed with my mood from day to day.

    • Hi Mark
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like perhaps there’s an issue with hypervigilence there. Both focusing on the hypnic jerks and your heartbeat can definitely result in you getting stuck in a vicious circle, interfering with your sleep. You could try some self-help techniques, such as breathing or meditation exercises while in bed. This can help you to relax and take your mind off focusing on things that worry you. If you continue to have trouble after a couple of weeks trying, perhaps speak to your doctor about it. Also if you look up hypervigilence in relation to health online, you’ll find useful advice about that.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Thanks alot for this info has settled my been worried over the years of this this issue , suprisinly most doctors know nothing about this jerks nor it’s solutions, so sad and frustrating seeking their help. I will like to get updates of new infro.
    For me I notice I experience it when am stressed out, go to bed angry and bitter, relent in my intake of calcium, Bco, mag etc supplements. May God bless and keep u

    • Hi Helen
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article helpful. Sometimes it’s hard for doctors to find the exact cause and best treatment of a problem. And sleep problems can be very tricky to solve. So it’s good to try the self-help techniques here as well. It also sounds like you know what makes it worse for you, so you can try to work on those things too.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • i sometimes get these. One time, i was falling asleep when out of nowhere i dreamt that i fell and woke up with my heart beating and i felt that my right foot just kicked. It really annoys me since overtime, it happens when i am already falling asleep and really sleepy, it just makes my wake up with a shock

    • Hi Lisa
      Thanks for your comment. The best thing you can do is not allow yourself to react negatively to it, but just to shrug it off and accept that it’s a natural thing. And even better, a sign that you’re about to fall asleep – and will do again.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I usually get these once or twice a week, sometimes three times.
    Typically one of my legs will suddenly jolt or kick and I’ll awaken a bit disoriented and of course annoyed. Rarely it’ll be my arm will swing out, and even rarer, my head will snap to one side or the other. I do think with my anxiety they are worse than other times. They do also sometimes mess with my sleep and it takes a while to get back on my sleep track as I’ll be laying down thinking about what just happened. All in all, these things suck.

    • Hi Anna
      Thanks for your comment. I think a positive step would be to try not to spend time thinking about it when it happens. As myself, and many readers do, it’s a good thing to shrug it off and see it as a sign that you’re definitely tired and sleep should come soon. Ruminating on it won’t help in any way, and just keep you awake longer.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I get this when i am sleep deprived for some time. I am a horrible insomniac, and sometimes do not sleep for days. It is at this time that i experience hypnic jerks. When stressed with no sleep for maybe 3 days. This last bout, from last week, lasted 3 days when i would try to sleep and nearly jump out of bed every time i was about to fall asleep. Maybe the worst i’ve had, but i have had other episodes of the same thing. Lose sleep for a few days, then can’t fall asleep because of the hypnic jerks. What i have found is that if i catch up on a couple hours of sleep a day, they will go away in a few days. Not fun!

    • Hi Jerry
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, hypnic jerks are known to occur more regularly due to sleep deprivation. I guess it’s a good reason in your case to try your best to make sure you always get enough sleep at night. Hopefully you can keep them at bay if you stay on top of your sleep schedule.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Been experiencing this almost every night for the last few weeks and as I wake, most of the time I see something, not necessarily scary as such, but scary because it shouldn’t be there. I have come to dread sleep time.

  • Im being shocked while I sleep at the exact same time (around 3:30am). My fan in my room slows down and my night light gets very dim and I am paralyzed and can’t even think. Then very suddenly, everything returns to normal. I called my electric company and they told me about other complaints and that it is an electrical issue. How can I stop this power surge that is shocking me at night? the headaches are so bad that I can’t find an appropriate word for them. It’s really driving me nuts.

    • Hi Steve
      Thanks for your comment. Are you sure it’s a real electrical shock? It could be something happening in your sleep, such as sleep paralysis or sleep hallucinations.
      Regards
      Ethan

      • Yes it is a real paralyzing electrical shock that dims my lights and slows my fan to almost a stop for about 15 seconds then everything returns to normal. It is causing the paralysis. It is between 3:30 and 3:45 every night for 4 nights now. I unplug my computer and wifi modem and turn off all devices. I have had an electrician out and spent $240 for him to test everything and check for breaks in the protective coating in the wiring. Everything came back fine. My room is very close to the outdoor power lines (approx. 10 feet) and I think it’s due to atmospheric charging. But this is only my best guess. Last night was worse because even after I stood up, I would keep pausing and getting paralyzed for a few seconds and once again the fan slows down and the lights dim. WHILE STANDING UP! The strange part is that my IR camera is completely white and is so bright during these times. I cant see anything on my security cameras when it occurs.

        • Hi Steve
          In that case I’m not sure I can provide any answers for you. I’m not sure what kind of professional you’d need to make further tests to put your mind at ease.
          Regards
          Ethan

      • Yes it is electric. Even after I wake up and stand up, it happens again and again. Same effects ie. lights dim, fan slows down to almost a stop and I can’t move or thing. But the last 2 nights have been fine. I am thinking it’s related to something electromagnetic. Least that was what I got from some people I consider to be professionals. I told my doctor all of this and he said the same thing as you, that it was sleep paralysis and wanted to give me pills until I asked him why my lights and fan were getting sleep paralysis.

        • Hi Steve
          Have you considered leaving a camera filming your bedroom – pointed at a fan or light? Then if you wake up and find this happening, if you see it happened on the film, you’ll know it was electrical and not sleep paralysis or other hallucination. If nothing shows up, then you can perhaps consider sleep disorders.
          Regards
          Ethan

  • Hi there when I get them I am sometimes gasping for breath,also I never get them if I doze off on the settee in the evening.They seem to happen more often when going to sleep on my side,Mike.

  • Dear Ethan Green,

    I have read your article with great interest. I’m a master student at the university of Amsterdam studying Brain and Cognition and following the current course, sleep and cognition. Since both my girlfriend and my mother seem to experience hypnic jerks I was motivated to further research this topic. I have found a lot of articles regarding this topic (Hypnagogic state, e.a transitional state or rhythmic sleep disorders) but I wanted to ask if you mind sharing your scientific literature with me if available.

    Secondly, a different but more specific question do you have any idea if the hypnic jerk only appears during the onset of sleep, or is it also possible to occur in the transitional state between the early sleep stages?
    To me, it seems possible that it could also happen between the transition of the REM stage and stage 1sleep related to the (de)activation of many processes.

    Hopefully, can you provide me with some extra information and literature on this topic.

    Kind regards, and keep on writing!
    – Jimmy

    • Hi Jimmy
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article interesting. Unfortunately, I first wrote this article a long time ago, and no longer have the literature to hand that I referred to. It’s due an update though, so will receive the usual links to journals etc. that I do nowadays when I get round to updating it.

      In answer to your question, I just took a look at the ICSD-3 which may have some answers for you. Here’s a quote which I think you might find helpful:

      “Polysomnographic monitoring shows that hypnic jerks occur during transitions from wakefulness to sleep, mainly at the beginning of the sleep episode.”

      Furthermore, this next section also goes on to explain how there are similar movements which aren’t hypnic jerks, but occur at other stages:

      “Hypnic jerks must be differentiated from a number of physiological or pathologic movements that occur at sleep onset or during sleep.”

      I don’t want to copy and paste a massive section of the manual, but if you can access the ICSD-3, you’ll find more information about the different movements it refers to in that quote, including partial hypnic myoclonus, Fragmentary myoclonus, PSM, benign sleep myoclonus of infancy, hyperekplexia syndrome, epileptic myoclonus, PLMD and RLS.

      Regards
      Ethan

    • Solar charging may also be related to this. The electric company claims they get the most complaints between 3-5am due to the solar charging of the electrical wires. I have no solution for anyone of these effects, if indeed this is the problem. but at least you have some idea of what the problem might be.

  • I’m only fourteen and I often get these hypnic jerks. I don’t think I have anxiety or anything like that, nor do i drink or smoke. But when i get a hypnic jerk, I’m having some pain in the back of my neck. I was starting to get a little worried so i asked my parents if something like that ever happened to them and they said no… should i be worried?

    • Hi Mina
      Thanks for your comment. Hypnic jerks are usually nothing to worry about – most people get them at some point. If you have physical pain in the neck and you’re worried, I’d ask your parents if you can speak to your doctor about it. They can set your mind at ease. It may be totally unconnected though – maybe try a different style/thickness/height of pillow and see if that helps?
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Thanks so much for this article. I have been researching for a while and finally found the term. I quit smoking a few weeks ago which resulted in a bit of chest congestion and insomnia. I think the combination of the two have brought on hypnic jerks. These jerks really are jerks. I appreciate the information.

    • Hi Steven
      Thanks for your comment. I’m pleased you found the article helpful. It could be that the change and illness contributed to it. Hopefully you’ll get back to normal sleep soon. Good luck with the quitting smoking!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am 46 and started having this body jerking sensations only a few months ago. At first it was once every couple of weeks, then more frequently and now several times a night. Last night I was woken constantly by these jerking movements. This only happens in sleep. Scares the life out of me because I haven’t been having a dream where I’m falling to tripping or anything… just these awful jerking movements. I drink coffee only in the morning, about 1 cup. I like my G&T, but not daily. Am on an anti-anxiety med and could be perimenopausal. Anyway. Scary. And I’m exhausted.

    • Hi Daniella
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’re struggling with your sleep. I’d mention it to your doctor and see if they think it could be the meds. And do try the techniques in the article too and see if they help.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I find them
    Stress full and I get a really bad fright from them, sometimes I think I’m going to get a heart attack from the fright of falling and my whole body jerks, I find if I’m really tired they are worse.

    • Hi Mary
      Thanks for your comment. I know they can be stressful, but it’s good to try and stay calm about them. You can try some of the techniques in the article and see if they help. But do remind yourself that they are harmless – if you can, remind yourself that they mean you’re tired and sleep shouldn’t be too far away.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I had severe “jolts” at night for many years, really scary, but it stopped not long after I quit drinking coffee. I used to drink 3 to 5 cups a day.

    • Hi Johan
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, coffee can be a real problem when it comes to sleep. It’s great you worked that out and had success with stopping drinking it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Mine is a bang behind my eyeballs, sometimes I can feel it coming on and wake myself up before it happens. When It does happen it is like I am lethargic for the rest of the day.

  • The excessive body jerks don’t wake me, they do however wake my wife who in turn wakes me (grumbling or loudly sighing).
    The jerks that bother me are the occasional ones which happen very randomly at least 1 or 2 times a day. No warning, no way to stop it, yet very noticeable by others.
    Around the time it started, I noticed I am very sensitive to touch (I’ll react with a jerk when someone taps my shoulder to ask a question).
    I’m a personal trainer and I drink enough fluid, I also take a Calcium Magnesium +D3 complex daily. If I could get rid of stress without giving up my job or family, I would.
    Is there any recommendations to stop them from happening?

    • Hi Mike
      Thanks for your comment. Other than the ideas in the article, there’s not much more I can add. The only thing I wonder is if you’re doing a lot of physical exercise yourself? Some other readers have commented that they think it only happens when they train hard. Perhaps this is something to experiment with and see if it happens less on days you train less harder yourself.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am 63 years old and I started having “body jerks” a few months ago…..I went to the doctors and she said to try and alleviate my stress and anxiety, Only my torso jerks, not my legs or arms…it’s like someone is jump starting my whole body…..I have been a caregiver for my mother for seven years now without a break and it is starting to wear on me………I believe that I need to find something to take my mind off my situation and probably this will help with my jerks. The jerks don’t scare me, they are just a nuisance and cause me the much needed sleep that I need in order to make sure my mom has the best care. I think I need to learn to cope better. NMN

    • Hi Nancy
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand the stress it causes you, but as you say, it might be good to try and deal with them in a different way. You can try some of the ideas in the article, but as your doctor says, dealing with anxiety might be good. I think you might benefit from doing breathing exercises in bed. They can help by both reducing anxiety and focusing your mind on something else.
      Regards
      Ethan

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