Hypnic Jerk – Jolted Awake When Falling Asleep…

If you’re unsure if you’ve ever experienced a hypnic jerk, then ask yourself this question:

cartoon of someone experiencing the hypnic jerk falling experience

Ever woken up with the feeling you are falling?

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 the hypnic jerk. Confusing because it’s also sometimes called by one of 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 – technically this is the medical term to describe an involuntary muscle twitch.


So 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. This is referred to scientifically as the hypnagogic state of consciousness.

This is why they are sometimes call hypnagogic jerks – because 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 are all these possible expressions to describe the same thing.

When you experience a hypnic jerk it often causes you to wake up suddenly. When you wake up you may feel like you’re experiencing the sensation of falling or jolting.

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

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



The first poll below was open for a year and has provided a fascinating insight into the frequency that people experience hypnic jerks. I have now closed it and opened two more to continue with the idea of this being an interactive and evolving article which takes readers’ views into account. So please take a moment to fill them in. Thanks!

Poll 1 (now closed)

How often do you experience a hypnic jerk?

  • A couple of times a week (41%, 1,957 Votes)
  • Every day (38%, 1,827 Votes)
  • Rarely (21%, 1,016 Votes)
  • Never (0%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,814

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Poll 2 (open to votes)

Do you think that stress or anxiety makes them worse?

View Results

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Poll 3 (open to votes)

What impact do hypnic jerks have on your sleep?

View Results

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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 with the complex world of sleep, scientists are still not 100% certain about this. 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 2 theories as to why they happen:

1. The first theory is that they happen as a normal part of the nervous system relaxing and slowing down. For example your breathing slows down, temperature drops and your muscles relax. They are then thought to occur because of the muscle relaxation.

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.

I have read viewpoints that the brain gets so confused it thinks the body is dying or falling to its death, and so wakes you with a jolt. But I personally don’t have much faith in that more extreme conclusion!


Make sure it isn’t another sleep disorder

If you’re experiencing what you think are hypnic jerks, then 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 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:

  • You can 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 are 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 a hypnic jerk when I am cuddling my partner to fall asleep, but am not really in the most comfortable position.
  • If you are someone that suffers from anxiety or stress, then this is another issue to address altogether. However, you may find some useful advice in the section about relaxation exercises for sleep. This covers practical short-term exercises, and also some 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. Have a read of the section on attitude towards sleep for some ideas about this.


Avoid the vicious cycle of worrying that you will experience a hypnic jerk

Hypnic jerks can become cyclical if you start worrying about them. This is a very common thing that happens with 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, then 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 a hypnic jerk is not 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 several 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 (easier said than done, but not impossible!).
  • Try to deal with major stress in your life – many people say they’re worse when they feel stressed.
  • If you’re someone who suffers from anxiety, then take steps to tackle this in general, as this may help reduce the hypnic jerks. It may also help you stop worrying about them.
  • Drink Cayenne pepper tea (I suggest doing some research into this online first).
  • Try to see the funny side! Not everyone will agree, but some people say 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 are doing strenuous exercise and see if it improves.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, coffee or energy drinks for a while 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 on, 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 (which many 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 (this ties in with having good sleep habits in general).
  • In terms of prescription medication, some people say Clonazepam has helped them (benzodiazepines are not a long-term solution though).
  • Film yourself sleeping! 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 in particular 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, as 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. A banana is a good option.
  • 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.


What do you think about hypnic jerks?

There isn’t much research published about the hypnic jerk, mainly because it is 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.


474 Responses to “Hypnic Jerk – Jolted Awake When Falling Asleep…”

  1. Stefanie says:

    I forgot to mention, sorry, but both times that this happened to me, it was not when I had just fallen asleep, at least, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. :)

    • Ethan Green says:

      It’s sometimes hard to tell that too…how long had you been asleep for before something happened? Again it could be an indicator that it’s not a real hypnic jerk, but just a reaction to your dream:-)

  2. Stefanie says:

    Unlike everyone else who has commented, or maybe not, there were tons of comments and I didn’t read through them all!, I believe I have only experienced this type of thing maybe twice or at most, three times, so far in my life and they have all occurred when I was very young. I personally thought them to be sort of cool. For instance, the last one that I remember involved me being in a car race, kinda like NASCAR, but on dirt roads, etc. The details are a little hazy, I think I was maybe 7 years old or around there. Anyways, all I remember is the car, I may have been in it, sped toward a huge dirt speed “bump”, well, like the “bumps” they have at the motorcross things, and as the car sped up the bump, suddenly, the ground dropped out from under me and I just woke up. My heart was racing and I felt like I had had an adrenaline rush, which is why I said it was a pretty cool experience. Since then, I have never had something like that happen to me again.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Stefanie

      Thanks for your comment. You’re not the first to say that they find hypnic jerks amusing in one way or another, myself included. I’m not sure if what you describe is really a hypnic jerk, or just one of those weird times when we dream something, then wake up with some kind of physical action which seems to reflect the dream. It’s hard to say though which came first – the dream or the physical movement, as both can elicit the other.

  3. Christopher Tillson says:

    Hi just read your very interesting article, my problem, according to my wife, is that the jerks go on all night, is this the “jerks” or something else, could you put any light on the subject for me

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Christopher
      It depends what she means by goes on all night. Is it randomly during the night, or is it every few seconds or minutes? Is it really jerks, or is it just you moving about in bed as we all do many times in the night, and this is waking her up with a start? I’d say you need a bit more info from her, or film yourself sleeping to see what’s going on for yourself.

  4. Simon says:

    I heard that this was a carry-over from when we were monkeys and hung out up trees. It was dangerous if the monkey slept up a tree, so they developed this jerk response prior to sleeping.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Simon

      I’ve never heard that explanation before! It sounds to me like that would be even more risky, as the jerk could end up throwing them out of the tree!

  5. Paul says:

    Hi all

    I first started to get these jerks last year after 2 days of heavy drinking and little sleep (plus a line of some unknown powder – Im not proud) The jerks were intense…one after the other and they stopped me from sleep for another 3 nights…the only thing that stopped them was diazepam….anyways, I stopped taking the diazepam as they are a slippery slope and the jerks hardly have happened since…maybe once or twice…until today! And guess what people, I had a skinful of booze last night…
    Therefore I am now 100% convinced that they are caused by alcohol and dehydration…I don’t even think that tiredness plays a part because in the last year I have had a few sleepless nights due to insomnia (which has also improved with the help of mirtazapine – i highly recommend it) and there was no sign of these jerks.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Paul

      Thanks for your comment. You’re not the first reader to comment about how a night of heavy drinking caused hypnic jerks. I think that it’s obviously not the explanation for everyone, because not everyone who gets them drinks. But definitely for some people it seems to make them appear, or makes them worse. Perhaps in part due to withdrawal, and part from dehydration and mineral loss.
      I guess you’ll need to be prepared for the eventuality if you drink, unfortunately.

  6. kasey says:

    I have had a mild twitch as i am falling asleep which is no big deal. It happens and i must be awake enough to know that it was just like a muscle twitch. I have had this for a long time. I also have restless leg syndrom and and treated for that with mirapex. Which works wonders. I always thought that the twitching was part of that and pretty much ignored it. But here recently i have been statled awake 1 to 2 times a night maybe once a week in the middle of the night when i am in a deep sleep. I feel like i had been shaking or bouncing. And it takes a minute to realize i am in my bed in my room. And it gives me a bit of anxiety. I am able to go back to sleep but it worries me is that what this is? What are your thoughts?

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Kasey,

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like it could be explained either by the restless legs syndrome or by a hypnic jerk. Just because you have one doesn’t mean you can’t experience the other too. It could be that it’s the same twitch you’ve had in the past, but for whatever reason recently it’s been a bit stronger, or you’ve just noticed it more. I would say wait a while and see if it settles back down again. If not you could always speak to the doctor treating the RLS.
      All the best

  7. Dan says:

    I was once told that the feeling of falling while asleep was a clumsy angel. The angel was picking you up to carry you away but tripped and dropped you back into your body. From what i read in the beginning of this article and others, it sounds like a possibility where for a short period of time your body slowly starts to shut down on you anyway.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Dan

      What a lovely idea! I’m not one for believing in angels generally, but I do like the slap-stick image that your description conjures up:-)

  8. Steven says:

    I have a friend who has quite similar experience with one of the person who post here. I am helping him to check it out. He experienced this jerks on hands and legs before falling asleep. Instead of being worried, he actually enjoyed it.. He just relax and let it jerk go to full force and return to sleep and gradually the jerk become weak on other nights and gone..

    reference from previous poster:
    May 20, 2014 at 6:35 am

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Steven

      Thank you for your comment. I think that not worrying about it is one of the best ways of dealing with it. For many people, it’s something they might be able to reduce, but will possibly just have to learn to live with and accept. So it sounds like he is already of the right mind-set.

  9. Isabel Zhang says:

    I happen to get this extremely frequently, often over five times a night just twitching and awakening suddenly, to realize your not falling. It’s a weird sensation to go from rapidly falling to jerking upwards in your own bed, then looking around to realizing you are just in your own room. I haven’t found it too annoying as I asleep as soon as I get it but another thing that has come with all this sleep jerking is feeling extremely dizzy when standing or sometimes when you’re not doing anything at all. I just get all these dots in my vision and unbelievable dizziness. Although I know that a lot of people get this, I get it to the point where I have fainted and then jerk and wake myself up again, only to find myself on the floor and then I realize that I have fainted. Just wondering whether having these kinds of episodes are normal?

    Thanks, Isabel

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Isabel,

      Thanks for your comment. I think from what you say, you should get yourself checked out by your doctor. Any fainting spells and dizziness is something which should be looked into.

  10. ann says:

    Deep breathing when I first lay down helps to prevent mine. It releases stress and helps my body to relax progressively and consciously…so that my brain and my muscles are more in sync.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Ann

      I completely agree that breathing exercises can work wonders in bed when trying to relax, and can help with various sleep problems.

  11. Sydney says:

    I often get these jerks while falling asleep in uncomfortable positions such as in the car or on an airplane. I seem to fall right asleep after them though.

  12. Eliza Doughberry says:

    Hi Ethan,

    I’m wondering if you can help me. I seem to be having these hypnic jolts every night. I can fall asleep fine, but when I do, about half an hour later I have this kind of jolt. It’s been happening every night for the past five days and I’m starting to loose my mind.

    I’ve had Depression and Anxiety for a long time, but neither ever affected my sleep like this, they usually just created nightmares whereas in this case, I haven’t had dreams or slept almost at all.

    Nothing big has happened recently that changed my sleeping so I’m not sure what’s going on but I’d like to figure something out so I don’t continue to try sleeping for 8 hours only to end up getting 4 hours of sleep.

    Take Care,

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Eliza

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear the hypnic jerks have been causing havoc with your sleep. Have you spoken to your doctor about it? They might be able to advise you, and also check the mineral and vitamin levels in your body. Many readers have reported that taking magnesium or calcium supplements has helped them. More than any other of the tips I think. It could be worth trying. Otherwise, perhaps just start trying out the various suggestions which others have found helped them.
      And above all, try not to get too stressed about it, which I know is easier said than done. I think if it does happen, and you wake up, the best thing is to not dwell on it or react to it. Try to accept it as something which is just happening at this period in time, and allow yourself to forget it and fall asleep again. You could even try doing some relaxation techniques in bed if it wake you up and you find yourself getting stressed or upset by it.
      All the best

  13. Andre Coetzee says:

    Hi all,
    I had these jerks in my left leg every night for a few weeks and it seemed to get worse, keeping me awake although i was tired. I took magnesium Glycinate tablets, taking one in the morning and one with my supper, by the second night no more jerking! The magnesium even relaxes you so you sleep better. I was going to see the doctor as one starts to get worried, i wonder what drug would have been prescribed. My jerking must have been a symptom of my magnesium levels being low.

    take care

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Andre

      Thank you for your comment, and it’s really great to hear that you found something which helped you so quickly and effectively! More and more people seem to report good results with magnesium supplements, so yours is another story to add to the anecdotal evidence.
      Many thanks

  14. Richard Driffill says:

    5am and nervous about going back to bed. Thought I’d do a little research !
    Very useful, thank you (all).
    My experience is of ‘near death’. My brain seems to focus on something that it sees as a problem situation but one which I know is not real. When I realise this, in my near-unconscious state, it feels as if my brain is dying and that I am thinking my last ever semi rational thought. Though not necessarily breathing my last breath. And all that happens within a second or two. I always cry out.
    Possible contributing factors? Being overtired, conversely trying to sleep when not tired enough, alcohol (usually the night following the drinking of, and (possibly a new suggestion) sudoku problem solving just before bed! My brain seems to remain in sudoku-solving mode!

    62 year old reasonably healthy male. Started about 4 years ago. Not every night by any means, but I’ve just had at least ten of them within an hour or two.

    Comforting to know there are others who suffer and extremely helpful to hear there is no cause for alarm. Am just now going back to bed with that thought in mind. Thank you.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m pleased that you found the article helpful and comforting. That’s always good to hear!

      I think from what you say, that it’s more likely the alcohol and tiredness are contributing factors, rather than sudoku! But who knows…

      I guess you can work it out bit by bit by eliminating one of those factors at a time (including the sudoku) and seeing if it makes a difference. Obviously eliminating tiredness isn’t so easy, but it you can perhaps try and maintain a stable sleep schedule for a week or two and get plenty of rest, then you could see if it helps.

      All the best

  15. Shreya says:

    I am 13 years old and I have been having them as long I can remember. I am also tripping the stairs almost everyday and fall even when I am walking with care. I would like to know if these problems are related. I often feel like I am falling of the stairs while having these jerks. I also have them regularly though they are light at that time. It happens when I am day-dreaming while in bed. I do that to fall asleep. I am often afraid to fall asleep because of these.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Shreya
      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’ve been having sleep problems. Have you spoken to your parents about this? It might help to talk to someone about it. I don’t understand why you’re tripping on the stairs every day though. You might find it useful to talk to them about that too.

    • James says:

      Hi, Ethan.

      I’ve had these hypnic jerks now for about eight straight nights. Two nights ago was not as bad as the other nights… I thought maybe I was normalizing at last. But nope!

      Is this common? I mean, to seldom—if ever—experience these things, but all of the sudden it happens all the time? I am trying to determine if I am any more stressed than usual, but I can’t really pin-point anything. The only thing I can think of is that I made my appointment to see the Neurologist the day/night they began. Maybe I am subconsciously anxious, and my anxiety is making itself know in this way? I don’t know.

      But now, I go to bed expecting it. I have even delayed going to bed because I don’t want to deal with it. Not good, but not sure what else to do.

      I think I will try experimenting with cutting-down on coffee to maybe just one cup in the morning, for starters. Unfortunately, I can’t go to the gym earlier as my work situation doesn’t easily allow for that.

      Thanks again for the follow-up.

      • Ethan Green says:

        Hi James

        I think it is possible to suddenly start experiencing hypnic jerks. Or maybe you have had them before, but just not strong enough for you to really pay attention to.
        It could be that there is some underlying anxiety there from what you say. I guess one way to find out will be to see if they reduce once you’ve been to see the neurologist, assuming they don’t tell you something you worry about more!
        I do think it’s important to try not to get into the vicious circle of not worrying about sleep though. And I know that’s easier said than done. I would recommend looking at the section on relaxation techniques for sleep and doing some of those as you’re lying in bed. You might find they help deal with anxiety, and also help you stop worrying about sleeping or not.
        All the best

  16. James says:

    I am 48 years old, and have never experienced hypnic jerks until recently—not that I can recall. They began maybe several weeks ago, but were pretty much one-offs and I fell asleep easily after just experiencing the jerk once.

    But the past four nights (tonight being the fourth… hence my being here now) I’ve had them many times per night. My sleep has been wrecked these past nights—only having finally fallen asleep after hours of experiencing these jerks.

    I am at a point where I expect them now, and that is making things worse, of course.

    My wife says I have nothing to worry about—to just recognize them for what they are. However, I’ve been experiencing other neuropathy-type symptoms since last December, and have been trying to get to the bottom of them since.

    Could I just be stressed-out by everything… and these hypnic jerks are just another “symptom”. Or, could they be a part of a larger problem? … which, the thought of, makes me even more stressed?


    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi James

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve going through such a stressful experience. Even though hypnic jerks are harmless, I know it can be very disturbing to have them so regularly. And the accumulative effect of the lack of sleep and worry can definitely make things worse.
      I’m not sure what you mean by other neuropathy symptoms, but my advice would be to talk to your doctor about everything you are experiencing, if you haven’t already done so.
      Then I think it’s important to work on the worry about them happening. And I know that’s easier said that done. Personally I’m a big believer in the power of doing relaxation exercises, breathing, meditation of whatever you feel comfortable with while you’re in bed to help take your mind of the worry, and to relax.
      And I also recommend having a look at the readers’ tips section in the article. Many people have found that the tips there have helped a lot – particularly those about magnesium and calcium supplements. So you could try that.
      I hope things improve soon for you.
      All the best

      • James says:

        Hi, Ethan.

        Thanks so much for the reply.

        I have been working with my doctor/s (I lost my doctor on Jan. 1st and got a new one) since mid-Decemeber when I first began experiencing my symptom (tingling and prickling in the extremities, mainly. But occasional brief, fleeting pain, as well). I’ve had CT scans and and MRI that ruled-out some of the more serious concerns I’ve had. All tests normal. I am seeing a Neurologist next month (earliest she could see me!) and will have some further tests done under her care.

        So, when anything like these hypnic jerks makes themselves known, it adds to the stress and anxiety.

        I have read the tips that the other users here have contributed. I try breathing exercises when I get anxious… I’ve always worked out at the gym late in the evening, as my work schedule permits, and have never had any issues with it effecting my sleep. But I’ll see if any of the others might benefit me.

        Thank you again.

        • Ethan Green says:

          Hi James,

          No problem. Well it’s good your getting all the tests done and are in the hands of the professionals. Hopefully they will be able to bring your some peace of mind and improvement.
          Let me know how it goes if you get a moment, and also if you think any of the other tips help out. If you can do your gym training earlier in the day, even just as an experiment for a short while, it might be interesting to see if it is now having an effect.
          All the best

  17. Tammy says:


    I found this article Googling ‘body jerks before falling asleep’ out of curiosity because it happens to me quite frequently; that sudden whole-body jerk that happens just as I’m about to fall asleep. I had started to drift off while leaning my head on my husband’s shoulder this afternoon and then my whole body jerked. It jumped my husband and he said, “Whoa. Where you going? Did you just jump out of a plane or something?”

    I notice that it happens alot when I don’t actually want to fall asleep, I just want to rest..not sleep. That may be why it happens to me. My brain knows it’s not time for sleep. My own subconscious alarm possibly? Or my brain and body want to sleep but I don’t have time to sleep right at that moment. Something like that.

    I suspect it may also be stress induced but I’m never ‘not stressed’ so it would be hard for me to make that determination.

    Anyway, just thought I’d add my ‘2 cents’. I don’t think my own personal experience with them means anything is medically wrong. I think I’m overtired and over stressed and could use a really long vacation on beautiful warm sandy beach. ;-)

    Thanks for all the insight on this ‘Hypnic Jerk’ thing.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Tammy

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m pleased your found the article helpful.
      I think there is every chance that being tired and stressed is contributing to the hypnic jerks. So many readers have mentioned the same, it’s hard to ignore that possibility!
      My advice would be to start saving for that long vacation…you probably deserve it!

  18. Mark says:

    There is no question alcohol exacerbates them or caused them. The heavier you drink the worse they are . Cannot drink at all anymore . Sad .

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, I think many people have noticed the same thing. It’s a shame you can’t find a drink which you can still enjoy in small quantities at least!
      All the best

  19. mike says:

    Have suffered through this on/off for 20+ years, the jerking awake especially bad during times of heightened anxiety, the only help in the past has been getting up out of bed and exercising, sometimes many times throughout the night just to be able to get a couple of hours sleep….recently the exercise hasnt done the trick, so i tried adding extra powdered magnesium/ multi vitamins to the diet, which is definitely helping and am a bit optimistic. …alcohol definitely does not help and seems to make the jerking awake worse…my condolences to everyone suffering this ailment, its a devastating ordeal to be exhausted laying in bed at 4AM and unable to fall asleep

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Mike

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such problems spanning so many years. I can understand your frustration!
      From what you’re saying about needing to get out of bed and exercise, it makes me think of restless legs syndrome. Have you thought about that possibility before?
      I’m glad the magnesium and vitamins seems to be helping. Perhaps over time it will build in its effect.
      All the best

  20. Tony says:

    I’ve been experiencing these ” jerks ” for approx 4-5 yrs, previously had a high stress job and tend to be anxious in general . Mine tend to feel like a swelling of shaking from my legs , up through my torso into my head, but it varies , I don’t actually shake but it feels that way. It’s usually as most say just before nodding off at night but have had it whilst trying to sleep in the day. Also suffer from lightheadedness and other symptoms of anxiety. Found the comments about possible aids very useful , will,definitely give a few a try .

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article and comments helpful. Yes, there are some great tips and suggestions from readers and I hope you find something to help.
      You may also find it useful to read the article about restless legs syndrome and see if that rings any bells with what you experience.

  21. Rob van der Sanden says:

    Sorry for possible misspelling. I’m Dutch…
    In my case I experienced hypnic jerks for a period of two weeks and also awakening around 3 AM. The hypnic jerks obstructed my sleep. One night I had zero sleep.
    It was not traceable. I had not changed my lifestyle. I did not have any problems I knew off. However, I took Pantoprazole (40 mg per day) against reflux for more than two years. After some research on this subject it became clear that absorption of magnesium, calcium, zinc, Vit b and probably more elements and vitamins are inhibited by this medicine. These are essential for a good rest and sleep. At this moment I have halved the dose Pantoprazole en took daily 400 mg magnesium supplements (oxide and citrate). Also vit b. I have done this for about a week now (Tuesday February 24, 2015). I only have a very light hypnic jerk thereafter. I get a good sleep until 4 AM. Then I still wake and cannot get to sleep. I am going to stop this medicine complete and see if it changes my situation. However, consult your doctor before making any big changes.
    If you read this, I really hope this works for you because I know sleep problems are horrible. Best of luck. Rob

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Rob,

      Thank you for your comment, and the spelling is very good!
      It’s interesting that you describe another possible scenario where reduced magnesium and calcium levels may have contributed to your hypnic jerks. It will be even more interesting to find out what happens when you stop the Pantoprazole. If you have a moment to pop back and let us know, that would be very helpful.
      Hopefully it will help, and you’ll be able to start getting some decent, restful sleep again. And your advice about consulting a doctor before discontinuing medication is very wise.

  22. reno v says:

    I have had this hypnic jerk for about 4 years now. I’ve had this once before for a couple of months but stopped for a year without me knowing how. It all started again when I had a panic attack and I managed that and it still remained. it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve started on cal mag and it doesn’t stop it completely but it doesn’t entail the anxiety that comes afterwards so it’s a good thing. I’m still trying to figure out my dose since I often get diarrhea and I find when I’m having diarrhea for a couple of days I have it worse. calcium magnesium surely helps. Nice article. very useful. Thanks Ethan! I will follow this definitely and lets help each other out to cure this or manage it never the less.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi reno,

      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’ve had problems with hypnic jerks. And panic attacks can be very unpleasant indeed!
      You’re right in that getting the dose is right, as diarrhea can be a side effect, so hopefully with some experimenting you’ll get it right eventually.
      I’m glad you liked the article, and feel free to stay in touch and come back any time you like.

    • Sylvia says:

      Try “Benefiber”. A gastro doctor recommended that to me when I was taking medication that contained magnesium stearate. Benefiter is available at Walmart.

  23. Mark says:

    I see many saying these are harmless . I do not think so . When you cannot sleep that is not harmless . I also now after dealing with these for 2 straight years no longer believe they are from anxiety but rather they are physical . Medications can trigger them for sure and make them worse . Mine started when I began testosterone therapy and I have stopped and started this therapy 4 times now and each time I stopped I have had hypnic jerks for exactly 4 months after discontinuation . I am certain there is a hormonal component with me and would not be surprised if it was with most or many others .

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your point about hypnic jerks not being harmless, if the reduction of your sleep quality is then causing you problems. What is meant though is that they in themselves are not a sign of an actual condition which is causing you damage. I guess it’s a point of view debate which you could rightly argue either way.
      I think you’re right in that there can be a physical cause, and this is not disputed. It’s just that anxiety is known to be a trigger for many people and makes them worse. That doesn’t necessarily rule out other causes though, such as is possibly the case for you.
      If you’ve noticed such a clear pattern in reducing the hormone therapy and having hypnic jerks, then there’s a good chance you’re right. But even if it is for you, that doesn’t mean the same idea can be applied to most others!
      Anyway, the important thing for you is that you find a way to deal with them whilst still having any treatment you need and want. Hopefully the ideas in this article will have provided you with some new ideas you could try out next time.
      All the best

  24. Melanie Merritt says:

    I started not sleeping over a month ago. I had a cold and didn’t sleep. Since then I haven’t been able to sleep because I have the jerk reaction everyone I try to fall asleep. I have anxiety now severely i’m guessing from sleep deprivation. The doctors say I have depression and anxiety disorder, but prior to all of this I slept and felt decent. I only get a couple hours here and there even the temazapam can’t break this. My muscles are so sore and tired. I feel like Im losing my mind but I know if I could just sleep I’d be better. I’m so hopeless idk how much longer I can do this. The doctors just think im crazy when I tell them I jerk and can’t fall asleep. Help!

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m very sorry to hear you’ve been having such difficulty in coping with all those things. It sounds like it could well be hypnic jerks. I’m surprised the doctors don’t know about hypnic jerks! Have you told them what you think it is exactly, using the medical name of hypnic jerks?
      The main thing is to try to find a way to accept that it’s a normal, and harmless occurrence. As you’ll see from all the comments here, you’re most definitely not alone or weird for having them!
      How you cope is going to be something only you can decide. You can try some of the techniques here suggested by other readers. In your case I would strongly recommend looking into doing anything which is relaxing, calming or soothing. Pamper yourself before going to bed, do things you enjoy and find calming. I know it can be hard to find the motivation to do so if you feel depressed and anxious, but if you can take some small steps towards doing positive things, it might really help. In many cases, self-help can be much more effective than medical help!
      All the best

    • Sylvia says:

      Hi Melanie; You’re experiencing the same thing I am. My hypnic jerks started several months ago but I had already been dealing with insomnia most of the time for 2 yrs prior. I’ve also developed restless legs off and on and snapping noise in my head as I’m starting to drift off. It seems to all tie in together. The head noise could be from my tinnitis but doesn’t happen every night. I recommend you see a neurologist type of doctor. That’s what I did when my internist seemed to disregard my description of jerking awake repetitively. (However, she did check my blood for iron and ferritin and magnesium levels.) My neurologist prescribed Clonazepam which really does help. It’s a “benzo” so I’m taking the minimum recommended dosage of .5 mg when it says I can take up to 1 mg. It does settle down the jerking and snapping noise and helps me sleep deeper and longer. Sometimes the TV helps me fall asleep in my recliner so I don’t need the Clonazepam every night. Like I said, the internist did check my iron and ferritin levels. Iron levels are mid range but ferritin level of 22 is the very low end range of normal. My own research reveals that low ferritin (iron stores) can cause what my neurologist calls “myoclonic jerks” or “sleep starts”. It can also cause restless legs syndrome along with the jerks. Another doctor I saw who specializes in hormone replacement and nutrition prescribed “Ferralet 90″ iron tabs to help bring up my ferritin level. This could take several months but I’m hoping it will solve the ongoing jerking and insomnia so I can eventually wean off clonazepam. Lunesta has also helped me get to sleep and stay asleep longer. I recently started taking a Cal-Mag supplement as recommended by the nutrition doctor.

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