Hypnic Jerks: How To Avoid Waking With A Jolt

cartoon of a man having a falling sensation durning hypnic jerks

Have you ever woken up with a sudden jolt just as you were falling asleep? Maybe it felt like an arm or leg had an involuntary spasm?

Perhaps you’ve even woken up feeling like you were falling, or with a flash of light or loud noise. If this sounds familiar, it could be that that you’ve experienced hypnic jerks.

In most cases, a hypnic jerk or two is a harmless part of the process of falling asleep, and doesn’t mean you have a sleep disorder. But if they regularly disturb your sleep or happen very often, it might help to speak to a medical professional.


A common occurrence

You’re not alone in experiencing this strange sensation at night. Italian researchers suggest that between 60% and 70% of people experience hypnic jerks at some point in their lives – both men and women, and of all ages.

hypnic jerks infographic

I regularly have hypnic jerks myself – especially when I’m extremely tired or stressed. I’ve also noticed that if I train hard in the gym late in the evening, they seem to happen more often and the movements are more pronounced.

Personally, I don’t worry about them, and see them as a sign that some much needed sleep is just around the corner.

Different names

If you research online about hypnic jerks, it’s worth bearing in mind that they are sometimes referred to by different names:

  • Sleep starts.
  • Night starts.
  • Sleep jerks.
  • Hypnagogic jerk.
  • Myoclonic jerks (myoclonus is an involuntary muscle twitch – hiccups are another harmless example).

What are hypnic jerks?

Hypnic jerks are the sudden involuntary twitching of one or more muscles when you’re falling asleep. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders manual describes them as follows:

Sleep starts, also known as hypnic jerks, are sudden, brief, simultaneous contractions of the body or one or more body segments occurring at sleep onset. Sleep starts (or hypnic jerks) usually consist of a single contraction that often affects the body asymmetrically. The jerks may be either spontaneous or induced by stimuli.

So the fact that they often occur asymmetrically explains why it might feel that just one arm or leg jolts.

They can occur independently or in response to external stimuli in the bedroom, such as your partner moving or external noise.

Symptoms

The most common symptom is the sudden jolting sensation of one or more limbs. However, some people might also experience the following:

  • The feeling of falling.
  • A sensation of pain or tingling.
  • Hearing a sudden noise, such as an explosion. This could also be what’s known as exploding head syndrome.
  • Flashing or unusual lights.
  • Hallucinations.

In addition, some people might notice a physiological response, such as faster heartbeat or breathing, and sweating.


Reader survey results

Back in 2014, I conducted a short survey for readers to share their experience of sleep starts. The results will be biased because people voting were already searching for information about the topic.

But with thousands of people participating, the results still provide some interesting insights.

1. Frequency

In the chart below you can see how often voters experienced hypnic jerks. It’s interesting to note that many readers had them on a daily basis.

chart of poll results into how frequently people have hypnic jerks

2. How they affect your sleep

Question 2 shows that many people are able to sleep well after an episode. And that’s in line with the general medical advice – try not to stress about them, and go back to sleep.

chart showing poll results about how hypnic jerks affect people's sleep

3. The role of stress and anxiety

The final question shows that many people feel stress or anxiety makes their hypnic jerks worse. This is also a factor which appears many times in the comments below.

So it could be that tackling stress or anxiety in your life is a good idea if it’s relevant to you.

chart of the poll results for how much people think stress or anxiety make hypnic jerks worse for them

What causes hypnic jerks?

As is often the case in the complex world of sleep, the exact cause still isn’t completely understood.

The International Classification of Sleep Disorders manual offers this technical explanation:

Hypnic jerks are hypothetically caused by sudden descending volleys originating in the brainstem reticular formation activated by the system instability at the transition between wake and sleep.

Or in layman’s terms, your brain and body are briefly a little bit out of sync as you relax and go from being awake to being asleep.

I regularly check for new research into hypnic jerks, and there has been very little published in the last few years. Since it’s historically been seen as benign, it doesn’t attract much attention and research. For that reason, there isn’t a clearer explanation as to exactly why it happens.

Researchers in 2018, for example, say that “the origin and physiology of hypnic jerks remain enigmatic.”

Factors that can increase the frequency and severity of hypnic jerks

Although the exact cause is still up for debate, sleep experts do suggest factors that might increase the severity or likelihood of them happening:

  • Excessive caffeine or other stimulants, such as nicotine or drugs.
  • Anxiety or stress.
  • Intense physical work or exercise.
  • Sleep deprivation due to sleep disturbance or poor sleep habits.
infographic about factors that can cause hypnic jerks

Is it caused by another condition?

A review of hypnic jerks literature by researchers at the University of Alabama raised an important point: hypnic jerks could in some cases be a characteristic of another condition.

Some of the possibilities they suggest include:

  • Nocturnal seizures.
  • Non-epileptic seizures.
  • Parasomnias.
  • Hyperekplexia.
  • Restless legs syndrome.
  • Periodic limb movements in sleep.
  • Excessive fragmentary myoclonus.
  • Psychiatric diagnosis.

In addition, Italian researchers in 2016 found that hypnic jerks are common in people with Parkinsonism. The Alabama team also suggested it could be helpful in diagnosing the condition.

Finally, don’t confuse sudden wakings from hypnic jerks with sleep apnea. If you, or someone you know, wakes suddenly gasping for breath, this should be discussed with a doctor.


Treatment for hypnic jerks

Do you need to see a doctor?

Most sleep experts advise that hypnic jerks are in most cases nothing to worry about. Try not to dwell on them, relax and go back to sleep again.

However, if you have them regularly and/or severely, you might want to raise it with your primary care doctor. If they think it’s a sign of another disorder, they might ask you to do a sleep study or further tests.

They might also offer to prescribe medication to reduce the frequency and give you advice about adopting more healthy sleep habits.

How can you stop hypnic jerks?

It might not be possible to totally stop them from happening. Accepting them as normal and harmless is perhaps your best option if they aren’t severe.

However, the following self-help ideas might help:

  • Cut down on caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants – especially in the evening.
  • Reduce how much intense work or exercise you do in the evening. Do exercise in the morning or afternoon instead.
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet.
  • Use a comfortable mattress and bedding.
  • Sleep in a comfortable position.
  • If you suffer from anxiety or stress, do relaxation exercises in bed. One simple breathing exercise is to inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, then exhale for a count of 4.
  • Try not to allow yourself to get too tired. You may understandably have a busy and tiring lifestyle. But it’s important to give yourself enough time to sleep well.

Avoid the vicious cycle of worry

Hypnic jerks can trigger a vicious cycle of worry if you become fixated on them.

If you worry about hypnic jerks, you might start to get less sleep and become more fatigued. But both anxiety and fatigue are thought to contribute to the frequency of hypnic jerks, and so a vicious cycle begins.

The key is not to allow the occasional sleep start to disrupt your sleep any more than it has to. Again, try to relax, forget about it and go back to sleep.

photo of a man looking anxious in bed

Readers’ tips for coping with hypnic jerks

In the comments below, many readers have offered suggestions for reducing their hypnic jerks. So I’ve compiled a list of the most common and interesting ideas.

These don’t all have medical backing, so please take them with a pinch of salt. But you might find the ideas useful if nothing else has helped.

  • Try to see the funny side. I do this myself, and think it’s a great way to cope with them if they are particularly strong ones.
  • Magnesium supplements have been helpful for some 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.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium in your normal diet, or take supplements.
  • Assess your current diet. Make sure it’s healthy and balanced. Eat less sugary and salty foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • If you follow a special diet, such as being vegan, pay particular attention to your vitamin and mineral intake, such as the B vitamins. Ensure your diet includes the right quantity, and preferably get your B vitamins through food rather than supplements if possible.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, coffee or energy drinks for a week and see if it improves.
  • Don’t stress about it, as worrying makes it worse.
  • Try to properly deal with any major source of stress in your life.
  • If you suffer from anxiety, take steps to tackle this in your daily life.
  • Drink cayenne pepper tea (I suggest doing some research into this first).
  • Try acupuncture.
  • Stop doing very intense exercise for a week and see if it improves.
  • Try to see them as a sign that you must be falling asleep. So it’s a positive thing as you know you’ll soon be asleep.
  • Ask your doctor if any medication you take could be causing it.
  • Check if medication you’re taking has the side effects of myoclonus – a surprising amount do.
  • Stop taking sleep aids or allergy medication containing antihistamines, which might cause twitches.
  • 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.
  • Film yourself sleeping or use a sleep tracker. 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 it’s particularly troubling.
  • Ensure you have a quiet sleeping environment. It could be a sudden noise which startles you awake.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • 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 occur repeatedly, get up and have a light snack.
  • Have a warm shower before bed. Then do relaxation exercises before getting into bed or 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.
  • Try apple cider vinegar. It’s used as a hiccup remedy, so might help with hypnic jerks too.

Your views

It’s always interesting to hear your experiences, and I know many readers have benefited from reading the stories and advice of others.

So please keep your comments, tips and theories coming. And if you have any practical ideas for dealing with hypnic jerks, I’ll continue to add them to the list.

1,176 thoughts on “Hypnic Jerks: How To Avoid Waking With A Jolt”

  1. I have just read the comments here after having two nights of what I am now thinking are hypnic jerks. I have been so worried. The first night I did not sleep all night. I too gasped for air each time I was jerked away from much needed sleep. I am on propranolol for anxiety (about 2 years) and wonder if this is a cause? I definitely do not drink enough water and am often dehydrated, so today after my second terrifying night of thinking I am having a heart attack, I am going to address this! This is so scary and the comments I have read are helpful in knowing I am not alone. I’m hoping this is a temporary blip and if I can get hydrated and get the stress under control, this will cease. Thank you for your web page.

  2. Hey, just want to add some light here. After drinking lots of water and staying hydrated yesterday, I had a night free of Hypnic Jerks. I recently started getting these. I put it down to anxiety/stress and working from home, but it’s strange how research suggests physical stress can increase your chances of it? Strange because I have done intense CrossFit classes almost every day since November and have needed a physical break and feel so much better since even having a few days rest. All in all, I believe that certain factors like a high salt diet, not staying hydrated and physical stress can trigger these, try drinking 3 liters of water per day. Give yourself a break, listen to your body and hopefully these will slow down for you. Our bodies can be subconsciously anxious too without us knowing- I did the “tapping technique” when I had sleep jerks for a good 2 hours before eventually drifting off and these helped, maybe you can YouTube it and see if it works for you. Take care everyone x I know that was long but hopefully that can help someone else :)

    1. Thank you Hilary, I have experienced these awful whole body spasms/jerks/jolting experiences for quite a few years. I have also experienced exploding head syndrome. I feel they are related. It would be great to engage with others that will understand.

  3. I have been getting these but when they happen they are very painful, It makes it very hard not to stress about it because it causes me to physically jolt awake with a painful tingling sort of feeling (but way more painful than tingly) in one specific part of my body but will change where it hurts different times, I’ll also start to have almost a bit of a dream but it’s almost more auditory hallucinations sort of but mixed with a thought, I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s been ruining my nights completely!

  4. Hello, l have been having hypnic jerks most of my life. I’m now 60. I get on average 6-9 per night l feel that l am about to have a heart attack or a stroke, can’t get my breath and l always fall out of bed, and have some terrible bruises on my legs and forearms. I have tried going to bed early or late, nothing helps. I have seen a sleeping specialist who gave me some tablets, but they haven’t worked, l was just told to stop worrying. I’m due for an operation soon, and am so worried that l will wake up during surgery…please help…

    1. I for a while was feeling the jerks as well, and feared the same thing when I had my herniated disk surgery. However, you will be sedated for surgery and will not wake up. Sedation will have a different effect on your body and nervous system. Do not fear about having them during surgery you will be fine. Relaxation and stress relief may help but magnesium supplements could work as well. Good luck

  5. Hello,
    I have been having hypnic jerks most of my life – well from teenager to now aged 60- l must get 7-10 jerks a night they are terrifying. I’m even getting them now if a have a nap in the daytime. I feel that I’m about to have a heart attack or a stroke, l can’t get my breath, and l always fall out of bed, l have some terrible bruises on my legs and forearms. I did go to a specialist in sleeping but only got a few tablets which did nothing and was told to not worry. But how do l tell my brain that? I’m due an operation soon, and am terrified that l will wake up during surgery…….any help please…..

  6. Just wanted to say thank you for the article and especially to everyone in the comments. I was suffering from this for almost a full week getting 2 hours of sleep if I was lucky. I kept panicking thinking this was a precursor to a heart attack. I actually started cleaning up my room and hard drive on one particularly bad night/morning in case I ended up dying. Seeing everyone else here having similar issues and realizing this isn’t something fatal at all has actually cured me. My brain isn’t panicking anymore and I’ve been getting closer and closer to having a normal sleep schedule. Sometimes it feels like I almost had a jolt, but my body and heart stay in that relaxed state, I don’t jump up and take a big gasp of air like I used to, and it doesn’t stop me from getting to sleep soon.

  7. Does anyone experience the jerks once you’re awake?
    I think my toddler is currently experiencing this but it also continues to happen once he is woken up by it and it will keep him up for a while.

    1. Hi
      I’m not a doctor, nor a parent, but I would be thinking to check this with a doctor to rule out any other possibilities if he is having spasms while awake.
      Regards
      Ethan

  8. I have had these before. A while back I’d get them while trying to fall asleep, my whole body twitching me awake or feeling like my heart stopped momentarily as if startled by something. It happened for about a week, stopping me from falling asleep for hours until I finally would pass out, before they finally went away. I never figured out the cause since I didn’t have caffeine and I wasn’t particularly stressed at the time. My best guess was that my sleep schedule wasn’t the best.

    I have since fixed my sleep schedule; being more consistent when I go to bed, no electronics before bed, doing something relaxing until I’m ready to sleep, and I’ve recently started using a sunlight imitating lamp during the day to reset my internal clock since I don’t get a lot of sun where I live during the winter. It’s worked great until now when the hypnic jerks returned.

    The night before last I had a migraine, although it had eased up enough I thought I’d be able to sleep alright. However,I kept jerking myself awake or I’d gasp for air as if I’d stopped breathing, although I hadn’t. Sometimes I wake up if my allergies clog my nose and I can’t breathe out of it very well, but my breathing was very clear. This kept me up late and when I did sleep I did so poorly, even waking up early. This was not great because lack of sleep is a migraine trigger and since I had just had one I was worried it wouldn’t go away. I was correct and the migraine continued the whole day, although I made sure to stay up so I wouldn’t have trouble sleeping that evening. Except I didn’t get to sleep at all last night, the jerks kept me up and even when they didn’t come I was just lying awake despite how tired I was.

    I’m thinking of making an appointment with my GP when they open, but if they can’t see me for a few days I’m worried I’ll be stuck in a cycle of sleep deprivation and migraines. I didn’t have caffeine, I didn’t exercise with a migraine, and I wasn’t stressed; I even tried biofeedback techniques to no avail. My sleep schedule shouldn’t have been affected enough to bring back the jerks. I’m not sure what lifestyle change I’m supposed to make here. The only guess I can make is that I had a lot of Gatorade because staying hydrated is essential to managing migraines. It has sugar, not caffeine, but it’s the closest thing I could think of. Gatorade does sell lower sugar options but I’ve found the sugar substitutes they add can make them even sweeter, which I can’t stomach when I’m nauseous with a migraine. There are some alternative electrolyte boosted drinks that don’t have sugar but I may have to order those online if I can’t find them in stores nearby. But this is all assuming sugar is the culprit. The real answer is that I don’t know why these are happening and probably my GP won’t either.

  9. I’ve been suffering a week now with the jerks. I’ve tried Tylenol, magnesium, Xanax , nothing helps. Are people feeling better yet? Please share. This is a nightmare.

  10. Thanks for the wonderful and informative article. I have also felt same issue while sleeping few years back when i was a teenager. And the experience was very horrible.

  11. Hello, I had myoclonus triggered about two years ago following the intake of 5-HTP (this is really a shit substance, that should be forbidden I think). It was of course a struggle to deal with it at first but gradually I have learned to live with them and live a normal life. I think we share some similarities and we get them in the following situations, at least in my case:
    – strong sleep deprivation
    – falling asleep while being sat
    – napping
    – meditating/hypnosis before sleep
    – the dat after ingesting alcohol

    Many people experience it like you and there is a facebook group called: hypnic jerk/sleep myoclonus support

    You might join it in case it might be of any help.

    1. Hi,

      I’ve had these for years now. But development of chronic insomnia possibly due to SSRI (Sertraline) I can’t sleep without drugs and still only get 3-4 hours sleep (like this for 2 months). Now these Hypno-Jerks are more regular 20 times a day on average and prevent me from possible (as I feel as I my brain has forgotten how to ) sleep. If anyone has any advice, suggestions etc… Because I’m at a loss. Community Mental Health Coordinator (CMHC) Community Mental Health Team ( CMHT) just treat it from a pharmacological perspective. And when that line attack doesn’t work they just put blame on to me being resistant ( polite difficult) and instead left ravaged without sleep. I’m exhausted mentally and physically.
      Paul

      1. Curious about when these started for you. Had you just discontinued any medication or were in the middle of discontinuing?

  12. It all started 3 years ago, after a traumatizing event I started to get them. Usually just when I am following to sleep. The first few weeks were the hardest as I was getting around 1.5-2 hours of sleep per night. With time the situation improved and maybe it took me around 3-4 months to get normal enough sleep during nights (I continued to have them when I try power nap for the next two years)

    What helped me then was a better sleep schedule. Go to sleep in the same hour every night, do not go to sleep too late in the night. Use soft dim light at least one hour before sleep and try to catch the sun early in the morning. I kept a diary as it helped me to manage the stress and get to the root cause of my anxiety. Also, it is very hard but the time I stopped to worry about how exact sleep I will get and tried to not overthink about the incoming night and jerks.

    Now, 3 years later they are back but somewhat different. The first time they are more violent and strong muscle spasms, now I am getting a moment of too difficult to grasp an air that will awake me. It all started after another heavy stress-inducing moment, last night was the first night. This evening I tried getting a 5-htp pill and now it is 4 a.m. and I am still awake. Probably will try paracetamol as some of the others suggested. Also, I will try to add more breath practices before bad.

    btw I am glad that I found the site and comment section. If there are other people around we can keep in touch.

    p.s Sorry for the bad wording. English is not my first language and here is 4 a.m. at the moment :)

    1. Fast report:
      What seems to work for me is a combination of magnesium + b6 and melatonin. Meditation + breath technics before bad are helping as well.
      Last evening I had some stomach problems and probably because of poor absorption and maybe dehydration I had a poor night for the first time in two weeks.

    2. Hi. May I ask about when the symptoms/jerking first began? Wondering if you were taking any medication around that time, if you were discontinuing any medications or had discontinued a medication in the few months before?

  13. it’s 6 am and it’s actually happening to me right now. I need to distract myself for a bit before going back to sleep. This usually does happen to me when I’ve had a heavy midnight snack and/or caffeine, my neck will literally jolt or like turn fast like I just got slapped and the tingly uncomfortable feeling is in my neck as well. This happens whenever I’m almost deep asleep, this started happening years ago and I’m 18, at first I thought it was because of nightmares but come to think of it, it was never scary, I just feel scared and panicked. But then after a few seconds, I go back to sleep again, only for it to happen again and again until I have to open my phone and find distractions for a couple of minutes and here I am. It’s nice to hear that it’s very common tho, kinda thought I’ve got a problem.

    1. I have a whole year with the exact same situation. A year ago I was 18 days sleeping only 2 hours each day and my body and mind were so affected I just landed in psychiatric emergencies. I have now treatment against anxiety but I have cycles of crisis of these jerks. They are the worst thing I ever experience and it’s terrible to wake up every 8 to 10 minutes due to a body spasm. Wish you great luck and the best for you.

    2. Hi Dianne, I’ve been dealing with this too since April this year. I’ve seen doctors, specialists and even went to the emergency department at the hospital. The truth is, doctors only know about pills and surgeries, not chronic and mystery illnesses. And it all comes down to our diet and stress levels. I managed to find someone who healed themselves using the Medical Medium protocol using vegetables and fruits, and supplements. Check out his Thyroid Healing book which actually pinpoints the causes – heavy metals and other toxins. It’s all about detoxing the bad stuff from our brain and body and eating the stuff that heals them. Good luck.

  14. My sudden jerk is after falling into a deep sleep for 30 -60 minutes. This is a sudden spasm in the abdomen that lasts about 3 seconds but is very violent and lifts me off the bed. This only happens during sleep. Sometimes as others have mentioned I will jerk just as I am about to fall asleep again but these are mild compared to the violent jerk from a deep sleep. Started years ago every few months but now is a few times a week. It takes me a while to fall back to sleep. Just recently I will sometimes have a second one about 3am. I have tried to figure out if it is my diet. I sometimes feel mild reflux during the day. I am 60 but in very good physical shape. The only thing I think is it could be too much sugar? Or maybe snoring sleep apnea that I am not aware of. Also as others have mentioned even though I have had many of these jerks every time I still think it is a death roll for a few seconds. No one has been able to diagnose. I am starting to dread sleep.

    1. I have them including the very odd one in the abdomen. I have severe sleep apnea and I’m using a machine that helps me a lot and I can be some months without the jerks, but every certain amount of weeks, I pass a week with them doesn’t matter if I have the machine or not. the amount of acid in my stomach seems to take part in the cause.

  15. I’ve been having these off and on for a few years now. Just as I drift off to sleep, I suddenly jolt awake with a sudden somewhat painful jolt in my chest/heart. It can be terrifying. Sometimes after I jolt I also hallucinate for a second.
    When they first started, the horrible feeling would be in my head, however now it seems to have moved to my chest.

    1. I have the exact same issue. I used to jolt to a loud bang or noise in my head, and now it’s my heart fluttering it seems, along with the jolt of course. I find magnesium and potassium usually help, I take both before bed and they seem to not occur then. If I forget to and it happens I take them and wait a bit before trying to sleep again. Maybe this can help you too

    2. Aaron,
      I’m a 59 year old male and my hypnagogic jerks started in 2012. Over the last few years, they feel more and more like the muscle that is ‘spasming’, is my heart muscle. Yes, terrifying: heart is ‘blowing up’ for a microsecond, and sometimes even see neon green in vision background, again, for a microsecond.

      I’m also a cardiac patient (dilated cardiomyopathy since 1997).

      My biggest problem is napping. I have EDS (excessive daytime sleepiness), but (surprisingly) only very mild sleep apnea. When I try to nap, the jerks make it impossible. I usually get 4 hypnagogic jerks (in <15 minutes) before I have to give up.

      I have taken a video of myself napping and it is clear that the worst jerks occur 5-10 seconds after I (unintentionally, of course) stop breathing (central apneas, not obstructive apneas).

      Up until a year or so ago, I rarely got these at night. But they are increasing in frequency and intensity at night. Even while using a CPAP.

      I have a pulmonologist (CPAP and detailed sleep study, night and day, coming in January), a cardiologist (on a Holter monitor for a month, in progress) and my PCP all trying to help me figure this out…

  16. I’m really glad to have found this site! I just started having hypnic jerks recently; and felt terrified, just like some others have mentioned. I just didn’t know what was going on. My doctor told me she thinks it is this, and I am trying deep breathing at night, with the help of a meditation app. It does help soothe the jerks, even though it’s hard to breathe at first because I’m anxious about going to sleep. When I awaken, I put it back on. I got calcium and magnesium to try as well. Take care everyone ❤️

  17. Hi All. These jerks/jolts/ spasms I get in the center of my chest just before I fall asleep up to 20 times are getting more frequent and violent is the only way I can explain it. I also get them in my throat, but more so in my chest. It’s like a strong contraction/spasm. A lot of the time I jolt up out of bed yelling in fear. It doesn’t hurt but after a bad night which is many of late, I feel bruised in the center of my chest. I go to work tired & then scared to go to bed. They started many years ago but never to this extent. When they started I was on an antidepressant & I also had “brain snaps” when sleeping. I stopped the antidepressants due to serotonin syndrome, it stopped the brain snaps but not the contractions. I have done so much reading up on these jerks, they are classed as a phenomenon. My doc suggested I take Neurontin/ gabapentin which I didn’t want to take as I would like to treat the cause & not the symptom. It annoys me no doc knows what it is. So tonight I will start Neurontin as I am at my wit’s end as when they happen I feel like I am about to die & I am desperate for a pleasant sleep. Will let you know how the meds go.

  18. I’m so glad to have found this site. I have only just started having these, my experience is similar to what several people have posted, that as soon as I feel I am drifting to sleep, I get jerked awake. My jerks can take slightly different forms, sometimes it’s a muscle twitch in my jaw, foot, arm etc, sometimes it feels more like a mild full body jerk associated with a slight feeling of alarm, but whatever, they all immediately jerk me back to wakefulness. Sometimes it happens all night, sometimes I finally manage to get to sleep sometime around 4-5am. I was terrified having never experienced this before (I’m 45), but finding that it’s actually not that uncommon and that there are some suggested remedies that other people have found work for them, is a relief. I’m hoping that the reduction in stress from that, along with drinking plenty of water and trying to sleep on the side rather than back, will help tonight, and if not I will move on to some of the other suggestions. Thanks and best wishes to you all.

  19. I had it mine 2 months ago after taking an SSRI. Doctor thought I was having anxiety. Stop cold turkey. I took Klonopin for 2 months and melatonin (natural brand) and this has subsided. One week ago I wean Klonopin to .25 and all was going well. Then decided to take a htp5 supplement and it started the cycle again. Damn. I have up my dose to 1.25mg Klonopin since and down it to 1mg for 2 days. Apparently no jerk at all the whole night. Last night took 0.75mg, jerk only once, and could sleep.

    I guess I would not mess with my serotonin anymore.

    Had hypnic jerks when I was young and also sleep paralysis. I also had insomnia. I think it’s a cycle.

    I have since improved my stamina by considering TCM too and it has helped a bit. I was very weak and stresses out 4 months ago. Was shivering and having cold sweats.. the last few months I have worked on the health and helps a bit.

    If you are weak and worried, you will not be doing yourself any favour in surviving this.

    I think melatonin has sort of numb the jerking for me. I believe.. so good luck guys.. always look at the bright side, at least you don’t get anything cancerous.

    By the way, i am not sure. I get jerking as if my heart got struck. And then I could feel as if water is flowing through my brain.. not sure if that’s brain zap or hypnic jerk.. damn.. that ssris are really crap.

  20. Thanks a lot for this website. This is the only positive site about this topic that actually helps people in the entire google. You are doing a lot of social service by organizing it this way and giving strength to people experiencing these sleep issues. You are a hero !!

    1. I was just actually putting this together last night as well. I started taking 5Htp again and just went through another bad episode. How did you figure out 5Htp was causing them? Curious if you have any other tips?

      1. I have dealt with this for months. Just soon as I attempted to sleep my body would jump or jerk. It was worse when laying on my back which I got terrible jerks. Weird! I even got them when I tried to take a nap during the day. I would wake up on and off through the night. It was so disheartening. I didn’t know what it was like to get a good rest and I was so fatigued much of the day. A Neurologist said she believed it was hypnic jerks and referred me to a sleep center. I feel for those dealing with this. Prayer has helped me immensely and it was the only real cure for me. The power of God! T

        1. Hi. May I ask about when the symptoms/jerking first began? Wondering if you were taking any medication around that time, if you were discontinuing any medications or had discontinued a medication in the few months before?

  21. Hi guys,

    Anybody considered modafinil? If you get tired or sleepy during the day, it will increase the probability of getting jerky at night. Modafinil reduces tiredness during the day and should reduce the possibility of getting the jerks. Any comments?

  22. I’ve experienced this from time to time throughout my life but the last week has been hell. All of a sudden, *every* single time I start to fade off into sleep, my mind and/or body snaps myself back into consciousness. It started last week when I woke myself up snoring a few times in one night. Ever since then, my mind will not let me sleep and jerks me awake anytime I start to fall asleep. It’s almost as if my mind is super paranoid and anxious that I’ll start snoring so it won’t let me totally fall asleep. I don’t feel like I necessarily have trouble falling asleep, it’s just every time I start to the hypnic jerk happens. I’m not sure if it’s sleep apnea because I’m never gasping for air. Sometimes it’s a physical thing, sometimes it’s like my brain just says NOPE. It can be 3-4 times in 1 minute that I start fading off into unconsciousness and boom, boom, boom, NOPE NOPE NOPE. There are a few things that have changed in my life. A stressful family event happened about 6 weeks ago that I haven’t dealt with. Specifically, I haven’t talked to the person who is the cause but I don’t see how it could just start affecting me now. I started working out 2 weeks ago but I never work out past 5 pm. I don’t drink caffeine ever. I only take B complex and vitamin D in the morning due to a blood test that showed a deficiency. I drink 2 sometimes 3 nights a week but I’ve been doing that forever with no problems. It’s only been a week and I’m now crying in the middle of the night because it’s so frustrating. I used to have vivid dreams and could easily sleep 9 hours. I made a doctors appointment next week, I hope it helps.

  23. I can suffer from these up to 10 or 15 times a night buy I’ve worked out that often it occurs if I’m dehydrated. If I have plenty of water during the day they can disappear all together. If I drink too much alcohol it can make it really bad.

    1. It has to do with too much salt intake I think. That dehydrates you. And it lowers potassium which is correlated to muscles.
      Last night I took for the first time in months half a bag of potato chips (125 gram), loved it, but at night the jerks came again and they were away for weeks now. I’m already on a low salt diet because I used to have restless legs and that is also triggered by too much salt. Most people don’t know they have too much salt in their diet because it is added in everything. Especially Americans are having a very bad diet with too much processed food and too much salt.

  24. Solution (for me); take 2 paracetamol at night. Somehow it relaxes the nervous system which is responsible for the hypnotic jerks. I think they are extremely stress-related. I got them badly in a time of high stress and being awake all night because the jerks keep you awake every time you start falling asleep doesn’t help. In the end, you get scared going to bed.
    The first night I took the paracetamol I felt already fewer jerks and the second night I finally did have a good night’s sleep. The first weeks the jerks did still happen but to a lesser extent and less severe. Now after 3 weeks I don’t have them anymore.

    I take 4 days paracetamol and then stop for 3 days so I don’t get too attached or addicted (don’t know if paracetamol is addictive).

    Someone else mentioned this earlier here on the comments as a relief.

    And since I found out that paracetamol is a great general sleep aid, many people I mention it too, say they use it also as a sleep aid. Pity it is not widely known, it might be a solution for so many people.

    Don’t take anti-histamines (Tylenol has it in it) or antidepressants, they can make the jerks worse.

    1. The hypnic jerks happened to me out of the blue. It started with a few rough nights of sleep and slowly progressed to where my body would jolt me awake just as I was falling asleep. It was miserable and caused me to enter an almost perpetual state of panic.

      I read this and started taking 2 Paracetamol (or two extra strength Tylenol in America, 1000 mg in total) before bedtime (I also began taking two Magnesium tablets, 200mg in total).

      I noticed an improvement in the jerks after the first night. I’ve been on this regimen for 4 nights and now the jerks are next to none. I’m finally able to sleep through the night.

      Deep breathing techniques will also help calm the central nervous system and get your body out of the “flight or flight” mode that makes this worse. Just remember that this will go away. It’s not permanent.

      1. Thank you Bell and Silv.
        I didn’t know about the effect of paracetamol. Probably I will try it in a few nights.

        By any chance, any one of you are reading this, can you confirm how it is going with your sleep and the effect of paracetamol and Magnesium?

          1. Jon, what seems to work for me is a combination of magnesium + b6 and melatonin. Meditation + breath technics before bad are helping as well.
            Last evening I had diarrhea and probably because of poor absorption and maybe dehydration I had a poor night for the first time in two weeks.

  25. I’m 9 weeks postpartum and it started while I was in the hospital due to pre-eclampsia. I was on magnesium drip when I experienced the first hypnic jerk. I mentioned that to the midwife and she wasn’t concerned at all. I have an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Could be related to that.
    But I’ve been getting it every night since that night at the hospital and it really bothers me.
    So I decided to check it w a neurologist. He sent me for an EEG. Waiting for the results.

  26. I have extremely terrible sleep Jenks upon returning home on a flight from my travels. My sleep jerks are so bad that I’m often not able to sleep through a 5 or 18 hour flight. The people sitting next to me on a plane are often extremely disturbed by my constant convulsions. These sleep jerks have been extremely bad the past two years I’ve traveled. I interpret these occurrences as my body and mind dealing with my experiences. I’m not able to digest my life excursions as I’m traveling on the day to day and trying to constraints be on the move as to get the most out of my trip. I seldom have sleep starts when I’m home doing nothing and when I leave the plane I’m totally fine. I feel that on top of everything else I realize I’m in the air and that is an attributing factor as well. I really wish there was a remedy or medication I can take before traveling home on a flight. This is my take on the matter.

  27. Recently I have them occasionally at some nights didn’t notice much until I googled and got more curious.
    I hope it’s not worth it happens in the start of sleep and eventually goes away.
    I am scared.

  28. I started with low-level anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic, then graduated to full-blown panic attacks, mostly at night. Initially, meditation and mindfulness worked until it didn’t. I have undertaken many hours of talk therapy which has worked well and am left now at night with the hypnic jerk which I am hoping will diminish. Agreed that any medication based on antihistamines are counterproductive and bring on the anxiety attacks. Also Beta Blockers did not work for me, and I see we have the same issues finding decent MDs. Good luck with that.

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