Hypnic Jerks: How To Avoid Waking With A Jolt

hypnic jerks cartoonHave you ever woken up with a sudden jolt just as you were falling asleep? Maybe it felt like one arm or leg had a strong spasm?

Perhaps you’ve even woken up feeling like you were falling, or with an unpleasant shock, loud noise or flash of light.

And it could be something your partner does at night, and their jolting movement in turn disturbs your sleep.

If any of these sound familiar, it could be that that you’ve experienced hypnic jerks.

A common occurrence

You’re certainly not alone in experiencing this strange sensation at night. It’s estimated that 60 to 70% of people experience hypnic jerks at some point in their lives.

This article will help you understand hypnic jerks better, and hopefully put your mind at ease if you’re worried about them.

You’ll also find advice for coping with them, both from professionals and previous readers.

hypnic jerks infographic

Different names

The terminology in the world of sleep can be confusing at time. So it’s worth bearing in mind that hypnic jerks are sometimes referred to by different names:

  • Sleep starts
  • Night starts
  • Sleep jerks
  • Hypnagogic jerk
  • Myoclonus, or myoclonic jerk

Symptoms

Hypnic jerks are the sudden involuntary twitching of one or more muscles when you’re falling asleep.

The latest International Classification of Sleep Disorders manual describes them as:

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 usually occur asymmetrically explains why it often feels like just one arm or leg jolts.

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

As well as spasms, some people might have other symptoms:

  • The feeling of falling
  • The 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

Survey results

I conducted a short survey for readers to share their experience of hypnic jerks. 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 readers experience hypnic jerks. It’s interesting to note that many people have them on a daily basis.

chart of poll results into how frequently people have hypnic jerks

2. How they affect your sleep

An interesting point arising from question 2 is that many people are able to sleep fine even though they have them.

And that’s in line with the usual advice not to worry about them, and try to go back to sleep.

chart showing poll results about how hypnic jerks affect people's sleep3. 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 cause still isn’t completely understood. However, there are different theories:

1. Muscles relaxing

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, your temperature drops and muscles relax.

A hypnic jerk might happen when nerves misfire during this slowing down process, resulting in the muscular spasm.

The International Classification of Sleep Disorders manual offers a more 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.

2. Your brain thinks you’re falling

Another theory is that as your muscles naturally relax when falling asleep, your brain might misinterpret it as falling. So it signals to your body to tense muscles to protect you from harm.

3. Response to hallucinations or dreams

A third theory is that hypnic jerks occur in response to sleep hallucinations or the onset of dreams. This might also explain why some people have other sensations besides the physical twitching.

Factors that can trigger hypnic jerks

In addition to the theories above, researchers suggest factors that can lead to hypnic jerks:

  • Caffeine or other stimulants
  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Heavy physical exercise late in the evening
  • Sleeping in an uncomfortable position
  • Being very tired or sleep deprived

infographic about factors that can cause hypnic jerks

Is it caused by another condition?

A study of hypnic jerks 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:

  • Noctural seizures
  • Nonepileptic seizures
  • Other parasomnias
  • Hyperekplexia
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Periodic limb movements in sleep
  • Excessive fragmentary myoclonus
  • Psychiatric diagnosis

In addition, researchers in Italy 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.

Do I need to see a doctor?

Most sleep experts advise that hypnic jerks are in most cases nothing to worry about; just 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.

And they might prescribe medication, such as clonazepam, or provide you with advice about good sleep hygiene.

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.

In addition, the following advice might help:

  • Cut down on alcohol and caffeine, especially in the evening.
  • Reduce how much heavy exercise you do in the evening.
  • Make sure you have enough magnesium and calcium in your diet – this can help with muscle and nerve spasms.
  • Use a comfortable mattress and bedding.
  • Sleep in a comfortable position.
  • If you suffer from anxiety or stress, do some simple relaxation exercises in bed.
  • 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. This is a common thing that happens with many sleeping difficulties.

For example, people who have insomnia for a few nights might start worrying that they won’t be able to get to sleep. This worrying then becomes the very cause of their insomnia, even if the original cause has long gone.

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 the vicious cycle begins.

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

Readers’ tips for coping with hypnic jerks

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

They don’t all have medical backing, but you might find the ideas useful if nothing else has helped.

  • Try to see the funny side.
  • 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.
  • Assess your current diet. Make sure it’s healthy and balanced. Eat less sugary and salty foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • 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 deal with major 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.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium in your normal diet, or take supplements.
  • Stop doing strenuous 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.
  • Sleep aids and allergy medication containing the anti-histamine diphenhydramine can sometimes cause twitching.
  • 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.
  • Some people say clonazepam has helped them.
  • 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 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.

Leave a comment >>

1,004 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi – I would like to ask if anybody on here has exhibited the following issues and, if so, what was their experience/how did they treat it/how did they manage it. I am asking because I feel (completely subjective) that my form of insomnia is very specific and a little niche, so I am in search for answers about what it is/what it means/what causes it, etc.

    I am 30. For the just a little over a year now, I have had a form of sleep-start insomnia that has increasingly become more frequent over time. Basically, I will start drifting off to sleep and shortly as I drift, I will wake up. Sometimes it is an actual “hypnic jerk” ie. I actually feel my entire body jolt, or just one arm. Other times it isn’t really an involuntary movement, but I will feel my pulse down my neck/upper back and wake up. Yet other times there is no physical sensation, only a mental sensation of very subtly becoming awake. Sometimes, it is a pulsing heartbeat sensation that mainly courses through the back of my neck/shoulder/head.This will happen repeatedly for about 2 hours. I haven’t found out if it lasts all night because at around t+2 hrs I usually take a 5mg ambien and fall asleep for good.

    It started last August and happened one night. It happened once in September of 2017. Then it came back in December of 2017 and occurred about twice a week for 3 weeks. In January of 2018 it happened about 3 times a week for 3 weeks. In March I was prescribed ambien by my former sleep neurologist, but luckily no bouts in March. In April I took a polysomnographic sleep study because I was being tested for sleep apnea (it runs in the family so I wanted to check it out – at the time not related to my insomnia). When I took the sleep study, I took a 10mg ambien and slept fine, was diagnosed with mild apnea (AHI of 12 with mostly hypopneas and very few apneas; below average amount of REM sleep (7% vs 20%) but, on the ambien, almost instantaneous sleep latency). June was when the insomnia really came back. It would occur basically about 3-4 times a week for a period of 3 weeks per month; this happened again in July, August, September, and this month. Oh, and I basically now cannot nap, even when I am tired. When I try to nap in the afternoons on a weekend, for example, the sleep-starts occur so frequently – basically immediately as I start falling asleep – that they are even worse than when I sleep at night.

    Look, this might all just be anxiety, as I am an anxious person, though I basically never had sleep problems until last year. It might also be psychosomatic and increasing psychological anxiety about sleep snowballing. I am also aware that the increasing symptoms do positively correlate with my ambien prescription, which I know has rebound anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, disorientation as symptoms, as well as addiction. Needless to say I don’t love the feeling I have the next day after I take ambien.

    Additionally, for the past two weeks, I have noticed some small subtle muscle spasms and twitches. They aren’t frequent and are very mild/subtle, though they tend to occur if I daydream or concentrate intently on reading a computer screen. Could just be stress caused by the insomnia + insomnia induced anxiety + ambien side effects, though I did have one episode for 2 days where every other hour my right chest muscle would just involuntarily twitch.

    What scares me is 1) how increasingly frequent these episodes are becoming over time and 2) the form of insomnia it takes, which is persistent sleep-starts, as opposed to just lying awake not having the urge to sleep (though I suppose that would be just as bad, if not worse knock on wood).

    Anybody have any insights, advice, or similar experience? How did you manage if you did? Sometimes it the hardest part of this insomnia is not being able to have others understand what you are going through and telling you it’s ok.

    I have seen a sleep neurologist and he says it’s just anxiety.

  • Fibromyalgia pain can be frustrating. I had Fibromyalgia for at least 7 years. My initial symptoms were fatigue and lower back pain which were manageable, In 2015 it really kicked in with widespread pain, soreness, sleeplessness, inflammation and extreme fatigue. I tried so many medications and supplements to get some relief nothing worked, until last year, i learnt about FIBROMYALGIA SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT from Rich Herbs Foundation (RHF). I was skeptical it would help, but i gave the treatment a try. Few weeks into the treatment, I went back to work feeling good and my legs weren’t hurting, i almost forgot how long it has been since I felt this good and normal. The pain was 95 percent gone on my legs and lower back, the inflammation was gone too. Visit RHF we b page www. richherbsfoundation. com. Here I am 11 months after the treatment and i still feel good and active.

  • MAGNESIUM GLYCINATE!! I would start jerking the second I closed my eyes. I once counted 100 jerks in 45 minutes. They would get progressively worse until it was like walking into a wall but no pain. I now take 300mg of magnesium glycinate. I tried regular magnesium and it made no difference. I still jerk but they take longer to start, are much milder and I am able to fall asleep. It has been amazing. So glad not to have to add another prescription medication.

  • I’ve suffered from these ‘Night Jerks’ on and off for years; however recently they are almost every night. I put mine down to two causes (1) heavy weight training, as the three weight training days per week, those nights appear to be worse. (2) Going to bed very late (lack of sleep and irregular sleeping pattern), as I don’t go to bed until 2am or later. I’m not overly concerned about the ‘Night Jerks’; I wake up with a fright or a jerk and then soon fall asleep; however they are annoying. Firstly, I think people have to tell themselves that the condition is nothing to worry about because stressing about it will make it worse. Get to bed earlier helps and oddly enough, the TV on in the bedroom with the sound very soft helps me; however I have no idea why.

  • I dont know if anyone still checks this site as the last comment was made in 2014 but here goes. im a 34 year old female and i think i have just suffered with the hypnic jerk thing although im not sure. b4 i put my experience let me give you a bit of background on me…so i suffer from psychosis, depression and anxiety i also have fibromyalgia and other muscle and joint problems also asthma so i take a lot of medication. now recently i had a relapse in my mental health where my meds needed to be upped. i wasnt sleeping, i suffered from no sleep in nearly 72 hours but after getting my meds upped i was finally slepping again but still in pain so my doctor gave me amytriptaline to take b4 bed to help with the pain and sleep. they have been working great but because i already hear voices and because amytriptaline can have a side effect for auditory hallucinations i didnt want to take them every night. so tonight i didnt take it, i also forgot to take my anti psychotic. so back to my experience, i went to bed at 12am like every night normally it takes me a while to fall asleep by 2am still no sleep. then at 2.30am i had this weird sensation that i was falling asleep. my eyes were shut but i could see my front room, it was eerie to the point it felt like my soul was leaving my body. i jerked awake immediately and was breathless and my heart was beating so fast. this happened all night – everytime i was just falling asleep the same thing happened until in the end at 5am i was so terrified and fed up I gave up and got out of bed …… now reading some of these comments im wondering if it could of happened because i didnt take my meds, coz i normally sleep soundly while taking them ??? This was very scary and when i came down at 5am i was still breathless am i suffering with this disorder? Thank you for reading

    • Hello, I am 38 year Old Male from India. I completely understand your experience because that is exactly how I feel almost everyday. I try to sleep by 12 AM then feel only sleepy by 2 AM but continuously get awakened rudely by my body with heart beat suddenly raising. After several attempts each night I may fall asleep by 4 or 5 AM . But from then on start all weird dreams. I am trying to fight it. Thanks.

  • I suffer these throughout the night and they affect my bad back
    I can go to bed fine and wake with back pain
    It’s not my bed or my sleeping position
    It’s really getting me down now
    I take magnesium which makes no difference at all
    I was prescribed diazepam but the new gp won’t give it to me
    She has no idea what I’m going through

    • Have your new doctor contact your old doctor as to why he/she prescribed the Diazepam. Tell her that if she feels it is not an appropriate medication then she needs to do something else. ie sleep study, new medication etc. Tell her that this problem is interfering with your quality of life. You need to stand firm with doctors. You know your body and they need to work with you, not tell you what to do. If this doctor doesn’t work with you to keep you healthy then you should find a new doctor. Good luck.

    • Oh i can fully appreciate what your going through. Ive been on diazepam for over a year now and had 2 MRI scans and seen loads of specialists. They all seem so blase about it telling me its harmless. Well its a frightening and annoying thing and had me awake for 3 days leaving me exhausted. Ive now been referred for cognitive behavioural therapy and have started tapering off diazepam. To my horror my myoclonus has returned with a vengence. Only Mirtazapine has helped but im now left feeling drained like a zombie. Im beginning to feel i wont ever get my life back. Its just awful. Id say try not to use benzodiazepines though as coming off them is raw. Ask about using other forms of muscle relaxants. I hope you have more luck than me

      • So sorry you or anyone is going through this hell. I too have the hypnic jerks. I can’t find a doctor that takes me serious. They act like it’s no big deal that sleep is just an option? I have found a way to make my jerks livable after 2 1/2 yrs. if I juice with no fruit. No sugar, and light carbs. I can most night now fall asleep and am finally getting were I am sleeping longer . I do have bad nights for which I will take an Ativan because the jerks are relentless but for the most part staying on a diet with lots of fresh raw veggies has been a life saver . I also take Doterras essential oils the peppermint one. I put a drop on my tongue and do breathing techniques. Deep breath slow exhale for a count of ten. It’s been a while for me so keep trying till you find what works for you. The docs have no clue. God bless also lay off the booze. Helps you fall asleep but not for long and then they get worst.

  • Solution for me found: Readers Scrap all of my posts before now. The take away from those is that I have been trying to decipher this problem for 20+ years with no answers from doctors. However for the first time in 20+ years, after fasting and realizing caffeine and sugar aren’t in my body, and I was still having symptoms, I now believe it’s a mineral deficiency, but not just Magnesium but get ready……….Potassium! Yes Potassium is the silent culprit. It regulates the heart. This is why I feel an electric pulse in my chest jolts falling. Thanking God that I had taking a blood test in June, and could see my potassium levels were low. So, Taking antacids due to Gerd depleted me of the Potassium. Two bananas (potassium) a big spinach salad (magnesium) later, I slept six hours last night when I have missed weeks of quality sleep due to the falling feeling every hour and tachycardia. I sleep in a recliner most nights during to GERD just side note. Bottom line poor diet and mineral/vitamin deprived. It has taken 20 years to learn this even with going to doctors and ER intermittently. Maybe have a doctor run a test for vitamin deficiency. Prayer for knowledge was also a contributing factor. You’re welcome.

    • For me it has been like solving a puzzle for three years. The breakthrough for me came when I came here and I consulted with a Canadian pharmacist. What has worked for me is melatonin, magnesium, minerals, and nothing that makes me hyper like caffeine, msm, l-carnosine, and free glutamates. If I drink hemp milk with carageenan, for example, the jerks come back.

  • Hey everyone I was the person that left the message about GERD. Since then I have been fasting to reduce GERD, and stumbled upon new info. Well the biggest culprit may be sugar or caffeine. Leaning more towards excessive sugar. Guys I am prediabetic so yeah I love, and I am addicted to sugar sad to say. I experienced hypnic jerk in my early 20’s after I became pregnant. I never drank coffee, but it was caffeine through sodas etc., so kinda dont believe that’s it. Anyway, when I fasted last week, I didnt have sugar or caffeine and slept well, great in fact. Starting eating/drinking both again, the jerks, started back. Fasted again it stopped. The sleep I got yesterday was such a deep sleep and relaxing. Anyway, I still believe it’s all linked together somehow (1) sugar primarily, (2) foods that trigger Gerd, and possibly (3) caffeine. I believe the culprit is in the bad diet. I hope others post their findings if they cut back on these foods. Maybe we can all find a solution together, pass info to other sufferers, and finally get good sleep. Fasting from sugar was like stopping an addiction; not easy but worth it for a nights rest.

    • Try Swedish Bitters for your Gerd, not the bitters you use for putting in alcholic drinks but a good mixture for the stomach I use one called self Heals original made in New Zealand , but I am sure any good herbalist could make you one up.

  • Reading this article helped me realize how normal the jerking is, but I didn’t even find it too abnormal before. It was never something I worried about, because I fall right back asleep after experiencing them. It’s fun to research though… I only have hypnic jerks when I sleep at a desk with my body folded forward (which is of course pretty uncomfortable), and I always feel the sensation of falling towards the floor, like I’m tripping down a flight of stairs, and then I wake up with a jolt and see that I’m fine.

  • This has been happening to me for about 5 years. No matter how exhausted I am, I’ll lay in bed and just as I am falling asleep my body will jerk awake, sometimes just my arms or legs will jerk, but it’s enough to not allow me to fall asleep. This will go on for hours and hours. There’s also a feeling of an “electric shock” that goes through my whole body and then my heart starts racing. Before, I attributed to caffeine and alcohol and stress. But I am now 5 weeks pregnant, haven’t been drinking caffeine or alcohol, and I don’t feel stressed about anything in my life. I know it could be hormonal but since it’s been happening for almost 5 years now I feel like it’s a more serious matter. I can’t take any sleep drugs because of my pregnancy, and the magnesium and melatonin and natural sleep aids aren’t working at all. Reading the comments about the GERD does interest me because I have been experiencing acid reflux since I got pregnant. I’m just very worried for my developing baby because I’m only getting 2/3 hours of sleep a night. I don’t know what to do. Please help!

  • Update: So this episode; 3 days of hypnic jerks; now gone. I was on my third day of Nexium (taking early morning; take 4 days to have full effect) and the Alka-Selzer relief chews with 700 mg of Calcium Carbonate (took two before bed), along with Mylanta (correction I initially said Milk of Magnesia; point being Magnesium is needed) This seems to have done the trick for me as usual. Before taking the Calcium it was the same feeling in my chest which I equate to shortness of breath (feels like falling), and now that I think about this some more, muscle contractions is probably the feeling of falling or electric feeling it makes more sense than it being result of Adrenaline in the body, but the Adrenaline could make the body more prone to it. One of my jerks was hard enough, it felt like I was about to fall out of my recliner. I stayed calm by each time thinking okay my body is telling me I still haven’t cleared my airway; this calm thinking deactivated the fast heart rates too (I had none!); but the feeling of being discombobulated upon awaking is the worst still. Took the Magnesium, first it had slight improvement but GERD was still present slight jerking still. Calcium always clear GERD the fastest for me. Tried it immediately on attempt to sleep the jerks are GONE (YES!). But very slight feeling in my chest still, but not enough to sound the jerking system. Two more attempts to sleep, slept like a baby. This has been my experience over 20 years. The acid reflux is so severe I go through about a week of no sleep and have to try these remedies with Magnesium and calcium. One day I may have to consider prescription for my GERD on daily basis. Over 20 years I took a sleep aid twice for one night ea episode. My thinking behind that at the time was to train my brain not to remember the sleep trauma (that was misguided). I dont use sleep aids, I like the brain to work through it because it gets so used to things too easily. I dont like taking meds, but I think I will start taking something like Culturelle probiotic for now to prevent this from happening at all. I believe hypnic jerking is the body signaling you that it is some danger in sleeping, such as restricted air, too much pressure on limbs, etc. For me I believe its low air supply due to GERD. It probably signals for a whole host of illnesses that could be harmful if you were to sleep a long period of time in that condition. The system is kind of your friend; I said kind of lol. I hope this helps someone out there. Not in medical field please check with your doctor. These are my experiences.

  • Let me add couple more things. The falling sensation after Jerking due to GERD doesn’t start until I have had like 4 episodes of rapid heartbeat. I am figuring the falling feeling or electric feelings happens at that point for me, because my body is full of stress/anxiety hormones; and that is what is causing the sensation along with the jerking. At first it’s the jerking alone due to collapsed esophagus (I’m guessing). I sleep in recliner too during this time. Then the secondary problem of feeling of falling happens. My plan today is to burn off some of the stress hormones. Also Milk of Magnesium gave my chest the most relaxing feeling out of all the products I named. I was able to doze off more than usual with the nervous feeling of falling not being so prominent.

  • I have been experiencing this phenomenon for 22 years. It all started with my first pregnancy third trimester that gave me a severe case of Gerd. Over the years I have always felt it was related to GERD. I am not a physician and speakly strictly from my own experience. I believe it’s the acid, food, liquid, and gas that is backing up into the Esophagus. When we attempt fall asleep the Esophagus relaxes and airway becomes restricted. I believe in normal circumstances when the airway relaxes there is enough room for the right amount of air supply to flow. I usually get a bad case of all of this when I eat foods that trigger GERD. I’ll do so great for a few years and begin to think I’m cured when it comes to GERD. But it quickly reminds me no you can’t drink sodas, eat oranges, have tomatoes, etc. Beef hotdogs is what did me in this round along with peanuts as I have a slight allergy. My remedy Milk of Magnesium (the first night), Prilosec (2 weeks), Gas X (as needed), Clariton (as needed), yogurt with cultured (once the gas is cleared) the gas is just going to keep food on top of your stomach. Sometimes you dont feel the gas but when you sleep that’s when you know. I take these meds a hours or days apart. I dont like to mix meds. Anyway over a week I am usually back to a good night’s rest. My hypothesis is the body is waking you up because there is an issue. In my case, oxygen supply is being reduced. I actually video taped myself and it has the appropriate name, because it is a full on jerk of the legs or the arms. Since I learned about the jerk itself I have been somewhat able to stop the flight or fight response, because I can talk my brain down somewhat. Waiting for all of this GERD to clear out. Remember people this is my hypothesis. I am not in medical field. Ask your doctor before doing any of this. Thanks

  • My wife woke me last night and said that I was kicking her and this morning she said that I had been kicking her all last night. The last thing I remember when my wife woke me up was that I was in my mind kicking the hood of a vehicle. She also said that I sometimes I would holler out or moan very loudly. This has happened several times over the last few years. I wear a cpap mask for snoring. This does not happen every night and it is affecting my wife’s sleep and affects her day the next day. Please advise as to what I can do. Thanks.

    • Hi Glenn
      Speak to the doctor who prescribed the cpap. It might be another sleep disorder they need to look into.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Has anyone found a good non-drug solution to these hypnic jerks? They always start with me after a really stressful time, and then I start obsessing about them, and can cause them to happen by thinking about them. I know for me, they’re probably mental, and due to being overly sensitive as I fall asleep, but I literally cannot stop them. Ambien is the only that works. I used to be able to fall asleep again after it wore off, during previous episodes but not any more. I feel like I’m not getting restorative sleep on the Ambien.

    I feel like I’m only getting a few hours a night, even though the Ambien is getting me up to 6 or 7 hours of unconsciousness. I feel terrible all day. Due to this, and the added Anxiety, I am losing grip during the day too. Basically constantly either worrying about health or sleep.

    I really don’t want to go on anti-depressants like last time, and would like to get through this on my own.

    • Your comment nailed it for me. I am going through high anxiety and stress right now. My jerks are getting strong and frequent, it almost hurts. I’m hoping soon I will be able to reduce and get rid of my anxiety.

      Let me know if you found any solutions

      • I wrote a post earlier about my experience. Have you read it?

        In my way out of this mess. And its all about knowledge.

        Best, Ken

  • Giving my experience to try to help:
    I get these after I’ve been on a long overseas flight. Every time.
    For the first few days after I arrive at my destination I will not only experience at least 1 full body jerk, but some mini jerks in feet or legs as well each time I go to sleep. I also get severe toe cramps in both feet on my first day back from a long trip.
    I drink more water than most people I know on any flight, at least 2 liters or more. I do not sleep on the flights either. So I’ve always arrived thinking I’m dehydrated and low in minerals…I drink a lot of water when I get home or or other place, take a hot bath and begin taking magnesium. Yes, and eating a banana or apricots if they are availabe. The toe cramps only happen the first day. The body jerks happen for 1-4 days. I now think from what I’ve read, it makes sense that the jerks may occur from sleep deprivation, because I am essentially missing an entire nights sleep, about 22 hours of door to door travel. I am truly exhausted when I arrive, part zombie.
    On another note, I do remember getting these much more regularly when I was younger in my 20’s. A phase of them would usually coincide with stressful events, exams, projects, depression…so I chalked it up to stress after really paying attention to the times that it was happening and what was happening in my life as well.
    Good luck to everyone, hope I helped a bit.

  • I go to bed, I fall asleep fast.I don’t have issues with sleep but anytime of the night I get shocks to my heart and it wakes me up, sometimes they are severe.
    I’ve had my heart checked out I’ve had acid reflux test and nothing seems to be wrong with me it can happen 45 minutes after sleep it can happen 2 hours after sleep, it’s kinda spooky and I get up take a light snack than pop some vitamin and go back to sleep and wake up in morning. Some shocks are light and some are hard. I read what other people say, I have seen all doctors and no one seems to help me, any suggestions? Thanks for trying to help.

    • Hi, Maria! I used to get the same thing as yourself. I had my heart checked at the ER and then by a cardiologist (all checked out well). After checking and finding out that I have high calcium blood levels and the effects that too much calcium in your blood stream can do to your heart ( pain, electric type feeling, skipped beats) no fun. The cardiologist gave me some calcium channel blockers, and I took them all of five days, and they helped but I didn’t want to continue taking them; so I stopped. I researched and found out about vitamin K2 (as little as 100mcg). And since then- no issues. If you decide to try vitamin K2, take it along with vitamin D, as to the two combined will guide calcium to where it needs to be, and the K2 pulls calcium out of your blood stream and redirects it to your bones, teeth and wherever else it needs to be.

  • Hi everyone,
    Everybody should seriously consider C.B.D oil. 2 / 3 drops under the tongue 2 hours before sleep. You may still experience the “ jumps “ but the adrenal response doesn’t seem to materialise after. This is the underlying problem , almost more than the actual jerks and jumps themselves. As the response to them makes them worse. It’s almost like it’s a cycle. As the emotion reduces , so does the anxiety response. Then it just becomes a “ thing “ which one can live with. Although in my case it’s reduced every now and again. And even when I does , I’ve made friends with it. Remember, what we think about , we hold hands with.

  • I had, for the first time ever, a tremendous “jolt” that actually shook my body and the bed. The jolt was somewhat the same as seen in using shock to start the heart. The body ‘jumps”. I have a pacemaker so I sent a transmission to my cardiologist to see if it should the event or something. The answer was no evidence of anything–no skipped beat or A-fib. I was extremely shaky and frightened, my blood pressure was high. Of course there was no answer–I have some of my own theories > I recently, 2 days prior had abdominal surgery. I don’t think the anesthesia was totally out of my system. I didn’t think about Benadryl until I read your article. I had taken several doses for an allergic reaction. Maybe that and the anesthesia was the culprit. I live alone so don’t know if I snore. Very strange malady —hope it doesn’t happen again. Is this kind of hard jolt common?

  • I am a 51.5 year old African American female that is menopausal and experience Hypnos jerks but don’t know to do about them. I often become afraid and anxious prior to bed time! May I add that I have also been diagnosed with sleep apnea! Are there any possibilities of me ever experiencing a good quality of sleep again?

    • What everyone is experiencing with these hypnic jerks is a demonic attack. Whether you believe in demonic attacks or not,I assure you that is exactly what is happening. I experienced them for a while and still do on occasion. One way that stops them every single time is to play a spiritual song, entitled ” nothing but the blood of Jesus.”… I can usually feel the presence in my bedroom when they are getting ready to happen. I go to YouTube and play that song a few times in a row and it works every time in stopping the hypnic jerks. You can also pray for protection before you go to bed asking the father to please protect you from these attacks with the blood of Jesus. There is a website I think it’s called play on repeat. Com, where it will play the same song over and over. Try playing that song for yourself and you will see that it will stop the attacks. Praise God.

      • I feel like this is what is happening to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s like I hear something sort of growl before it happens, and then it’s like something grabs me and shakes me awake. I have a cross above my bed for that purpose, and I wear a cross necklace. Last night I didn’t have it on and this happened again. I got up and put my necklace on, and held onto it and prayed. I hope there’s no such thing as that, but I’m so scared of it. I’ve had so much anxiety, and trouble sleeping since I had my baby, but this would happen periodically before. I read your comment, and thought oh my gosh! I know it sounds crazy, and I am not one to believe in ghosts and stuff, but it does really scare me! I can’t watch movies or anything about that because it scares me so much.

  • im currently struggling with central sleep apnea. i don’t even get to the point of snoring for my brain to jolt me up. the jolts are not fun, they are in the form of explainable nerve spasms that take place in my spine and sometimes radiate simultaneously as well as randomly through my upper body. they speed up my heart rate as well and have overtime given me such bad insomnia i’m having a hard time performing motor skills during the day. just had a sleep study last night and the cpap seem to get rid of the jerks during my split study. wish me luck

    • I get the same thing as you. I think i have zeroed in on the culprit for me: free glutamates. Whenever I eat something like coconut ice cream, for example, the thickening agent is carageenan or locust gum. I found out that those foods have high levels of of free glutamates. I eat those and I get jerks at night and in the morning. I do not eat those, and up my intake of high magnesium foods and I do not have any jerks.
      Try researching free glutamates and how to remove them from your diet. That might work for you.

  • Two things… I have been on Effexor for a few years and about a year ago I had the prescription increased slightly. After that I experienced crazy night starts. They were quite random, but I thought that perhaps they were related to Effexor. But, if I’d choose night starts over Effexor, I choose night starts.
    I also noticed during this time that I mostly get the night starts during PMS. I’m also close to 50 and peri-menopausal. Now I wonder if it’s more hormonal than anything? But recently the night starts have gotten quite intense. Last night it felt like an electric shock, with bright flash of light and I woke up pounding the bed with my hand (3 times… as always seems to be the case). It was intense and they seem to just keep getting more intense.

  • In my opinion there is a definite difference Hypnic jerks and restless leg syndrome. I have experienced hypnic jerks all my life and most recently have developed restless leg syndrome which not only is a jerk but is a volcanic corruption of the entire body resulting in severe sleep disorder. my neurologist simply does not understand the difference between the two physical reactions. He treats me with requip which is successful but does not give me enough to keep under control for 12 or 24 hours I take 2 mg every 6 hours but it wears off every 4 hours. I would be interested to know if anyone has had similar confusion between these two conditions

  • I think mine is anxiety related. I am afraid of sleeping too deeply, out of fear of not hearing or not waking up when someone might be trying to break into the house. Subconsciously, I am afraid of sleeping. The moment my brain realises i am falling asleep, I panic and jerk myself awake forcefully. This happens every time I try to sleep, together with constant muscle twitches. Any sudden noises give me such a fright, that it triggers the fight-or-flight response from which I recover very slowly. The result of all this is Pseudo-insomnia. I am so weary of this. Don’t know how to fix it. I fear that sleeping aids might make it worse.

    • I have hypnic jerks for two yrs. juicing and low sugar intake even fruit is a no no. Liquid minerals help too. I still get them but I can eventually get to sleep and my sleep is way better. God bless!

  • I’ve always had sleep onset insomnia. Then migraines starting around 25 years old. I’m 43 now and I guess I had them almost daily. I started taking remeron at the end of 2017, it helped me fall asleep and stay asleep, and no more migraines. But I get painful twitches before sleep now. They were never painful before. So I came to the internet for answers only to find it’s just theoretical. But I do want to say that a lot of those suggestions are just good life habits to have.

  • Could I get some feedback as to the situation and frequency for all os us suffering or who have suffered? I have experienced the traditional hypnic jerk when falling asleep. The tripping or falling dream just when you first fall asleep. These to me feel normal and common. It might have happened once a week for the last 20years for me. However a different version reared their ugly head in the beginning of November. These have an electric like feeling that generates in my stomach/heart area. These also don’t let up when they kick in. Every time I drift off it is like the paddles are on me and I am jolted awake. It can go on for hours until my body is so exhausted it gives in. Then after a few hours sleep I am awake and the cycle repeats or I just get up. I did have a major change in anxiety when these fired up. However I have been working had for two months and have made some major advancements in my anxiety levels but am still suffering 1 night a week of continuous jolts. I am under the care of a neurologist and on gabapentin and baclofen for 3 weeks but they are still happening. I was dooped into these meds as I want to handle this as naturally as possible as that is where I saw my biggest gains. Any insight is appreciated.

    • Wow Nate the exact same thing happens to me, has also only been for a few months. I agree this is nothing like the tripping, falling dream … very different, also starts in the stomach/heart area then a huge jolt into the air sometimes my back arches, it is becoming really scary. I did have dengue shock syndrome a couple of years ago. I did not realise this affects so many people.

  • I have full body spasms on awakening, which are quite frightening, and I am definitely awake after one of these! The short hypnic jerks at night are more disturbing, difficult to fall back to sleep, even these are quite mild compared to the morning spasms. I am taking gabapentin in quantity for chronic pain, so I had just assumed this was a side-effect of this epilepsy-related medication. Has anyone else experienced this with gabapentin?

    • Hi Michelle- I was just put on gabapentin 3 weeks ago in an effort to get rid of the jerking/electricity feeling that can keep me awake all night. While on it I have slept ok for some nights but there have been 2 night (one being last night) in which every time I drift off I am kicked back awake. I have been suffering from this since around Thanksgiving. I was given lorazepam which helped for about 3 weeks. When I say helped I determined it sedated me most nights enough to sleep through them. By the third week it wasn’t doing it and I wanted to be done on benzodiazepines. I then used cbd oil which again provided some relief. Not a perfect track record but good. Around New Years I was sick so I started using NyQuil. That too worked for about 8days with one bad night. That brought me to my neurologist apt and the last 3 weeks of gabapentin and baclofen. I have a follow up next week and am at a loss. I have read gabapentin and baclofen can be harder to come off of than benzodiazepines which doesn’t make me excited as I feel why stay on these if it is still happening. I like many others don’t know if it is a physical issue, mental/emotional issue or both. I do know it doesn’t make any sense and I am plenty sick of it,

      • I have this happen to me at least a few times a week. It’s like being jolted awake just as you start falling off. It’s aweful, scares me to death every time

        • Im same Lou ,every afternoon ,i hate it my dr has no ideas ,maybe its a baby boomer thing ..im also on medication for pain plus c.o.p.d dont know if thats why i get them sic of it..stay well..

      • I left a comment ding I take Gabapentin. I take Baclofen, also. And I have this jerks…mainly when I’m sleep deprived and have taken Adderall (prescribed) that day.

    • gabapentin can cause lot of neuro problems for some – I thought my husband was developing dementia- until he had an MRi scan- he tapered off slowly and switched to pregabalin -please consult your GP- what suits one person dosnt always suit another

    • Yes, I take Gabapentin. I didn’t relate my jerks to Gaba, but you are the second person in just a handful of responses that mentioned this. Hmmm…….

    • I Am Wondering If Gabapentin Is Causing Mine… I Take 2000mg At Night Before Bedtime… Having Sleep Study Tonight…!?

  • Ive had it for 3-4 years on and off. This last year i have had max 2 sleepless nights. Im sure the Jerks comes as a consequence of nervousness/anxiety. The big game changer for me: i realized that the Jerks are a mechanism to get rid of nervousness and allowing sleep. They are actually coming to help with the sleep transition. They are good not bad. For more than two years i saw Them as bad for my sleep, and i feared Them, which increased anxiety. When the Jerks Came my Heart pounded and recurring thought of not getting any sleep that night ultimately leading to my demise ruled. Now i understand that its only natural that i did not get Any sleep because of These dreadful thoughts that continuously built Up anxiety in me . IT was a vicious spiral. I broke this spiral… Now i may get the Jerks sometimes but i see them as a good thing, as a helping mechanism, and i quickly fall asleep. Within seconds/minutes. Today i can sleep 8-9 hours with ease. I am so thankful that i Came to this realization. I recieved No constructive help from my doctors, only pills… I totally support the suggestions about good nutrition and hydration, but in the end its a mind game. Anxiety dehydrates.. if you loose the anxiety the risk of dehydrating also decreases.. its all connected.. i Hope my story can inspire you to break the negative spiral.

    • It does! Many of these forums don’t include success stories! It is unfortunate and discouraging. I too have only been thrown prescriptions which have only masked it for a short time then another night of hell.
      Can I ask when you get/got these were they just a jerk or was there this jolting electric feeling that was with it?

      • They varied in intensity.. Some very mild some really shock-like. Often they came from the centre of my body. There was a couple of nights where i noticed that sometimes the jerks came from some areas in my body that were extra tense. E.g. if my arm was positioned awkwardly. Slowly, I came to realize that the jerks are HELPING me if I learn to see them that that way. The jerks are a bodily mechanism to get rid of the tension. If I see them as bad then all that happens is even more terror and fear… and more jerks… and more terror.. endlessly… At my worst (1,5 months after my initial experience) I spend a couple of nights at the mental institution.. I have been to that dark place but there is light at the other side.. My experience has helped a couple of other people who have contacted me, so its not just speculation. It does however take time to mentally adjust.

  • Wow were do I start I’m a 35 year old male ive had this most of my life I even have distant memories of these as a child, its not the jerk what wakes me that bothers me that much it’s the fight or flight feeling that comes with mine and no amount of positive thinking stops that adrenaline from being released it can’t be healthy to have your heart go from zero to one hundred multiple times a night thousands of times a year – add that to the strain it puts on work and relationship plus the fact you don’t get enough REM sleep which is important for healthy brain function I’m worried as ****, I’ve never taking sleeping tablets as I’ve always been scared of them, so I’m asking anyone on here who takes sleeping tablets when you do take them do you still have the jerks just as you fall asleep whilst taking the tablets because this scares me with the heart being un naturally slowed and then the adrenalin release. Can’t be good !! and one more thing if you could have one answer from the product to the tablet that really has made a positive please answer below .

    Thanks
    Aaron

    • I have hypnic jerk for a few years and it took me at least 2 to 3 hours to fall asleep. Recently, I come across TRE which is trauma release exercise and have been practising it everyday. When you search the internet, there are many ways to practise TRE but I choose one that is easy to follow and I spend about 10 minutes on TRE.
      The hypnic jerk is still there but I am able to fall asleep within 1 hour.

    • These can happen many times due to an excess of norepinephrine, which can cause weird and sometimes frightening things to happen with our mind and body.
      The first step, to get us out of running on norepinephrine is by switching our brain chemistry to running on serotonin and then dopamine. The unusual thing about this is we can actually change our brain chemistry without drugs, herbs, or other potions.
      1. To move from norepinephrine to serotonin do one or more of the following – Lie on the floor for a few moments, or do some light fiction reading, or listen to soothing music, or do some coloring or work some simple puzzles, or go for a mild walk outside.
      2. Then once your starting to feel a bit better, to move from serotonin to dopamine do one or more of the following: Read educational or philosophical books, or listen to upbeat music, or laugh, or watch comedies, work more challenging puzzles, or do strength exercises or tai chi, or get a massage, or do creative projects, or do things with your non-dominant hand, or learn something new, or go someplace new.
      3. To take it one more step –
      a. Make a list of 10 things you really like to do.
      b. Next, narrow that list down to your top five.
      c. Then your top two
      d. Finally pick your top one.
      e. Then write a story describing that person who is doing that thing and all the things they would be experiencing while doing that thing, including the qualities that person has.
      f. Answer the question – Who would I be if I lived this quality 24/7 (Write this from the perspective of this character.)
      If you have questions, please feel free to let me know. I hope that this can be of value for you to use.

  • In my case , hypnic jerk happen to me many times …for some reasons its happen to me when I jogging , push up, read or even talk .every day . I am a debater in my High school , kind of embarassing when I throw out my opinion but suddenly this hypnic jerk came and I almost forget what to said….Hope I can get suggestion from the experts….please help me and replay this comment

    • Yes I was on klonopin for 10 years. Got taken off of it 6 months ago and started getting hypnic jerks and scaring the crap out of myself hen I’m sleeping. I scared myself when I suddenly saw a hand and it was my hand!

  • I’ve struggled with hypnic jerk and feel that I’ve overcome it – at least for now. I truly believe it can be conquered but will take diligence on your part. I’m still not sure if it’s: 1) triggered by the brain, sending a misfired neuron, causing the muscle to twitch, or 2) triggered by muscle tension that twitches when your muscles relax going from consciousness to unconsciousness; or could be due to both. Here’s my remedies that address both causes: 1) for the brain, need more serotonin by taking 5HTP supplements (50 mg), 6 mg melatonin, 400 ashwaganda; 2) for muscles, 600 mg magnesium citrate, 400 calcium, 1000 mg vitamin C, don’t exercise late at night, use muscle foam roller on the legs before sleep, and 15 minutes of stretching/deep breathing prior to sleep. Also, stop taking meds, even over-the-counter stuff like antihistamines, drink plenty of water throughout the day, no caffeine, yoga or walking daily to reduce stress, regular sleep schedule. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but you can overcome hypnic jerk. Good luck, I know what you’re going through.

  • Stress and anxiety contributes significantly. I am also beginning to think ailments such as malaria could also increase the occurrence of these jerks.

  • I’m not certain my experience completely qualifies as hypic jerks or whether my dystonia is exacerbating the reactions. I was diagnosed with dystonia over 20 years ago. I experienced a semi-remission period with adjustment of diet to organic. A couple years later, I noticed a slow uptick in symptoms, then the “hypnic jerks” started. The difference is mine are usually symmetrical. It started with a couple shoulder shrugs, then I’d fall asleep. I took it as a good sign. Now, they’ve gotten extremely bad (and so has the daytime components of dystonia). It could take up to an hour to hour and a half for them to stop. They are very violent and can include all muscles of the body. I do eventually fall asleep, but my muscles are so sore when I wake up, it’s like I way overdid a workout every night. Weird thing is, why would my worst symptoms happen as I try to fall asleep?

  • Ive been sleep deprived, stressed, consuming alcohol and work a physical job often late into evening pretty much my whole adult life, but rarely experienced this. That is until last week. I’ve had simple hypnagogic jerks before, but lately I’ve been getting them 5-6 times a night and continuously thru my sleep cycle. Often I can feel the lead up to one about 20 seconds prior. I feel a tickle thru my joints and it slowly becomes a spasm that shakes me. My wife is thinking I’m crazy. The severity of this has led me to look online for an answer…found myself here. Good info and glad I’m not entirely alone in this.

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