Hypnic (Hypnagogic) Jerking Explained – The Comprehensive Guide

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Sleep is a very complicated event that we go through daily. Our body needs a healthy amount of sleep to function the next day properly.

The immune system and many other parts of the body, including the brain, also depends on sleep to stay healthy and functional.

Many conditions can be disruptive during sleep, causing a person to lie awake at night or wake up in the middle of the night.

These can all lead to sleep deficiency, which, in turn, can cause many health problems. Insufficient sleep has been linked to accidents, hypertension, weight gain, diabetes, changes in mood, a low immune function, memory problems, and concentration issues.

Hypnic Jerking is a relatively common condition that occurs during sleep and can have an impact on sleep quality and duration. The condition is underestimated according to one study, and may be affecting as much as 70% of the worldwide population.

Identifying the symptoms of this condition can help a person improve their sleep quality and duration if they find that Hypnic Jerking is affecting their ability to sleep at night. In this post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of this condition, look at the symptoms a person should look for, and also consider some effective ways to deal with this problem.

Overview of Hypnic Jerking

Hypnic Jerking is a condition that is explained as muscle twitches that are entirely involuntary. These twitches occur during sleep, most often during the time when a person is starting to fall asleep. The condition is categorized as a Myoclonus, which is a group of conditions that involve involuntary muscle contractions and twitches.

The condition is very similar to the startled “jump” that a person tends to experience when they are suddenly frightened in an awoken state. Some people may experience a sensation of falling following the Hypnic Jerk, but this does not happen to everyone who experiences this condition.

This condition goes by many names, apart from Hypnic Jerking. Alternative names that are often used to describe these sleep twitches include:

  • Hypnic Jerk
  • Hypnagogic Jerk
  • Sleep Twitch
  • Sleep Start
  • Night Start
  • Myoclonic Jerk

Regardless of which name is used, the symptoms are the same. While the condition is considered harmless to the affected person, they can cause issues such as anxiety or sleep deficiency.

Symptoms of Hypnagogic Jerk

sleep jerking

An understanding of the symptoms associated with Hypnagogic jerk is the first step to determining if a particular individual may be experiencing this condition. The most obvious symptom is the sudden muscle twitches that occur just as the person starts to fall asleep, which usually causes them to become awake. Not all people wake up from a Hypnic Jerk. A large area of the body may be affected by the twitching, including the person’s legs and arms. Some people who experience a Hypnic Jerk may also let out a sharp cry or another sound.

In many cases, these symptoms may be accompanied by additional experiences. In particular, many people describe their experience as a feeling that they are falling. Sensory flashes may also occur when a person experiences a Hypnic Jerk.

It should be noted that specific physical symptoms may also be present when a Hypnic Jerk occurs. These physical symptoms may include sweating, an increase in the individual’s heart rate, and faster breathing.

Causes and Risk Factors

sleep deprivation from working late

Once a person has determined that they are experiencing Hypnic Jerking as they fall asleep, the next step is to understand why these episodes may be happening. While a lot of research has been done on sleep and disorders that affect sleep, scientists and sleep experts are not yet entirely sure exactly why so many people experience these twitches or why exactly they happen. There are, however, some studies and theories that can help a person understand certain risk factors in their life that may be contributing to Hypnic Jerking.

One of the most commonly associated risk factors is sleep deprivation. Several studies have shown that people who are deprived of proper sleep are at a much higher risk to experience these episodes than those individuals who are obtaining enough sleep. In addition to the fact that sleep deprivation may contribute to Hypnic Jerking, it has also been proven that the intake of excessive caffeine levels during the day can also cause a person to be at a higher risk of these twitches. Another particular factor associated with Hypnic Jerking is smoking.

Other theories that have also been shared include:

  • It may be due to the brain not shutting down the right way, causing a person to experience an involuntary twitch in their muscles when they enter a state of light sleep.
  • Some believe that people experience a Hypnic Jerk when a misfire occurs in the nerves that are located in their legs and hands, caused by the reticular activating system due to the transition from wakefulness toward sleep.
  • Another theory is that the brain interprets the fact that muscles start to relax when we fall asleep as a sign that the body is falling. In response to this sensation, the brain creates a protective reaction through muscle contractions.

Apart from the risk factors and possible causes we have mentioned, we also want to note that some studies have pointed out a possible connection between antidepressant drugs and a higher risk of Hypnic Jerking. People who have been diagnosed with Parkinsonism may also be at a higher risk.

Treatment for Hypnagogic Jerk

Hypnic Jerking is not a disease or a sleep disorder, and there are no pharmaceutical products that a physician can prescribe to a patient in order to help reduce the frequency or intensity of these episodes. This technically causes Hypnic Jerking to be classified as incurable. This, however, does not mean a person has to live with the complications that these episodes can cause them to experience.

Certain techniques can be useful in reducing the risk of experiencing a Hypnic Jerk when falling asleep. Many of these techniques have helped people overcome this problem and improve their sleep at the same time. One of the most important techniques is to practice some form of relaxation like yoga or meditation before getting into bed. This will help to calm the mind down and also reduce anxiety. Relaxation before going to bed is especially important if a person has gone through a rough and stressful day. These events can cause their brain to stay active when they get into bed, which can make them more likely to experience a Hypnic Jerk.

In addition to meditation or another relaxation technique to help a person reduce their stress levels and anxiety symptoms before they try to sleep, other methods have also proven useful amongst individuals who frequently experience Hypnic Jerking.

#1. Avoid triggers

coffee drink

Avoiding some of the triggers would be a very effective option. Caffeine is known as great risk of Hypnic Jerking, but usually only when too much caffeine is consumed. Thus, a person should limit the amount of caffeine they drink every day and also avoid drinking anything that contains caffeine a couple of hours before they go to bed. In addition to avoiding caffeine, it would also be a good idea to avoid alcohol directly before sleep.

#2. Technology


Technology has taken our lives over in so many different ways today. Many people do not realize that their smartphone or television is one of the main reasons why they cannot sleep. To relax and unwind, a person needs to take their mind off these things. They need to put their smartphone down and switch the television off. This will also aid in reducing anxiety just before bed, due to a calmer state-of-mind. Limiting access to technology an hour before bed would be an excellent idea for people who experience Hypnic Jerking.

#3. Herbal remedies

natural herbal tea

Taking a cup of natural tea can assist in providing a relaxing effect in a person. Lavender, Chamomile, and Eucalyptus are only three examples of such herbs. A visit to a local health store will offer many calming and relaxation teas to choose from, so every person should be able to find an option that they can enjoy. One cup of this tea before bed can help to reduce stress and put the person’s mind at rest so they can fall asleep easier and reduce their risk of Hypnic Jerking.

Our Final Thoughts

There are a variety of conditions that can have an adverse impact on sleep. Hypnic Jerking is relatively popular and affects more than half of the population. This condition can be disturbing and may cause a person to wake up suddenly and struggle to fall asleep again afterward.

Even though not considered a condition treatable through modern medicine, there are some effective ways a person can help to reduce the occurrence of Hypnic Jerking when they fall asleep. Implementing these steps can assist with providing an improvement in overall sleep quality, as well as sleep duration, leading to a significant improvement in day-to-day functionality, since sleep deficiency can cause many adverse impacts on a person’s psychological and physiological health.

Sources & References

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