Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because you felt like you were falling?? What about waking up from sudden muscle spasms you’ve experienced in your sleep?? If you answered yes to either or both questions, that means you’ve experienced a hypnagogic jerk!
A term referencing to the period between wakefulness and sleep, called the hypnagogic state, hypnagogic jerks are involuntary muscle spasms that occur during light sleeping. These jerks are also known as ‘sleep starts’ and effect 70% of the population. Some factors scientists know to cause and increase the amount of twitches one can experience are high caffeine intake, stress, fatigue, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and intense activity and exercise right before sleep. Additionally, it is surmised that these spasms can also be induced by sound, light, and other external factors.
In a recent study, different people have reported that with these jerks comes hallucinations, vivid dreams, or even ringing noises inside of their heads! Though, with the acknowledgement of hypnagogic jerks and what comes with them, the actual main cause in the body is unknown. Here are two popular theories from the researches:
- The first idea is that the jerks are just natural when transitioning from alertness to sleep by nerves in the body ‘misfiring’.
- The second idea is that hypnagogic jerks result from evolution. It’s argued that the spasms are a primitive reflex where the brain at one time in history misinterpreted the transition from movement to relaxation and sleep as a sign of the primate falling, making the muscles quickly react.
Even with those two theories the actual cause is still a mystery and scientists continue to try and find it. Though don’t be scared if you experience a hypnagogic jerk once in a while that causes you to wake up, but if this starts to happen on a more frequent and repetitive basis seek a sleep specialist!
Feel free to comment your experiences with hypnagogic jerks!!