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Last Updated on August 4, 2022 by Peter

Why Do I Twitch When I Sleep Every Night?

Sleep twitching also called hypnic jerk, hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, sleep twitch, myoclonic jerk, or night start is quite common occurrence, but most people have never even heard of it. Let’s learn more about hypnic jerk together.

There are so many sleep-related phenomena that only sleep experts have heard of each of them. Some of them are very rare, for example, 0.1% encountered one.Β 

But probably each of us has experienced sleep twitching at least once in the last few months. You probably didn’t even pay attention to when it happened or you don’t remember because it happened while you were falling asleep.

We find the hypnic jerk very interesting for many reasons. That’s why we decided to dedicate a whole separate article on that topic. This is the result of our research and discussions with experts from different fields.

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    What is sleep twitching/hypnic jerk?

    A hypnic jerk or body jerk is an involuntary contraction of the muscles that happens suddenly when we fall asleep. It is one of the types of myoclonus. Those involuntary muscle contractions can happen once or more times in a row, like a sequence, and is usually accompanied by dreams. The well-known sensation of falling is a hypnic jerk, and it may also happen that you hear certain sounds. It often happens only on one side of the body, and it lasts for a short time.

    a man trying to sleep

    In 99% of cases, hypnic jerks or sleep starts are painless and do not cause any problems except that it is quite an unpleasant feeling. The intensity of hypnic jerks vary significantly. You can be unaware of the muscle contraction until you are informed by your sleep partner in the morning that it happened while you were falling asleep. Also, the intensity can be strong enough to wake you up completely and you can’t go back to sleep for several minutes afterward.

    The reasons of sleep twitching

    Sleep twitching may appear without obvious cause, but in most cases it is one of the following reasons. As you will notice, most of those reasons are related to adulthood, and that is why sleep twitching is way more common for adults than for children, although it happens even in early age too.

    Sleep deprivation

    If you sleep less than 6 hours on average, it is considered that you are sleep deprived and you can start calculating your sleep debt. Of course it depends from person to person, 5 hours is enough for someone, and someone needs 8 or more hours. Hypnic jerk is much more common when you are chronically tired. Of course, that is not the only side effect of sleep deprivation, there are much worse health consequences, but you can expect involuntary muscle movements to be more frequent as well.

    An image of a man being sleep deprived due to night terrors.

    Anxiety

    Anxiety is related to night start in two ways. First, anxiety is often followed by insomnia, which means that sleep deprivation is present, and we talked more about relation of a sleep deprivation and jerks in the previous paragraph. Second, anxious people have elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in their blood. Cortisol does not allow you to relax, which leads to restless sleep and frequent jerks.

    An image of a man suffering from anxiety.

    Too much stress

    Stress and hypnagogic jerk are related in a very similar way to anxiety. Cortisol and other built-in alarm systems of your body are not letting you get a restful night’s sleep. And when you are under too much stress, your body and brain will constantly keep you in a specific fight or flight survival mode.

    a woman stressed out due to a lot of work

    Too much of caffeine & nicotine

    Caffeine, nicotine and drugs are stimulants. That’s why we consume them when we want to increase our energy level. Although this is very useful in certain situations and allows us to maintain a high level of energy longer than is natural, stimulants also leave consequences. When you consume too much caffeine or consume it late in the day, you can expect restless sleep if you can fall asleep at all.

    Do women or men twitch more in their sleep?

    The answer is men twitch more in their sleep. Several studies have shown that men experience muscle twitches per hour during both REM and non-REM sleep than women. However, a number of participants in these studies were not big enough for us to consider studies 100% authoritative. Also, the difference is not significant, because women also experience hypnic jerk.

    An image of a man sleeping and snoring.

    Why does sleep twitch wake me up?

    As we already mentioned, twitching may or may not wake you up. When it wakes you up, it means that the intensity of involuntary muscle twitches were strong and they caused a disruption in your brain, so you woke up just as you were about to fall asleep.

    The brain is in a very fragile state at that moment because then you are just entering light sleep. If a jerk happened during deep sleep, it certainly wouldn’t wake you up.

    An image of a young man feeling confused upon awakening.

    How to stop twitching in sleep?

    To be honest, it is not necessary at all to try to stop twitching in sleep. If you don’t mind frequency or unpredictability, continue to live as you have been doing so far. However, if you want to reduce their frequency and intensity because it impairs the quality of your night’s sleep and you find it very annoying, take the subsequent actions.

    Avoid late exercising

    Don’t get us wrong, exercising is of utmost importance for both overall health and sleep quality. But timing is also important, especially if your workouts are vigorous. In that case, finish the workout by 5 PM or you risk going to bed with a high heart rate and generally in a state where your body and mind are not ready for sleep. If you have to exercise late, go with yoga or similar calm activity.

    An image of a woman exercising

    Skip caffeine in the afternoon

    Caffeine is not just coffee. We guess you won’t opt for coffee nap at 8 PM, but we often forget that caffeine is found in tea and even chocolate. The amount of caffeine is usually very small, not enough to keep you awake, but if you consume a large amount of tea or hot chocolate right before bed, it can be counterproductive.

    An image of a sleepy woman holding a cup of coffee.

    Reduce your stress level

    It is easier said than done. However, you must do everything in your power to reduce the stress level since modern man can’t live a life without daily stress. Physical activity is of great help. Also take care of your diet. Find a hobby that will calm you down. If you think you need it, and most people do these days, talk to a psychotherapist. Consider it mental hygiene.

    an image of a happy family found their perfect hybrid mattress

    Relax before the bed time

    Bedtime routine is the best way to relax before bed. Avoid watching TV or using smartphones as part of your bedtime routine. It’s bad for you because blue light inhibits melatonin, the sleep hormone. Reading a book, taking a warm bath or cuddling with your partner while talking about some relaxing topics are the best options for relaxation in the evening.

    An image of a relaxed woman in bed.

    Optimizer bedroom lighting

    You probably think that choosing good blackout curtains for the bedroom is more important than lighting. It is certainly of the biggest significance to make bedroom dark and quiet. But the importance of bedroom lighting should not be neglected either. There are different bedroom lighting ideas that will make the bedroom ideal for reading before bed. Also, the lighting in a small room is not the same as in a large room. Bedroom wall lights are the favorite choice of many. You should also choose suitable night lights for the children’s room so that the child is not frightened and wakes you up several times every night.

    Meditate before sleep

    We mentioned yoga, which may or may not be associated with meditation. It is a meditation technique that will allow you to completely relax before going to bed and thus avoid muscle twitches. Give yourself time to learn to meditate because it is a process. Over time, you will notice how you are getting better and better, and that will be because you are a master of this ancient technique associated with Buddhism and Hinduism teachings.

    a woman meditates before sleep

    How dangerous is sleep twitching?

    It is nothing dangerous and if you do not experience this phenomenon when you are awake during the daytime or night, consider it a natural occurrence. Nevertheless, if you notice that muscle twitches have become very frequent and occur during random periods of the day, then it’s time to contact a doctor.Β 

    an image of essential oils as relax therapy

    Maybe it’s a sign of multiple sclerosis, one of the sleep disorders, nervous system disorders or some other serious health condition. If you notice that your infant or child has any of these symptoms, it may be related to epilepsy, so consult a pediatrician. Also keep in mind that hypnic jerk is not the same asΒ restless leg syndrome.

    Peter

    Peter

    Sleep enthusiast & researcher Sleep is a crucial for a healthy life, in every sense. TSA gave me the place to express my feelings and opinions about the state we spend one third of our lives. In free time - a huge fan of dreams and lucid dreaming. Even started making own dream map
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