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Why Does Your Body Twitch As You're Falling Asleep?

Why Does Your Body Twitch As You're Falling Asleep?
From TIME - December 4, 2017

If youve ever found yourself drifting off to sleep only to be woken by a vigorous, full-body twitch or jerk, then do not feel alarmed. Youre among the estimated 60-70% of Americans who regularly experience a phenomenon known as a hypnic jerkalso known as a hypnagogic jerk, or sleep startwhich strikes as a person falls into a deep sleep. Heres what to know about it.

What do sleep jerks feel like?

Hypnic jerksinvoluntary twitches or jolts which occur during the nightcan affect people in different ways. Many people will sleep right through them, but for others, they are vigorous enough to wake them up.

Although there is no definite explanation for what causes hypnic jerks, people are more likely to suffer from them when theyre sleep deprived or anxious, or when they do sleep-impairing habits before going to bed, like drinking caffeine or doing exercise close to bedtime, says James Wilson, a U.K.-based sleep behavior and sleep environment expert. For people who suffer from hypnic jerks, its awful, he adds. They worry about it before they go to bed, which makes it worse.

Jacqui Paterson, who is 44 and lives in the U.K., says she has experienced these kinds of twitches on an almost-nightly basis for about three years.

When I was about 41, I started getting insomnia, which Id never had in my life before, she says. Initially, I was staying awake all night, but I now get these annoying jerks which wake me up exactly an hour after I fall asleep, like someone has set an alarm in my head. I seem to have replaced one evil with another.

MORE: TIMEs Guide To Sleep

Paterson says the jerks come more regularly when she feels concerned or preoccupied. If she worries about them happening before she goes to bed, then it almost guarantees that she will suffer from them that night.

What causes hypnic jerks?

How can you prevent sleep jerks from happening?

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