A hypnic jerk is involuntary muscle movement that occurs as you’re falling asleep or trying to fall back to sleep. They typically involve one or more muscle groups and can also accompany other sensations like a feeling of falling, a visual sleep start with a flashing light, or an auditory hallucination that sounds like a loud bang. Hypnic jerks usually are painless, but they can be alarming and disorienting.
There are both chemical and physiological triggers of hypnic jerks. Chemical triggers include the presence of caffeine in the body, which can jolt the brain when you try to power down for sleep. Other drugs that can cause hypnic jerks include alcohol and stimulants such as nicotine or cocaine. Physiological triggers can include intense exercise before bed, stress, and anxiety.
If you are experiencing frequent hypnic jerks, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Depending on the severity and frequency of your symptoms, your doctor may suggest that you follow some healthy habits to help reduce the jerks.
For example, he or she may recommend that you stick to a regular sleep schedule and avoid using screens before going to bed. This will help your body transition more smoothly between sleep and waking states. Your doctor may also recommend psychotherapy to address emotional stress that is contributing to your hypnic jerks. Psychotherapy is a type of behavioral therapy that uses cognitive and behavioural techniques to help you change your thoughts and behaviours.