Hypnic Jerks

Last updated: December 2021
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If you’ve ever had that sudden feeling of twitching or jumping just as you fall asleep, then you’ve experienced a hypnic jerk.

It is defined as nothing more than an involuntary twitch which tends to happen just as you are about to fall asleep (during the first stage of light sleep).

Hypnic jerks are part of the parasomnia group but are also relatively common. It is estimated that 60-70% of people remember having them. If they happen infrequently, they’re generally not distressing and don’t affect your sleep long term.

It can affect the whole body or just the legs. The jerk is often associated with the sensation of falling, a loud noise or flash of light.

Causes of hypnic jerks

  • Increased use of caffeine
  • Increased use of other stimulants (alcohol etc)
  • Emotional stress
  • Physical exercise too close to bedtime
  • Other sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea

Treatment of hypnic jerks

It is not necessary to seek treatment for hypnic jerks unless they occur frequently and are accompanied by other complaints such as physical injury, bedwetting or confusion when awakening. If these instances, you must visit your GP. Otherwise try to practise good sleep hygiene habits.