Do you ever get a sensation like you're about to fall asleep and then you suddenly jerk yourself awake again? Perhaps with a racing heart and feeling as though you're in fight or flight mode?
The physical jerks aren't uncommon and are often referred to as hypnic jerks, sleep starts, or sleep twitches. They typically occur as we progress from wakefulness to the first stage of light sleep and are sometimes associated with a sensation that you are falling.
Of course, in real life, the only falling actually taking place is falling asleep! So, with this in mind, it can be helpful to recognize these jerks or jolts as the onset of sleep rather than a sign that something is wrong.
These physical jerks or sudden mental arousal can also be a symptom of hyperarousal — in other words, the more you pay attention and perhaps self-monitor for sleep and these jerks, the more frequently they might happen or the more intense they might feel.
They can also be a heightened response to the normal bodily changes associated with sleep. For example, as we fall asleep our muscles start to relax and our breathing slows. If we are more alert or monitoring for this, we can be more sensitive to these changes.
So, what can you do to get rid of these jerks? Recognizing that they are not unusual and that they don't necessarily indicate a problem, and identifying them as a symptom that sleep is happening can be really helpful.
It can also be helpful to observe a consistent sleep schedule, take time to unwind before bed, and only go to bed when you feel sleepy enough for sleep.
If you experience a jerk or jolt and this leads to a lot of time in bed feeling worried, anxious, or frustrated, it can be helpful to get out of bed and only return when you feel calm and relaxed again.
What to do during the night when you can't sleep because of chronic insomnia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvxuk7v4Ni8
Hypnic jerks can be a challenge but they are simply a sign that sleep is happening! The less you can worry about them, the less you monitor for them, and the more comfortable you can be with their occasional presence, the less likely they may be to occur.
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My name is Martin Reed and I am the founder of Insomnia Coach®. I offer sleep coaching services that give people with insomnia all the skills and support they need to enjoy better sleep for the rest of their lives. I also offer a free two-week sleep training course for people with insomnia at https://insomniacoach.com/sleep-training/?ref=youtube051220
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