hypnic jerk
8:58:37 2022-09-23 302

Why do we feel as if we are falling during sleep?

Has it ever happened to you that you were about to fall into a deep sleep and then suddenly felt like you were falling and your body was shaking from the shock?

What happened to you is called (hypnic jerk).

Hypnic jerks—involuntary twitches or jolts which occur during the night—can 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 they’re 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, it’s awful,” he adds. “They worry about it before they go to bed, which makes it worse.”

“The complexity of going to sleep and waking up is incredible, and sometimes—particularly when we are sleep deprived—our brain doesn’t shut down normally, which means we get this sort of jerking movement when we’re in a light sleep,” says Wilson. Often, he adds, the brain tries to make sense of it, “which is when we imagine ourselves falling off the sidewalk, a cliff or in a hole.”

The reason why some people experience the twitches at such a predictable time is due to their circadian rhythm, or body clock, Wilson says. “Normally when we go to sleep, about half an hour later we go into a deep stage of sleep during which we wouldn’t get these hypnic jerks,” he says. “If someone is sleep deprived, as they go through the process of falling asleep, the brain will get stuck at the same point in time. Usually if we can help people address their sleep deprivation, the instances decrease or disappear altogether.”

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