5 ways to curb the chances of a hypnic jerk when you’re trying to fall asleep

0 108

– and how to fall back to sleep 

Have you ever been drifting off to sleep and suddenly feel like you’re on a rollercoaster when it tips over the top and plunges down the loop, forcing you to wake up with a strong sudden jolt?

That dropping sensation – accompanied by your legs or arms twitching – is called a ‘hypnic jerk’ – also commonly known as ‘sleep starts’ or ‘hypnagogic jerks’.

Some people report being startled awake by a tingling feeling, or a sensory flash from inside their head, while others feel like they have tripped up, or have experienced an electric shock as their muscles spasm and contract involuntarily.

New research from sleep tech firm Simba discovered that, while only 14% of Britons are aware of the term ‘hypnic jerk’, over two thirds [68%] experience these random nocturnal body-hiccups.

What’s more, nearly a third [29%] report experiencing them regularly.

And although anyone can experience the random phenomenon, regardless of age or gender, the study from Simba found that women are most susceptible, with 73 per cent of women experiencing them, versus just 63 per cent of men.

While Briton’s Gen Z’s are the most afflicted demographic, as 82 per cent of 16-24 year olds report experiencing hypnic jerks, in contrast to just 59% of those aged 55+.

Lisa Artis, deputy CEO at The Sleep Charity – sleep tech firm Simba’s charity partner – explains what they are, how to curb the chances of a hypnic jerk, and shares simple steps to get back to sleep quicker after you’ve had one.

“Sleep is more complex than most of us think it is. As we prepare for sleep, functions in your body change. The heart rate starts to decrease, breathing slows down and your muscles relax. It’s during the transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep that you may experience a sudden feeling of twitching or jumping – perfectly normal, but is classed as a hypnic jerk.

“Hypnic jerks are part of the parasomnia group but are also relatively common. Most of us will sleep through them but sometimes they can wake you up. They’re generally not distressing and don’t affect your sleep long term. But it is good to know what they are and some of the common causes behind them.”

What are hypnic jerks?

In medical terms, hypnic jerks – or sleep starts – are classified as a type of myoclonus, a brief involuntary twitching or jerking of a muscle group or group of muscles.

Sleep starts tend to wake you in the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 sleep. Your heartbeat slows, as does your breathing, and your muscles start to unwind – which is when it is common to experience a hypnic jerk which may or may not be accompanied by a visual hallucination.
Said Lisa: “Hypnic jerks can affect the whole body or just the legs. At the same time you may also feel like you’re falling, you may experience a loud noise or a flash of light.”

What causes hypnic jerks, and can they be prevented?

The exact mechanisms underlying sleep starts and myoclonus are not yet fully understood, researchers continue to investigate.

Various factors such as excessive caffeine intake, and physical and emotional stress can increase their frequency. An additional study looked at a possible link between selective antidepressants, specifically Escitalopram.
Some scientists hypothesize that some types of stimulus-sensitive myoclonus may involve overexcitability of the parts of the brain that control movement – triggering a jerking movement.

Others believe that the brain misinterprets your body state accurately when you start to go to sleep. It ‘thinks’ you’re still awake but notices your muscles aren’t moving, so sends signals to initiate them.
Added Lisa: “It’s really important to ensure that you get good quality sleep as fatigue or sleep deprivation may also increase your risk of hypnic jerks.”

While they can be startling, hypnic jerks are completely normal, extremely common, and are rarely a sign of any underlying condition. They are not a neurological disorder.

If you’re experiencing them frequently, trying following productive sleep habits:

Track trends

Either on your phone or in a diary, jot down the days they happen – together with any alcohol, caffeine, or stimulating drugs. Note stress levels, types and times of exercise too, as identifying patterns can help you figure out potential triggers.

Fill a jar and empty another

Stress and hypnic jerks can be somewhat of a “Chicken-and-egg” situation. Anxiety can make falling asleep a challenge. People can become increasingly stressed because of sleep starts, which compounds sleep deprivation. In turn, sleep deprivation has the ability to up the frequency of hypnic jerks.

If your mind is racing as your head hits the pillow, imagine you’re holding an ornate jar, and as each worry comes into your mind – deposit it in the jar. When it’s full, visualise putting a lid on it and place it on a shelf. As you do, imagine picking up a second container. Now you have neatly put away the negative thoughts, open it and invite peaceful and pleasant images through the other, which will help to soothe your mind and relax your body, helping you drift off to sleep.

Relaxing the body may ease that transition into sleep, making your muscles less likely to twitch.

Soften your PM training regime

Exercising too close to hitting the sack can be associated with a higher risk of night time contractions. So, aim to finish exercising at least 2-3 hours before bed.

How hard you train can also play a part too. If your evening routine involves things like running, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Bodypump, or Bodycombat it’s going to be difficult for your body and muscles to slow down and relax, since it puts it under more stress

If you’re able to swap your regime to the morning, see if this makes a difference. If you can’t, consider trialing lower impact sessions such as swimming, walking, Body Balance, Pilates, or Yoga – which focus on breathing and stretching.

Step up your sleep hygiene and hours

The body relies heavily on sleep to function normally. If you are sleep-deprived, it could spur more frequent or intense sleep starts.

If you’re struggling to get good quality sleep per night, it could be rooted in not having the right foundations for sleep. As we’re in that transition period between spring and summer, something as simple as the duvet or blackout curtains could be preventing a good night’s rest if you’re overheating or there is too much light in the bedroom

The Simba Hybrid® 3-in-1 Duvet offers a set of two duvets that work in perfect harmony to keep you at the best temperature for sleep. The Pure Better Cotton cover with Stratos® Heat Control technology responds to body temperature, drawing heat away and providing an instant cooling sensation.

Curb caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants

All can cause insomnia and anxiety if consumed in large amounts – and especially before bed – and may increase the risk and frequency of hypnic jerks. Switch to decaf after midday and low/no alcohol options in the two hours run up bed.

How to get back to sleep quickly after a hypnic jerk?

Set the dial to the sleep shipping forecast

A unique journey to dreamland, mixing instrumental music and Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast, download a podcast like the Sleeping Forecast. The daily weather report, which began life in 1861, narrates the maritime conditions across the British Isles.It’s melodic and poetic, referring to strange yet familiar names many of us don’t understand, which means it’s more like background noise, so it soothes rather than stimulates the brain.

Take a visual holiday

Imagine an event or time that makes you feel relaxed. Conjure up the smells and sounds. What do you see and feel? Images help your mind send cues to your body to relax.

Guided imagery helps your mind send messages to your body to relax. Use this technique when you feel your stress levels rising, or as a way to prevent stress before it takes hold.

Test out Autogenic Training

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique created by the German psychiatrist, Johannes Heinrich Schultz, in 1932 and focuses on promoting feelings of calm and relaxation in your body to help reduce stress and anxieties.

It’s used to induce a positive, calming effect on the autonomic nervous system. This makes it a good strategy to fall asleep faster:

Lying down, begin with your breathing. Slow it right down. Inhale through the nose for six counts, and then out through the mouth for six. Taking slow deep breaths using our main respiratory muscle, the diaphragm, can help relax the body and mind.

Once you have controlled your breath, focus on the words, “I am completely calm”.

Begin to move around your body. Start with your left arm and say to yourself, “My left arm is heavy, I am completely calm”. Repeat six times.

Repeat this mantra with your other arm, legs, stomach, and forehead. Always closing with “I am completely calm”.

Finally, shift attention to your heartbeat. While breathing deeply, repeat to yourself six times, “My heartbeat is calm and regular,” and then say, “I am completely calm.”

This autogenic training YouTube video may also be perfect for lulling you back to sleep. It opens with the moon and begins by instructing you to get into a comfortable and relaxing position.

Get Up After 20-minutes

If you’re still struggling after 15-20 minutes, it’s counterproductive to stare at the ceiling and tie yourself in knots.

Get out of bed and head to another room where there is a dim light, make a warm herbal tea and read a physical book or magazine until you feel drowsy again. Avoid any devices.

Said Lisa Artis: “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. In these instances, you must visit your GP.”

The post 5 ways to curb the chances of a hypnic jerk when you’re trying to fall asleep appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.