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Have you ever fallen asleep and suddenly felt like you were falling, forcing you to wake up? Some people say they are awakened by a loud clicking sound or a blinding light coming from their head, while others describe involuntary muscle twitching from a sudden electric shock.
“The onset of sleep usually involves one strong jerk that moves most of your body, with the arms and legs most likely to be affected. This can cause you to wake up before you can fall asleep,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.
Chris Breitigan, a 29-year-old podcast producer from Huron, Ohio, says he sometimes gets pretty ghostly experiences.
“I’ll be on the verge of falling asleep and I’ll be tickled,” he said. “It starts from the back and goes through my legs. I shudder, and something twitches in my body.
This experience may be accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, vivid dreams, or hallucinations. according to scientists.
Sleep attacks, officially called “hypnic twitches,” are normal things that can happen to men and women of any age and are usually nothing to worry about, Dasgupta says.
“It is estimated that almost 70% of the population will fall asleep at some point,” he said. “Medically, hypnotic jerks are classified as a type of myoclonus, which is a category of rapid involuntary muscle movements. The classic example of myoclonus is hiccups.”
No one knows exactly why the body jerks during sleep, but experts believe that excessive caffeine intake, as well as physical or emotional stress, can increase their frequency.
“They can also be promoted by fatigue or lack of sleep,” Dasgupta said. “However, most hypnotic twitches occur almost by accident in healthy people.”
Braytigan’s sleep is usually disturbed after evening meetings with friends on Tuesday evening.
“I really don’t drink much,” he said. “But on Tuesdays I go out with my friends and we have tacos. So I think it’s caused by alcohol because I don’t drink regularly.”
There is no cure for sleep attacks, Dasguta said, and they are generally harmless. However, it’s time to see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms: multiple muscle twitches throughout the day, hypnotic twitching injury, biting your tongue or mouth while you sleep, or urinating in bed.
“Hypnotic twitches can sometimes be confused with seizures,” Dasgupta said. “Although they may seem similar, they do have some key differences: Seizures are a serious condition that can be the result of an underlying medical condition.
“On the other hand, hypnotic twitches are harmless phenomena that are not associated with any disease or health problem,” he said. “Mostly, they’re just annoying, especially if they keep you awake all the time.”
However, some people develop a fixation on these jolts during sleep, leading to increased anxiety about disruptive experiences, he added.
“This increased anxiety and fatigue increases the likelihood of these jerks occurring, leading to a vicious cycle of insomnia and sleep deprivation,” Dasgupta said.
For all who are troubled by such events, Dasgupta offers the following suggestions:
Reduce your caffeine intake: Consuming less caffeine throughout the day can help improve overall sleep quality, especially if you avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and at night, Dasgupta says.
Avoid or reduce alcohol before bed: According to him, the same applies to alcohol. Alcohol can make you sleepy, but when your body has finished metabolizing it, you will usually wake up in the middle of the night. This will increase your fatigue, making you more vulnerable to hypnotic rushes.
Try meditation and mindfulness before bed: Relaxing the body can ease this transition into sleep, reducing the likelihood of muscle twitches, Dasgupta says.
“Also, one of the best ways to help yourself fall asleep is to focus on your breathing. Most breathing exercises for sleep usually involve slow, deep breathing,” he said.
Follow your sleep schedule: Dasgupta said that getting the best sleep requires set sleep times – even on weekends and holidays. It also helps to avoid bright screens before bed.
“The bright light of a TV, computer or smartphone can affect your sleep patterns and keep you alert when you should be falling asleep,” he said. “Sleep is something you do all your life, but the older you get, the harder it is to fall asleep, so practice proper sleep hygiene.”