Have you ever dozed off and felt that you were free falling from a tall building, and suddenly awake with a jerk. You wake up confused not knowing what shook you up, and whether or not you were dreaming.
This phenomenon, or state of being, is defined by scientists as hypnic jerk. While in slumber, the sudden thought and the perils of a free fall from a mountain, a building or anything at a high elevation, and then landing no where but on your own bed with the realisation that everything is okay, and you didn’t after all fall and break a limb, wakes you with a start and a racing heart. It is believed that over 70% people from across the world have experienced this jerking motion in their sleep.
But in reality, in this zone between sleep and consciousness, also called hypnagogic stage, your brain becomes vulnerable to be jerked to wakefulness by even a very basic action as a muscle twitch. So, a muscle twitches, and neuro-transmitters are fired to your brain urging you to wake up immediately as something is wrong.
Why the Hypnic Jerk
It is usually nothing serious, as when the muscles in the body begin to loosen in anticipation of sleep, the brain tends to get confused thinking the body is actually falling, and alerts the muscles to take the impact of the fall. Although, there could also be some serious underlying health conditions to the hypnic jerk.
Some known medical causes of Hypnic Jerk
1. Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome is often related to stinging and throbbing sensations in the legs. While this can be hereditary, there could be some serious reasons behind it such as sleep deprivation, kidney failure, alcohol abuse, diabetes and brain lesions.
But scientists believe that those with brain lesions usually suffer hypnic jerks. When a patch of tissues in the brain have been damaged by a physical trauma or the onset of a disease brain lesions occur. And due to brain lesions you could also be having chronic headaches, nausea, memory loss, back and neck pain, and seizures.
2. Sleeping disorders
Abnormal brain activity is the primary cause of most sleep disorders. Those prone to sleeping disorders run a high risk of getting hypnic jerks. In worst cases, this can be proceeded by hallucination and paralysis.
The chances of experiencing hypnic jerks changes with the levels of anxiety and stress you feel in your daily lives. With higher stress levels you stay alert in that fragile space between consciousness and slumber, and subsequently experience hypnic jerk.