How familiar does this scenario sound to you--
You are resting peacefully in your bed, your body completely relaxed and your mind calm and peaceful. Your thoughts are pleasant, vibrant, and just to the point of becoming an immersive dream. You are slipping from being awake and present into asleep and dreaming. And then, for no understandable reason at all…
...your leg juts out in front of you as if your were about to step off of an imaginary sidewalk.
You are now fully awake.
If this sleep ruining twitch sounds too common to you, then know that you are not alone.
What are these twitches?
Sleep jerks are very common in various degrees, with almost 60 to 70 percent of Americans being prone to experience these twitches at some point in their lifetime.
These startling movements are called “sleep starts” or “hypnagogic jerks”. The movements themselves vary from person to person, but usually involve some form of involuntary action. For some it can be as minimal as an involuntary vocal sound, like a yelp or whimper. On the other end of the spectrum, this twitch can also be seen as a full body jerk that forces you to thrust your limbs out in front of you as if you were about to collide into an object heading straight for you. For obvious reasons, this makes sleeping beside a partner a very unpleasant and unpredictable experience for both parties involved.
How do they happen
The transition from being fully awake to fully asleep is a far more complex process than we realize. When we are awake, our brains transmit information at a pace and level referred to as "gamma" and "beta" waves. As we relax and our brains calm down, our brains descend through the 5 levels of brain waves, all the way to "delta" waves:
Gamma waves (High Alert)
Delta waves (Sleep & Unconsciousness).
The descent from gamma waves all the way to delta waves is a complicated process for our brains, so on the way, it is possible for the brain to resist calming down so quickly. This is one of reasons our bodies may react with a kick or twitch, because our bodies and brains are not communicating as to which wavelength it is on.
How do you prevent them?
Several different methods and practices are used to reduce the occurrence of these twitches.
The good news about sleep twitches is that they are for the most part, predictable. For those that experience regular sleep twitches, the twitches and jerks often occur around the same time everynight. To aid in eliminating the twitches, have a partner stir you lightly, or prompt you to roll over. Even them just jostling the bed to remind your brain that it does not need to be on as high alert but is safe and can relax can be enough.
Staying on a balanced and predictable sleep schedule also helps, as having your circadian clock be on a predictable track will help your body remain calm and fall asleep with minimal spasms and twitches.
Sleep twitches are a normal occurrence, but if they are a subject of worry, then check in with your primary physician or a sleep specialist on what you can do to aid your mind and body’s calming process every night.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.