Do you twitch yourself awake just before falling asleep?

Have you ever had the odd sensation that while you are dropping away into dreamland, a sweet sensation like none other, when all of a sudden your body twitches awake with a horrifying feeling that you’re falling into the depths. What is this odd event called, why does it happen, and is it just you that it happens to you? The muscular twitch is known as a hypnic jerk in most situations, when it is a normal muscular spasm, but when it’s part of a medical condition and a sleep disorder it’s called Myoclonus, and it’s a serious condition. Which one do you have?

Do you have a dangerous sleep disorder if you’re twitching?

The short answer: probably not. This sleep disorder is very rare and it’s a very common occurrence that people get woken by this weird twitch as they’re falling asleep, especially in the modern world.

A hypnic jerk can make you feel very disoriented.
A hypnic jerk can make you feel very disoriented.

What is this twitching thing?

The twitching moment you’re experiencing can be known by a few names such as a hypnic jerk, hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, sleep twitch or night start, and it’s an involuntary muscular twitch which occurs just as a person is beginning to fall asleep, and making them wake up for a moment, feeling disoriented and slightly panicked. Physically, hypnic jerks, or sleep starts, are similar to the “jump” that we all so enjoy giving someone else by startling them. Sleep starts will be associated with a gasp of breath, quickened heartbeat and a strange sensation of falling into a deep hole.

Hypnic jerks feel like you're falling into a great hole.
Hypnic jerks feel like you’re falling into a great hole.

What causes them?

Hypnic jerks are caused by sleep deprivation, caffeine overdose, or an irregular sleep schedule. Generally sleep starts occur in single doses, although if you are experiencing a few in a row, that will show that you are extremely sleep deprived and running on the false energy of energy drinks and caffeine. Hypnic jerks aren’t really something to be worried about in and of themselves, but they are a symptom that you need to sort out your sleep schedule and either start getting more sleep or simply get a sleep routine where you go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day, so that your body can settle into a rhythm again.

So when do you have a sleep disorder?

The official name for a Hypnic jerk is a myoclonus. Myoclonus is a brief, involuntary twitching of a muscle or a group of muscles. It describes a symptom and, generally, is not a diagnosis of a disease. These myoclonic twitches, jerks, or seizures are usually caused by sudden muscle contractions or brief lapses of contractions. The most common circumstance under which they occur is while falling asleep, which is known as a hypnic jerk. Myoclonic jerks are a sign of various neurological disorders. Hiccups are a kind of myoclonic jerk specifically affecting the diaphragm if the diaphragm is dislodged from its correct position. Myoclonic jerks may occur alone, which would describe a sleep start, or in sequence, such as hiccups. And they generally are uncontrollable reactions of the nervous system of the person experiencing them.

hypnic jerk falling

In its simplest form, myoclonus consists of a muscle twitch followed by relaxation. A hiccup is an example of this type of myoclonus. Other familiar examples of myoclonus are the jerks or “sleep starts” that some people experience while drifting off to sleep. These simple forms of myoclonus occur in normal, healthy persons and cause no difficulties. When more widespread, myoclonus may involve persistent, shock-like contractions in a group of muscles. In some cases, myoclonus begins in one region of the body and spreads to muscles in other areas. More severe cases of myoclonus can distort movement and severely limit a person’s ability to eat, talk, or walk. These types of myoclonus may indicate an underlying disorder in the brain or nerves. It’s only if your twitching is this bad that you should be worried about having a disorder, the rest of the time, they are a natural reaction from your body. Identifying your type of twitching can bring a lot of peace of mind.

The one we’ve been talking about: sleep myoclonus

Sleep myoclonus occurs at the onset of sleep and it is a problem in the first stage of sleeping. Many can relate to feeling as if they are falling right as they are drifting off, leading to an urge to “catch” themselves. The sudden jolt of movement immediately awakens the person, which makes the experience jarring, if not disturbing. Some may find it difficult to fall asleep afterwards. If this twitching recurs for a long period of time, sleep myoclonus can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder, one that keeps the sufferer from falling asleep and getting the night’s rest that they need.

This sleep disorder can be simply cured through a changing of the sleep routine and through an examination of your mattress and pillows. If your routine is causing irregular and extremely brief sleeping hours, you need to make some changes as to what time you wake up and go to bed, but if your mattress is keeping you from sleeping deeply enough while you struggle with this problem, it will only get worse and worse.

Buying a mattress that will make you rested:

Your sleeping surface plays a heavy role in how well you sleep. If your mattress is sagging due to age or poor quality, it makes your sleeping posture poor and causes restless sleep. If it’s a new mattress that’s not sagging but it’s too firm for you, then the mattress will press against your hips and shoulders and make you toss and turn to relieve pressure on those points. Your mattress needs to be soft enough to keep you from tossing and turning, and support you well enough that it doesn’t sag under you.

Memory foam mattresses help prevent hypnic jerks by allowing you to sleep well


If your mattress is 7 years or older and you experience pain in your lower back, then it’s time for a replacement, something that will last and support you the way you need. You may find that you fall in love with our memory foam mattresses, with are supportive, firm, and conform to your body shape, keeping every curve supported. Some of the best memory foam beds are by Silentnight, and The Mattress Warehouse is having a sale on Silentnight beds in the first weekend of August, here in Midrand. Silentnight is the number one bed brand in the UK and rapidly becoming very popular in South Africa due to its great feel and long life.


The Mattress Warehouse also sells mattresses by Simmons, Serta, Silentnight, Cloud Nine and Genessi with high density foam mattresses, pocket coil mattresses, whatever you need to buy, we have. We also have a range of latex and memory foam pillows. Call today on 0861 007 000.