A hypnagogic jerk (also called a hypnic jerk) is an involuntary muscle spasm that occurs as a person falls asleep. Individuals may experience a falling sensation (or even dream of falling), causing them to jerk and awake. Some individuals may only experience a small twitching, that’s only noticeable to a spouse or caretaker, and not causing them to be awake. Jerking while sleeping is a common experience, but many people wonder what causes hypnic jerks, and what can be done to prevent them.

What Causes Hypnic Jerks and How Can I Prevent Them?

It’s important to realize that hypnic jerks are harmless and not indicative of any health or sleep disorder. Many individuals experience them at some point, and most research suggests that they can either occur randomly or as a result of some external stimuli. While the frequency and intensity of hypnic jerks can vary, researchers believe that some typical hypnic jerk causes are:


Exercising before bedtime may make it more difficult to fall asleep, as stimulation from vigorous activity makes it more difficult for the body to relax. As a result, it can be helpful to schedule exercise earlier in the day to help lessen the chances of jerking while sleeping.


Consuming caffeine, nicotine, or other drugs can also make hypnic jerks more likely. Avoid caffeinated coffee or teas before bedtime and instead have decaffeinated alternatives. It’s also imperative to discuss any prescribed medications with your healthcare provider if you suspect they are negatively affecting your sleep.

Stress and Anxiety

Jerking while sleeping is often caused by stress and anxiety, as having a high amount of stress or anxiety can make it more difficult to relax and drift to sleep. Many individuals benefit from prayer or even deep breathing before bed to relieve tension and help eliminate jerking while sleeping.

Jacksonville Sleep Center

Hypnic jerks are normal and experiencing them is in no way indicative of a health or sleep problem. It is essential to talk with your physician if you are experiencing any irregular sleep patterns or suspect the presence of a sleep disorder. Contact us today and let us work to improve your life.