Why Do I Twitch When I Sleep? [Common Reasons Explained]

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Do you sometimes twitch in your sleep? If so, you’re not alone—many people experience this phenomenon. Although In most cases there’s no cause for alarm, you might still wonder—why do I twitch when I sleep? In this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes of twitching in your sleep, what can increase them, and how you can reduce the twitches. By the end, you’ll be more informed about what this may mean for your health.

What Is Twitching? 

Before we take a look at what causes twitching, let’s understand what twitching is. Also called a hypnagogic jerk or hypnic jerk, many people refer to the twitching sensation as muscle spasms. This common phenomenon that’s been experienced by 70% of the population is a type of reflex and involuntary movement, like a sleep start that occurs when you’re falling asleep.

In addition to muscle contractions, sleep twitches are also accompanied by dreams or hallucinations. Many people report feeling like they’re falling to the ground, seeing flashing lights, or hearing banging or snapping sounds. The intensity of hypnic jerks varies for everyone—sometimes they’re strong enough to wake you, while other times you may not even notice them, but your sleeping partner might!

Why Do I Twitch When I Sleep?

Now that we’ve understood what twitching is, let’s look at a few things that might be causing it. Although researchers don’t know for sure what causes them, there are a few explanations.

Twitches are most commonly thought to be caused by the sudden relaxation of your muscles as you transition from wakefulness to sleep. As they occur in the same part of the brain that controls our startle response, researchers think that when we fall asleep, misfiring occurs between nerves in the reticular brainstem, causing hypnic jerks.

To put it simply, twitches occur when muscles start to relax and you begin drifting off. During this phase, your brain can become spontaneously stimulated, causing these sudden twitches.

DID YOU KNOW: Hiccups are another type of myoclonus, caused by sudden muscle relaxation of the diaphragm.

External Factors That Increase Twitching

There are some external factors that might increase twitching. Here are a few of them.

1. Evening Exercise

Although exercising regularly can improve your sleep quality, a vigorous exercise routine in the evening can cause twitches. As your body temperature and heart rate increase during exercise, your body is kept alert, so it can be more challenging to transition into a deep, restful sleep without twitches.

2. Stress and Anxiety 

Another reason we may experience twitching when falling asleep is stress and anxiety. When we’re stressed, our cortisol levels remain elevated, causing unrestful sleep. Similarly, anxious thoughts can keep us from falling into a deep sleep and potentially trigger twitches.

3. Dream 

As we sleep, our body moves through different sleep stages. During the REM stage, our mind is active and we’re often dreaming, causing the body to twitch and even jolt if we’re having a bad dream.

4. Sleep Deprivation

Since sleep deprivation can cause your muscles to feel weak and tired, you may be more likely to experience twitching in your sleep if you’re sleep-deprived. This can make it more difficult to stay still during sleep, triggering muscle twitching and even making you feel tired when you wake up.

5. Consuming Stimulants

Another reason we twitch when falling asleep is due to consuming stimulants. If you consume stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine, you may be more likely to experience hypnic jerks, as stimulants can increase your heart rate and make it more difficult to transition into a deep sleep.

6. External Disturbances 

If you’re a light sleeper, any external noise or movement can cause you to experience hypnic jerks. This includes things like a partner’s snoring or the sound of traffic outside, and many people also find it difficult to sleep with the lights on.

DID YOU KNOW: Consuming alcohol can also increase your risk of experiencing sleep disorders as well as hypnic jerks.

Key Takeaways

  • Twitching refers to reflex and involuntary movement that occurs when we’re falling asleep.
  • Many people wonder why we twitch when we sleep, and the most common reason is due to the sudden relaxation of our muscles.
  • External factors like stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation also increase twitching.
  • Vigorous evening exercises and consuming stimulants like caffeine or nicotine also increase twitching.
  • Some people may experience twitches due to poor quality of sleep caused by external disturbances like noise or movement.

How to Reduce Hypnic Jerks 

Experiencing hypnic jerks is very common, but if you experience them quite often, here are a few ways you can reduce them.

1. Establish a Sleep Schedule

The best way to reduce twitching while falling asleep is by establishing a sleeping schedule for going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. A daily routine will help regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm.

2. Exercise Daily 

Exercise can help you sleep better and deeper. Just make sure to avoid working out vigorously right before bed, as this can have the opposite effect—instead, opt for a light workout or yoga. If you want a more intense workout, plan it at least 90 minutes before bedtime so your heart rate can go back to normal.

3. Reduce Stress and Anxiety 

We’ve already discussed what causes twitching when falling asleep, and anxiety and stress are the leading causes. There are many ways to calm anxiety before bed, like doing some breathing exercises or yoga. Many people also meditate before going to bed or use crystals for anxiety.

4. Minimize Caffeine Consumption 

Caffeine is known to give an instant energy boost to our bodies, which is why many prefer drinking it in the morning. However, consuming it later in the day can interfere with your sleep and cause twitches, so it’s best to avoid drinking caffeine after lunchtime or at least 6 hours before going to sleep.

5. Avoid Nicotine and Alcohol 

Since alcohol and nicotine consumption are among the reasons our body twitches when falling asleep, consuming these substances in moderation and not close to bedtime or avoiding them altogether can decrease the risk of sleep disorders and muscle twitching.

6. Get a Good Sleep Mattress 

A good quality mattress can make a world of difference when it comes to getting a restful night’s sleep. If you have an old, saggy mattress, it might be time for an upgrade. Investing in a comfortable mattress may help reduce twitching in your sleep, so choose only the best king or queen mattress for yourself!

DID YOU KNOW: For a peaceful and deep sleep, you can also try chanting sleep mantras.

Conclusion

There are a number of reasons why we experience twitches before falling asleep. In most cases, this is caused by sudden muscle relaxation and it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you’re experiencing twitching often, avoiding nicotine and alcohol, getting a good quality mattress, and exercising regularly can help reduce it. If you still find yourself twitching, it’s best to consult a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

FAQ

Why does my body jolt when trying to sleep?

The most common reason you’re experiencing jolts when trying to sleep is due to hypnic jerks. These are normal and harmless and are caused by sudden muscle relaxations.

What does it mean when you jump in your sleep?

The most common reason why you jump in your sleep is that you’re experiencing hypnic jerks. Although they’re pretty common and harmless, if you’re concerned about them, it’s best to visit your doctor.

What causes your body to twitch during sleep?

If you’re wondering “why do I twitch when I sleep,” there could be a few possible explanations. The most common one is that when you’re drifting off to sleep, your muscles relax suddenly, causing twitches.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

I've loved writing since I can remember, and back in high school, I started loving psychology as well. So I majored in it while dabbling in spirituality and yoga on the side.

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