I’m a pain doctor — why you twitch or ‘hypnic jerk’ before falling asleep

You’re a real jerk if you do this in bed — literally.

A Maryland-based doctor is sharing why people often twitch or experience the sensation that they’re falling just before they fall asleep.

Taking to TikTok last month, pain management specialist Dr. Kunal Sood said the hypnagogic or hypnic jerk phenomenon may stem from “confusion” within the brain.

“A theory for why this even occurs at all is our brains get confused when our muscles relax and think we are falling, and it creates a jerk to prevent the fall,” Sood said of the “typically harmless” reaction.

The Post reached out to Sood for comment.

Albeit annoying to a partner, twitching one one's sleep is very natural.
Albeit annoying to a partner, twitching in one’s sleep is very natural.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The twitches are typically induced by stress, consumption of stimulants such as drugs, alcohol and caffeine, and even a lack of sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“This is a common occurrence, and it’s been estimated that 70% of the population may experience it in some form or another,” the clinic noted.

Sleep or hypnic myoclonus is the scientific name for the sudden involuntary muscle movements.

It occurs during a shift in sleep phases.

The jerks “are most likely to happen as you first begin to fall asleep, and during the light stage of sleep immediately following,” per the clinic, adding weight to the theory Sood referenced.

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“This stage of sleep is light enough that your brain may misinterpret it as wakefulness — but it also recognizes that your muscles aren’t moving. This leads your brain to send a message to your muscles as a check-in of sorts, to wake them up or keep them active or reactive as a means of protection.”

Twitching in sleep can be  reduced by avoiding certain habits and stress.
These involuntary muscle movements can be reduced by avoiding stress and certain habits.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Neurotransmitters send messages between nerve cells. These chemical signals help you move your limbs.

Neurotransmitters bind to a receptor on the target cell. Problems with these receptors, like abnormalities or deficiencies, may contribute to myoclonus.

“The result is likely that feeling of movement, falling or a jerk as your muscles are stimulated,” Dr. Reena Mehra, director of sleep disorders research in the Sleep Center of the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement.

“Making sure you’re doing what you can to reduce triggers is important in helping your overall quality of sleep and may help in reducing the frequency of these types of sleep-disturbing movements.”

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