Hypnic Jerk; A Neurological Effect causing Twitches or After Effect of Mere Dreams
Have you had periods where you jerk out of your sleep, and you start to ask yourself why this happened? Last night, I just started sleeping, when I suddenly jerked out of my bed. This thing happens to me once in a while (I am sure you might have heard your own share of my story as well), but it usually happens when I had just started sleeping, and I find myself in a dream where I am in a free fall (maybe being thrown down from the sky or something, but I know it happens to me whenever it looks like I am having a free fall).
Anytime I experience the Hypnic Jerks, and I have a guest around where we have to share a bed, I am often asked what happen, and the only suitable answer I can give is “Nothing”. I have also noticed a few of my friends have these contractions on either one or all part of their body, while at the onset of their sleep, but I do not get to ask what happened because it happens to me. Today, I will be looking into why I often have these sporadic contractions of my body, leading to a jerk while sleeping and all that needs to be known about it. To do this, I need to start from somewhere;
Sleep, an Experience beyond Closing Eyes
It is no doubt that we all need sleep, and it is often more of an involuntary activity, but then, a lot of people buy a lot of coffee just to fight it, and stay awake. In an article Handbook of Clinical Neurology published on PubMed, we spend one-third of our lifetime sleeping. So I start to ask if I have slept that much in my life, and want to start a task to shorten my sleep, but then, research carried out at the University of Warwick shows that lack of sleep can double the risk of a person dying from a cardiovascular disease, and at the same time, too much sleep could double the risk of death. I guess, I will just maintain my sleep routine and do not have to worry about dying early either by sleeping too much or too little, since the time of sleep vary according to age healthline.com. Also, sleep deprivation can do a lot worse to my health which could include memory problems, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and stroke, among many others healthline.com.
When the eyes are closed, nature is allowed to do the rest. Some people could fall asleep immediately, while others could take a while, depending on the day's activity of the brain. When the sleep begins, the Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep begins. According to Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem the Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep is divided into 4 stages with each stage deeper than the previous.NREM is often associated with local and global slow cortical oscillations which are visible on an electroencephalogram (EEG) as spindles, delta waves, and slow oscillations, and there is the second phase of sleep which is the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase. (sage journals).
Forget about the Cockcrow, the alarm, or the big wall clock in your room, the brain is designed to identify when to wake and when to sleep, thanks to the Circadian Rhythm system by the hypothalamus which uses light from the outside world through the retina. The Hypothalamus serves as our natural thermostat for so many activities in the human body.
quick one : The Brain is able to identify when to sleep and wake, thanks to suprachiasmatic nucleus or nuclei (SCN), found in the Hypothalamous directly above the optic chiasm which interacts with the Pineal gland which produces melatonin, that slows the heart rate,cools the body temperature, and then starts to welcome sleep. It also interacts with the brain stem which tells the brain to go to sleep. Remember that the damaging the brain stem (Reticular formation) could lead Coma/vegetative state.(NCBI)
When the body goes to sleep and muscles have been relaxed, every other neurotransmitter will be decreased, including Serotonin, dopamine, while Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) will be increased. GABA functions as a blockage between neurotransmitter.
In your 4-8 hours sleep, what exactly happens. For me, I can't really say if I have a full sleep or a short sleep because there are days when my eyes wouldn't shut itself and I have no other choice but to follow the flow, and there are also days when I will spend 7 hours in my Pyjamas (does that actually happen; Nah!!).
So, when we are awake, our brain produces a BETA wave, with high frequency and Low amplitude. When you begin to feel Sleepy, dosing off lightly, Then the [NREM 1] stage (Alpha waves) started already, and this is where Hypnic jerk occurs, as well as Hypnagogic Hallucination.
At NREM -2 (Theta Waves), sleep spindles occurs as a result of Rapid high frequency waves, as well as K-complexes as a result of high brain activity patterns. The sleep stage is good for learning and memory.
At NREM-3 (Delta waves) is referred to as the deep sleep stage characterized by low frequency and high amplitude. This is similar with NREM-4. Deep sleep is also known as slow wave sleep, and at this point, growth hormones are released, to help the body repair itself. Also, when you see your friend who sleepwalks, or sleep talks, Bed-wetting, this is often during the deep sleep stage.(Stages of sleep)
After this stage, the EEG shows that the brain goes backwards in the waves but then stops at a point known as the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This is similar to the NREM-1, and the eyes are said to be in rapid movement. At the REM stage, muscles are paralysed, but the brain becomes very active, and temperature starts to normalize (NCBI).
Quick One : Each cycle is completed in 70 minutes to 120 minutes, depending on the cycle (NCBI).
The Fight Between the Body and Sleep
We know that Hypnic Jerk and Hypnagogic Hallucination occurs during NREM stage 1 of sleep. If you are in a lecture room or at a conference, only to start sleeping, but then you suddenly jerk out of the sleep, then you have experienced Hypnic jerk. My case, at the beginning of the post, is a combination of Hypnic jerk and Hypnagogic Hallucination.
While I cannot point out for sure what could cause Hypnic jerk, as there have been numerous hypothesis into what could cause it, I will give what I believe could be the preferable hypotheses based on researches. You can also tell me your thoughts about what could cause Hypnic jerks.
According to Harshal Sathe et al., in a journal titled Hypnic jerks possibly induced by escitalopram, published in the Library of Medicine. A patient was said to be having continuous Hypnic jerk, and it was attributed to depression, and was given Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drug, Clonazepam. The drug was said to be effective, and the patient stopped having Hypnic Jerk.
According to the Sensory sleep starts, an article published in the BMJ Journals. Hypnic jerk is a result of fatigue, stress, and sleep deprivation, causing sensory activities at the onset of sleep.
Time.com associates the cause of hypnic jerk to a process where one part of the brain tends to sleep more quickly than the other part.
Other factors that could cause Hypnic jerks are caffeine, stimulants and Nicotine consumption Sleep Foundation.
There have been no concrete treatment to Sleep jerk, but proper unwinding before going to bed, avoidance of caffeine and stimulants, as well as proper relaxations before going to bed can help science direct. While Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drug, like Clonazepam have been used to treat patients, there haven't been much studies on it.
Sincerely, I do not like Hypnic jerk, especially when I am in my bed and feel comfortable. It often looks like I am about to have a heart attack from a dream I only remembered I was about falling or tripping. I would say it could be the brain neurotransmitters sending messages which were suppressed by melatonin, but still made the body move as a result of a visual created from the process. Well, I cannot prove this for sure, but I will look into that research and see if it could be an hypothesis to the cause of Hypnic jerk.