Hypnic jerks—involuntary twitches or jolts which occur during the night—can affect people in different ways. Many people will sleep right through them, but for others, they are vigorous enough to wake them up.
Although there is no definite explanation for what causes hypnic jerks, people are more likely to suffer from them when they’re sleep deprived or anxious, or when they do sleep-impairing habits before going to bed, like drinking caffeine or doing exercise close to bedtime, says James Wilson, a U.K.-based sleep behavior and sleep environment expert. “For people who suffer from hypnic jerks, it’s awful,” he adds. “They worry about it before they go to bed, which makes it worse.”
Jacqui Paterson, who is 44 and lives in the U.K., says she has experienced these kinds of twitches on an almost-nightly basis for about three years.
“When I was about 41, I started getting insomnia, which I’d never had in my life before,” she says. “Initially, I was staying awake all night, but I now get these annoying jerks which wake me up exactly an hour after I fall asleep, like someone has set an alarm in my head. I seem to have replaced one evil with another.”