A lot of people experience sudden body twitching while in their deepest sleep. Different people have different explanations of what their experiences were like. Some say, it was similar to falling from a great height. Others compare it with being strangled while sleeping. Although the experiences differ from person to person, the common denominator is that you wake up in distress.
Scientists have come up with different theories regarding this common phenomenon, known as the ‘hypnic jerk.’
According to one theory, hypnic jerk is a visual perception of falling, something that people experience in their dreams right before waking up. It’s possible that the parts of the brain in charge of dreaming may be trying to make sense of the sudden urge to wake up, which results in a dream scenario. However, this theory requires more research.
Another theory says that there are external factors, such as caffeine and tobacco, which put you at a higher risk of hypnic jerks. That’s why health experts warn against drinking coffee hours before bed time as you increase your chances of experiencing the phenomena.
In addition, stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin can also produce a similar effect. Sleep deprivation is another risk factor because the condition occurs when your body relaxes, but a part of your brain is stimulated.
All in all, scientists are unanimous that the jerk normally occurs when you fall asleep too quickly after complete exhaustion. What happens is your heart rate and breathing slow down quickly in the first stages of sleep. In cases when you’re really exhausted, your brain goes through this stage of sleep too fast. This misleads the brain that the body systems are failing, which results in the brain sending signals to the body. The body responds with secretion of chemicals that make you shudder and awake.