Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) kill more people in the United States than Cancer. It is the number one cause for death and disability in the developed world. Much of it has to do with eating habits. Rich food! Lots of cheese, let it come! A few days back, I was diagnosed with hypertension. The complications that could arise out of it are all types of CVDs, stroke and damage to internal organs such as the kidney and liver.
So it happened a couple of nights back… I went to bed and was feeling very sleepy. Just when I thought I was almost asleep, something sudden woke me up, completely. Sudden I must say, jerk I must add! This sudden jerk shook me through. It was very momentary and lasted fraction of a second. It shook me from head to toe. It was very much like the momentary shiver you get while pissing! And it happened once again last night! I did not understand what to make of it. I got a little apprehensive and scared.
Today morning, it was the first thing I did after waking up. Google saves lives! I searched “sudden jerk while falling asleep” and soon realised that everybody has those in some form or the other. The other form of this sudden jerk is even more common! You are sleeping and you might feel as if you are falling, and you suddenly wake up!
This is a very common neurological condition which is not fully understood even today. It is believed to be associated with irregular sleep schedules and tiredness and goes hand in hand with conditions like Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), Sleep Apnea and the like. This medical condition is called a Hypnic Jerk!
Wikipedia defines it as an involuntary twitch which occurs just when the subject is about to fall asleep. It resembles a “jump” made when a person is startled (Medical College of Wisconsin). Theories state that as you fall asleep, muscles start relaxing and breathing rate comes down. This causes the brain to believe that you are undergoing a “free fall”. Any reaction to this is a response to stimuli. This is completely a game of the brain! It is also believed that in prehistoric ages, when man used to live and sleep on trees, this responsiveness to stimuli was developed by the brain as an adaptation. It helped man to come to sudden state of awareness in the even of losing balance or falling from the tree.
So the next time you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night thinking that you have fallen from the bed, it is most likely that you suffered a hypnic jerk! Relax, and go back to bed :)
Hypnic jerks and hiccups are familiar forms of normal myoclonus. Other cases must be taken seriously and immediate advice must be taken from neurologists.