It’s possible that this all sounds unpleasant, if not a little alarming. In an age of careful and considered sleep hygiene — with sleepers spending more time and money to make their little sleep havens as dark, cool and tech-less as possible — should we be making a point to stamp out hypnic jerks, too? Are they negatively impacting our sleep patterns? The answer is more or less no. Sleep experts stress that research into hypnic jerks is light, but that’s expressly because it’s a harmless occurrence. (Think about some of the body’s other bizarre, day-to-day reactions that we don’t get overly stressed about: hiccups, goosebumps, blushing, etc.) The “myoclonus” that your body experienced (that’s a fancy term for brief, involuntary twitching) is a natural byproduct in the neurological tug-of-war between your awake and asleep states.
If hypnic jerks become a more frequent or intense in your wind-down routine, consider limiting your afternoon caffeine consumption. Other triggers: nicotine, exercise too late in the day, stress and anxiety (e.g. working before bedtime, or laying there litigating the entirety of your day). Fortunately, the everyday switches that decrease your chance of a severe hypnic jerk will help you sleep better, anyway.
Meanwhile, for those out there who’ve struggled with insomnia, there’s even a “spin zone” available here. Whenever I wake up to a hypnic jerk — sometimes registering a wackadoodle hallucination along with it — that’s a sign to me that I’m doing everything right. My body’s headed in the right direction, and sleep is near.