Hypnagogic jerk, or jolting awake through the night

(If this is better suited for IMHO, mods please move).

I have been experiencing what I’m going to label as “kinda severe” hypnagogic jerk/jolting awake. In my cursory research, it seems this term is more associated with falling asleep.

That is not what is happening with me.

I fall asleep normally and sleep through the bulk of the night fairly well, but I will rouse anywhere between 4-7 am, and depending on when I need to get up, will want to snooze. What happens from that point on is this:

I usually have mild to severe nightmares, typically about really mundane things like relationship fights or losing track of someone/something to a distressing degree -OR- just full on apocalyptic end-of-the-world nightmares. In any case, every 10-30 minutes I will jolt awake. This “jolt” is difficult to explain, it feels like my body gets tense as if shocked, and I awaken quickly, usually slightly out of breath and my heart rate has spike. It’s an immediately alarming sensation, even tho everything is ok. The jolt is not associated with any actions in the dream, so it’s not like I’m falling and jolt awake.

This seems to be, according to my [again very cursory] research, described as a hypnic jerk. It just seems odd it’s coming at the end of my sleep cycle instead of the beginning.

At first I thought it could be sleep apnea, and the sudden jolt is me finally gasping for air. But I’m not SUPER out of breath, and I feel more like the physical jolt startled me, raising my heart and breathing rates. My fiance doesn’t report any stopping of breathing, but I do snore a little occasionally.

It really sucks because this shallow sleeping means I remember all my dreams, and I really can’t tell you what a dick my brain is to me…only bad dreams and usually really digging into an emotional nerve. I woke up feeling flat out depressed this morning even tho I’m really happy in my daily life. I can typically shake the feelings by mid day.

What is this, and how do I pursue it? Right now it feels almost silly to bring up with a doctor, considering there’s a pandemic. “Sometimes I get sleepy-spooked! Let me take up your valuable medical time!”

If your insurance covers a sleep test, it would probably be a good idea to rule apnea out. Also, the sleep doctor might have an idea about what it could be besides apnea.

Are you ever aware that you’re dreaming, while you’re dreaming?

My first thought, too.

And they have at-home sleep studies now, which – while not as comprehensive as the in-lab studies – are a crap-ton more pleasant.

So I left out a few points that you’re asking about…

First off, I have health insurance but I have no doctor. I could start by doing a telehealth call and go from there.

Advice seems to be “avoid stimulants, no caffeine no nicotine.” I do not drink * any * caffeine…no coffee, no sodas. I drink Caffeine free Diet Coke if anything. I have never smoked. None of those are factors.

Can I lucid dream?
Yes. Sorta. Not on command. Over the last few years I’ve developed an ability to realize I’m in a dream while I’m dreaming. I can’t always take complete control and fly around or whatever the trope is. Best example was not long after my wonderful dog Doug died earlier this year, I had a dream about being quarantined with my family at my folk’s house during the pandemic. The dream was about accommodating all of us in the same house and all the chaos of the shutdowns, but when I saw Doug was there I was like “yeah nothing else matters I’m going to pet and hold and play with Doug!” And the other characters in the dream would try to keep the dream going but I was like “THIS IS ALL ABOUT DOUG NOW.”

I will also have dreams where I realize it’s unpleasant (nightmare) and go “ok well this is just a dream and I’m not having it” and will jolt awake.

Could be related. That did happen at least once last night, but it doesn’t account for the whole ordeal.

Nice. Calling Doug sounds better than trying to fly anyway.

I don’t think shifting to lucid during a dream makes you wake up. I’m always lucid anyway, so when bad things happen my reaction is “ok, well this is just a dream, so it doesn’t matter what’s happening here” and I keep sleeping. FYI, your dream self doesn’t need lungs. I tested that.

My stupid brain startles awake from the act of entering REM sleep pretty frequently. My body doesn’t do anything, because I’m in sleep paralysis, but I still wake up, and the startle shows up in changes in brainwaves on a sleep study. Most of the time when it happens, I don’t remember anything other than that I’ve just awakened suddenly, but sometimes I remember a feeling of the ground just suddenly falling away from under me, and a sudden dropping down.

Really scary is the fact that occasionally I wake up so quickly I remain in sleep paralysis briefly, so I’m fully awake, but can’t move at all-- I can’t even open my eyes.

So, I was waking up all the time, never getting enough rest, and not knowing why.

Sleep study showed pretty clearly what was going on-- the startling wasn’t the only thing, but it was a big thing.

I started taking a single dose of an anti-seizure medicine about 3 hours before bedtime-- it’s a relatively new one, with very few side effects (and none that I’ve experienced), and it almost entirely resolved the problem. Instead of happening 3 times a night, it happens maybe once or twice a month.

First off, if I’m reading the OP correctly, it IS happening at the beginning of your sleep. It’s round 2 of your sleep but it’s still the beginning.

I remember going through the same thing about 10 years ago. Lasted for three or four months and then it just stopped.

Didn’t we have a poster called Hypnagogic Jerk? Or maybe I dreamed it.

I think you should get the sleep study and apnea is only one of the possible issues. The home study doesn’t provide that much information, basically a way to detect sleep disturbances but not enough info to diagnose them. It’s usually a way to determine if a comprehensive sleep study is needed.

Does your insurance require a referral for a sleep study? You can contact a sleep specialist and ask them for assistance in working this out with your insurance company,

Ah, man. I loved when we had Tri-Care. Never needed a referral for anything, and it paid for any brand name drug if there was no generic available. We never paid more than $12 for a brand name (unless a generic existed, and we insisted on brand name; then we would have paid like, 80%, but we didn’t do that).

Tri-Care (the insurance for military personnel), not Medicare needs to be our national health care model.

I had my sleep study done when we had Tri-Care. Didn’t pay for a dime of it, and all it took was for my doctor to order it.

It’s the end of the world and the alarming jolts to wake you are meant to really wake you … to the terrible reality of the end of the world. You need to spend your time getting yourself and your loved ones ready for the end.

This bit of pedantry may or may not not be helpful, but when looking for information on this, rather than using the term hypnogogic, have you tried using the term hypnopompic? The former refers to stuff happening when you are falling asleep, and the latter term refers to stuff that happens when you are waking up, which might better match what you are experiencing.

Doing a little Googling, I came across the term Myoclonic twitch, also called myoclonus, which refers to a type of muscle twitches with a variety of causes. Myoclonus at sleep transitions (I assume that means when you are going in or out or REM sleep, as you are waking up, etc.) seems to be considered generally benign. No harm in discussing it with your doctor, though, particularly if it causes some degree of distress.

Your pedantry ends up being useful, and now I have more to research. So, thanks!

I have pretty much all my adult life wanted to do a sleep study but I have strong apprehensions. I have sleep ISSUES. When I was in my 20s I just didn’t sleep. I’d stay awake a few days then sleep like 15 hours. Everything got weird. I abused diphenhydramine and lived in a fog. Developed (but have since corrected) arrhythmia I believe was directly related to using diph/Tylenol PM daily. I stopped taking both around 5 years ago or more (I use Aspirin or doxylamine respectively, and I don’t abuse either nor take anything daily).

I’ve always worried about doing a sleep study because 1. I have a really hard time falling asleep in general, and have always worried that would make the study somewhat useless in the data-gathering area. And 2. I sleep EXTRA poorly when I’m away from home, which is A LOT as an adult, as I do out of town mural projects all the time. I have BCBS for health insurance but cannot pin down an estimate for costs.

I have a somewhat high resting heart-rate that goes up pretty quickly with stress/anxiety and exercise. I also have a severely wandering mind that tends towards all the most stressful thoughts/fake arguments/in general doesn’t want me to relax much. So, for instance, this morning I woke up at ~5 a.m. and my brain immediately skittered around to about 100 random thoughts the second I was awake. Never could get back to sleep.

I had the same worries but it turned out alright. There was no pressure to go to sleep. I stayed up reading old Calvin&Hobbes comics on a Kindle until I got tired and fell asleep. They did make it really quiet. Worst case you won’t get to sleep, sounds like you’re familiar with that already.


So did they get any useful info? Do you just stay there until you finally DO sleep, even if it takes 14 hours? Or do you have to try again until you do finally replicate a somewhat normal night’s sleep?

Are you allowed to take any sedatives/medications/herbal supplements to help you fall asleep?

They got enough info to determine I didn’t have sleep apnea. I guess you’d stay there until morning just in case you do fall asleep. I think I arrived there late evening, got in bed around 11PM, didn’t get to sleep until around 1AM, woke up around 7 which was kind of early but good enough. Medications are allowed for sleep apnea monitoring but I can’t say for your condition.

Just talk to them. I was all nervous about this like you and then it turned out fine. The sleep studiers try really hard to find some kind of disorder they can treat but don’t let that scare you, take the results and find a GP to get a more objective opinion.

Googling around briefly, it looks like there are some sleep apnea apps for your mobile device.

I sometimes get suddenly woken up like described in the OP. It’s almost always on a non-workday where I haven’t set an alarm and don’t need to get up. I wake up, realize I can lay around a while longer and fall back asleep and dream. It’s often during a bad or stressful dream but probably not rising to what I’d call a nightmare. The deep breathing and elevated heart rate are there, too.

Post 19 and no one has yet commented on the great user name/OP combination? We’re slipping.

Nice catch, CairoCarol ! In the same vein, I’ve picked up three new insults to store alongside dimwad. Now I have hypnogogic jerk, hypnopompic jerk, and myoclonic twitch ! Thanks, Retzbu Tox.