Intense Body Twitches While Sleeping

I’ve been told that, occasionally, my whole body involuntarily jerks while I’m drifting off to sleep. Doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it awakens me.

I thought this was really weird until my sister and a friend both said it happens to them, too. What’s going on? Do you ever experience this happening?

Yeah, I knew an ex-girlfriend who did the same thing. Kinda wierd, but she said she’d always twitched. I know I have myself, but it was usually because I was halfway asleep and dreaming at the time. . .

But that constant twitching of my hands on the keyboard, that’s a mystery. . .

I believe it is technically known as (I kid you not…) a simian jerk.

I think they’re called myoclonic jerks and are actually quite common.

Rarely, they are associated with hallucinations as one falls asleep (hypnogogic hallucinations), narcolepsy (sudden and uncontrollable sleeping even in socially akward situations), and drop attacks (sudden collapse to the ground due to transient lack of muscle tone but NO loss of consciousness).

But, mostly they’re normal.

Hey, Karl–sorry to sound like a worry wart, but here’s some information I just got from the National Institutes of Health. Doesn’t sound so minor to me…

“Myoclonus is a term that refers to brief, involuntary twitching of a muscle or a group of muscles. It describes a symptom and, generally, is not a diagnosis of a disease. The myoclonic twitches or jerks are usually caused by sudden muscle contractions; they also can result from brief lapses of contraction. Myoclonic jerks may occur alone or in sequence, in a pattern or without pattern. They may occur infrequently or many times each minute. Most often myoclonus is one of several symptoms in a wide variety of nervous system disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Familiar examples of normal myoclonus include hiccups, and jerks or “sleep starts” that some people experience while drifting off to sleep. Severe cases of pathologic myoclonus can distort movement and severely limit a person’s ability to eat, talk, and walk. Myoclonic jerks commonly occur in individuals with epilepsy. The most common types of myoclonus include action, cortical reflex, essential, palatal, progressive myoclonus epilepsy, reticular reflex, sleep, and stimulus-sensitive.”

Unless you meant this:

“…Familiar examples of normal myoclonus include hiccups, and jerks or “sleep starts” that some people experience while drifting off to sleep…”

Still not real clear to me. Any doctors in the house???

Last was a simulpost.

Still, they’re mostly normal unless they interfere with your life.

(“Any doctors in the house”)!

Its normal, everyone does it. Has to do something with the brain processing the days events before drifting to sleep. This is from memory, and I am not a doctor.

One way of looking at it is to realize that during REM sleep, at least, you’re supposed to be paralysed*. If not, you’d act out your dreams and would waken yourself. So, these myoclonic jerks can be viewed as a temporary failure or lapse of paralysis.

[sub]*from the eyes down[/sub]

While we’re on the topic… sometimes when i’m drifting off to sleep, with my cat sleeping beside my leg, I feel a sudden jerk in my leg (sometimes its when I imagine i’ve slipped or something, but not always) and it seems and feels very real… yet when I open my eyes, my cat is still sound asleep as if nothing happened… does anyone else experience this variation of the aforementioned jerks? Or does this describe the hypnogogic hallucinations that KarlGauss was referring to?

On an episode of Seinfeld, this was referred to as “jimmy legs.”

My ex-wife used to do this pretty fiercely when she was drifting off to sleep. Legs mostly, but sometimes arms too. Sometimes she kicked so hard that we both leaped up in bed and asked what the hell happened (and then laughed once we realized what it was). Eventually she read in a health and fitness magazine that zinc supplements helped this problem. I had my doubts, but she started taking some extra zinc and in fact the jimmying decreased over about 6-8 weeks and eventually ceased altogether.

It might have been a placebo effect, of course, but I have heard that weightlifters take zinc supplements to replenish reserves in their muscles after a hard work-out.

Anyway, the story of my ex-wife’s experience seemed germaine to the subject, so I thought I would post it here.

Older answers, and a mini-argument about sleep paralysis:

those good old days where I could mis-spell “myoclonic” and not get called on it…

My doctor told me they’re called hypnic jerks, and are normal. Here’s a little article that distinguishes them from myoclonic jerks (now known as periodic leg movement), and discusses the two theories of why they occur (either a normal part of the muscular transition to sleep, or your brain interpreting muscle relaxation as a sign that you’re falling):,101475_1_1.asp

Its just parts of your body falling asleep one after the other.

But sleeping next to someone who does that in a big way sucks.

“Hypnogogic myoclonus.” That Cecil classic was brief and to the point. One example has happened to me a number of times: At the beginning of my very first dream upon falling asleep, I dream that I’m walking down the sidewalk. I trip over an uneven crack, and in my dream I try to right myself. This coincides with my actual leg kicking. The sudden movement wakes me up.

So what I’m wondering: which comes first, the dream or the leg jerk? Does the dream have me stumbling on the sidewalk because something in my unconscious “knows” I’m about to have a leg jerk? If not, how do the dream and the leg jerk coincide so well? It seems to be instantaneous coordination.

I do kick in my sleep and will send my covers flying. Lately i have been siitng up in the middle of a sleep, then looking round almost panicking, and then i can go right back to sleep.

am i alone here? does anybody else do anything like this?

Jomo, I am of the opinion that the dream comes first. you are laying there, thinking about being in bed. as you drift off to sleep, your mind continuously processes itself. as your senses drift off, your brain starts subsisting solely on static. soon, you are fully asleep, with full-body paralysis and all.

however, if the paralysis isn’t complete, an action in demi-dream is translated into real movement.

however, why is it always the same action? for me, it’s a jump (usually from like one roof to another). never really varies.

so my opinion may very well be wrong.

Okay, now I’m thinking that she may have taken magnesium instead of zinc. Reading through another thread, I did a search for some material on fibromyalgia and I came across the following reference to magnesium as a treatment for that particular disease:

“…People with fibromyalgia are often lacking in the mineral magnesium. Taken in combination with malic acid, this mineral helps fight fatigue and relax muscles. (Malic acid also enhances magnesium absorption.) Magnesium and malic acid supplements, sometimes sold in a combination product as magnesium malate, are highly recommended for anyone with fibromyalgia. Allow at least two months for results to begin to appear…” (emphasis is mine)

It jogged my memory a bit and made me wonder if I didn’t cite the wrong supplement in my earlier post. So I figured that I had better dig up this thread and update my advice.

Sorry if I steered anyone wrong (although zinc is good for you too). It was a lot of years back, I’m not a doctor, YMMV, and all the other standard disclaimers…