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BOD-ities: What causes sleep twitches?

Springfield - Springfield Square February 21, 2020 BOD-ities

Sleep twitches. Sleep starts. A hypnic jerk. Whatever you call it, almost all of us have been awoken at some point in their lives by an abrupt movement right as we’re ready to fall asleep. The scientific name for these involuntary movements—which often occur during dreams about running or falling—are called myoclonus.

There’s not a single cause for these sleep twitches; rather, it can be a result of a variety of different triggers, including:

  • Exercising too close to bedtime
  • Caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Sleep deprivation, insomnia or poor sleep quality

If you notice that you’re falling out of sleep regularly as a result of sleep twitches, consider whether any of these triggers may be a common factor. If—for example—you are used to a nighttime run or spin class, consider that it might be a part of the reason why you experience this restlessness as you fall asleep.

While these involuntary movements aren’t a result of any serious underlying health conditions, you likely still want to prevent them from interrupting your sleep in the future. Here’s what you can do prevent sleep twitches:

  • Try meditation – If it’s been a particularly stressful day or you have something that’s weighing heavy on your mind, try some meditation before bed to calm your mind.
  • Create a healthy sleep environment – Cool, dark, quiet environments are the most conducive to sleep. Keep technology and television out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed – Try tea or water, instead.
  • Don’t exercise right before bed – If you work out at night, try to finish your workout at least three hours before you go to sleep.

Preventive measures should be enough to manage how frequently you experience these movements, but if they continue to interfere with your sleep quality, talk to your health care provider.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.