Why We Twitch Or Feel Like We’re Falling When Going to Sleep

Ever felt like you were falling from a tall height only to wake suddenly with your face still on the pillow, just where you were a few minutes ago when you went to bed? Or how about all that twitching and involuntary muscle movement right before you fall asleep? Sixty to seventy percent of people have these twitches before falling asleep. They are called hypnagogic jerks; the twitches, not the people.

These twitches occur as you are falling asleep, transitioning from the state of consciousness to unconsciousness. Sometimes the movements are enough to wake you right back up. The rest of the time, you continue on into sleep, unaware of the phenomenon.

Sleep researchers aren’t quite sure what causes these twitches, or sleep starts, but a few hypotheses are out there. One idea is that as the part of the brain that governs the conscious state hands over control to the part of the brain that handles sleep, perhaps you start to dream but aren’t fully asleep. Ninety minutes into sleep, the brain releases GABA and glycine which basically paralyze you so you don’t move around in your sleep or act out your dreams. You may start dreaming before these fully set in, causing the twitches.

An evolutionary hypothesis states that these sleep starts helped primate ancestors to catch themselves before falling out of trees as they slept. A study in Current Biology says that the sleep twitches in babies are the brain’s way of practicing movement, and learning how to control and move more accurately. More research will ensue as scientists look for the reasons behind this phenomenon.

[Source: Youtube]

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