Have You Ever Been Jolted Awake Suddenly? Here’s What Causes It


Have you ever been jolted awake just as you started falling asleep or maybe you had a feeling like you were falling or it could possibly even be that your sleeping partner experienced it and when they jolted awake, you were woken up to?

Any of these cases will put you firmly in the category of people who have experienced what is known as a hypnic jerk.

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It has been estimated that about 70% of people experience hypnic jerks at some point in their lives, so luckily they are nothing to worry yourself about as they are in no way dangerous.

They may be unsettling or even momentarily frighten you, but they are not any reason to put off sleep till later.

Jolted Awake

As you put your body to sleep, it goes through several phases of sleep in a standard sleep cycle. These phases have inspired some of the theories that attempt to explain this phenomenon of being jolted awake. The theories include;

  • As your nervous system relaxes and slows down when transitioning from wakefulness to sleep. Your breathing slows down, your temperature drops and your muscles relax. So being jolted awake may result when nerves misfire during this slowing down process, resulting in a muscular spasm.
  • While relaxing as you fall asleep, your brain sometimes gets confused and assumes you are falling. It then proceeds to send signals to the arms and legs to move to an upright position, resulting in the jerking sensation.
  • Another evolutionary theory suggests that your brain wakes you up one last time so you can check that you’ve taken the necessary steps to keep yourself safe at night.

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The causes for the jerk however remain standard, inclusive of; anxiety, stress, alcohol, caffeine, heavy exercise late in the evening, sleeping in an uncomfortable position and being very tired or fatigued.

So to avoid being jolted awake, you should avoid those. Sleep experts also believe that sleeping at the same time everyday will reduce the chances of it happening.