Everyone’s had that moment of terror when they’re juuuussstt falling asleep, starting a dream, then BAM. Falling down some stairs and jolting awake. Have you ever wondered why this happens? Well, it turns out there’s actually science behind the irritance.
It’s called the ‘hypnic jerk’ and it turns out it’s a result of a few things. Caffeine and tobacco may increase the likelihood of it happening, as can sleep deprivation and drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. The jerk is most often seen when a person falls asleep rapidly during the day. It can also be after they have been in an exhaustive state. Sometimes, if you’re extremely exhausted the brain will process the stages of falling asleep too fast. This can confuse it into thinking major systems of the body are failing.
It responds by sending a burst of chemicals through the nervous systems, which creates a dream-state designed to wake you up. This is the basis of the ‘hypnic jerk’.
So now that we know why this thing happens, it seems that all we need to do is just get better sleep. For the most part, anyway. That and ease off the Ritalin. It’s annoying because you’d think sleep deprivation and then the body disrupting itself when it finally does go to sleep would be something evolution had ironed out… Looks like getting a good night’s sleep is even more important!