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Hands down, everyone has gone through that feeling of your body jerking awake when you’re asleep. Usually, this is a reaction to you falling in your dreams. It’s an act that can suddenly cause your body to twitch as it brings you back to reality. And although not as terrifying as sleep paralysis, hypnic jerks are still quite shocking. But the fearful question remains: can you die from hypnic jerk?

What is a Hypnic Jerk?

A hypnic jerk, sometimes known as a hypnagogic jerk or night start, is an involuntary contraction of your muscles. It’s that bizarre feeling where you think you’re falling while in a dream.

There are times when this reaction extends to your body parts, such as your arms and legs, causing them to slam on the bed suddenly. This muscle twitch might not last long, but it sure can pull you straight out of your sleepy state. Plus, it’s so out of the blue that it leaves your heart racing at full speed.

Moreover, since a hypnic jerk is so startling, people often get scared when their arms and legs suddenly fly about, lashing around. Despite being rare, the shock of a hypnic jerk can sometimes rip out a scream from the sleeping person due to its violent nature.

Can You Die From Hypnic Jerk?

No matter how hard your body thrashes against the bed or how sudden the twitch is, a hypnic jerk is not dangerous. This is to say you can not die from a hypnic jerk. In fact, it’s not even serious enough to be concerned about. Usually, the feeling lasts for a mere millisecond and is gone before you know it, rendering it harmless.

Is Hypnic Jerk The Same as Sleep Apnea?

Many people tend to confuse sleep apnea with a hypnic jerk simply because you wake up with a gasp. However, both these conditions are not the same. Where a hypnic jerk is merely your body’s response to certain factors, sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder. Unlike non-fatal twitching, sleep apnea can indeed be responsible for sudden death.

What Causes Hypnic Jerks?

There are quite a few reasons why your body experiences hypnic jerks. But none of the factors lead to anything severe. Here are the top causes behind the involuntary contractions of your muscles:

  • Irregular Sleeping Cycle
  • Exercise or Over exhaustion
  • Anxiety & Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Excessive Drug Intake

Symptoms of a Hypnic Jerk

You can’t always tell when you’re about to have a hypnic jerk reaction. Mostly it’s an automatic response that comes and goes with a start. Nonetheless, if you look closely enough, you can notice the signs leading up to it. Although, it’s essential to keep in mind that people who have severe anxiety suffer from occasional bouts of these twitches. Either way, here are some of its common symptoms:

  • Lucid Dreaming
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Accelerated Breathing
  • Racing Heartbeat


All in all, no matter how startling hypnic jerks are, they are not fatal. So, you can not die from a hypnic jerk. In fact, they pass by so quickly that they can leave you in a state of confusion and bewilderment. Nonetheless, if you want to seek treatments or simply want to know more, contact Sleep & Headache Solutions at (832) 688-8886.

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