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Twitching in Sleep

twitching-in-sleep

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We all have experienced this phenomenon at some point in time. You are slowly slipping off to a drowsy state, and suddenly you find yourself jerk your limbs in random directions for no reason. You or your partner may be amused at such actions, but have you ever wondered what caused such a bizarre phenomenon? Such a phenomenon is called sleep twitching or ‘hypnagogic jerk.’ This is a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. These involuntary twitches are contractions of the muscle, which resembles a similar action when you get scared or startled. Not only adults, but babies, and dogs and cats also exhibit the same phenomenon. You must have observed your pet starting to quiver and twitch and appears as if he is running on his side. Or, you may have seen your baby suddenly jerk or twitch during sleep.

Causes of Sleep Twitching

In Adults

Myoclonus in adults can occur by itself, but most often it is a result of a wide variety of nervous system disorders. It can also develop in response to the spinal cord or head injury, liver or kidney failure, brain tumors, stroke, lipid storage disorders, or other conditions. Such symptoms are commonly observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy or with multiple sclerosis.

In Children

Twitching in sleep is commonly observed during the first couple of weeks in a newborn’s life and fades out within a year. Apparently, it may seem like an infantile spasm or seizure, but the major difference is that myoclonus only occurs during sleep. Infants who experience such conditions will have a normal electroencephalogram or neurologic examination. If the twitching effects start to recur during wakefulness, then further evaluation by a medical practitioner is recommended.

In Dogs and Cats

Pets like dogs are cats are known to pass through three stages of sleep – non-rapid eye movement (NREM), rapid eye movement (REM), and short-wave Sleep (SWS). Animal experts reveal that during the REM stage, dogs and cats dream and act on their dreams by twitching. Dogs and cats who sleep all stretched out are less likely to twitch than those who sleep in a curled manner and keep their muscles all-tensed.

Symptoms of Twitching

The intensity of a hypnic jerk may vary. Most people are unaware of such twitches and only know about such experience from their sleeping partners. In some cases, the spasms are so strong that it can startle the person and wake them up. Alongside hypnic jerks, some other common symptoms experienced include –

Dreaming Of Falling From A Height

  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Sweating

However, the symptoms of twitching in sleep or muscle trembling in cats and dogs are different from those of humans. Fasciculation or Localized trembling in pets mostly affects the hands and the hind legs, whereas generalized trembling can affect the entire body. However, some unrelated symptoms can also be observed depending on the underlying cause of such occurrence. These include –

  • Repetitive scratching or pawing
  • Uncontrolled twitching or trembling
  • Vocalizations and pain
  • Sensitivity to touch

Treatment for Sleep Twitching

Also referred to as night starts or myoclonic jerks, these involuntary muscle movements might not create any side effects or complications, but you can always take necessary measures to prevent such occurrences.

For Twitching In Humans

Generally, hypnagogic jerks or twitching in sleep do not mandate any treatment. There are no complications associated with such an occurrence. However, you can always take certain preventive measures to avoid any interruptions while sleeping. This includes –

Avoiding Stimulants

You should limit the amount of alcohol or nicotine intake, especially post midday. Many people think that a sip of wine will help them to doze off easily, but that is more likely to interrupt your normal sleeping.

Exercising Earlier

Sweat out before noon, or in case you are not able to follow that, carry out low-intensity sessions such as yoga or Pilates in the evening.

Avoiding Caffeine

A sip to the coffee cup is okay, but taking it after midday is likely to interfere with your normal sleeping habit. Try to reduce, and if possible, avoid the consumption of caffeine, especially during noontime or in the evening.

Following A Pre-Sleep Routine

Detach yourself from technology, at least half an hour prior to sleep. Dim the lights, and relax to prepare your brain for better sleep.

For Hypnic Jerks In Babies And Children

While most of the attributes to hypnic jerks in adults like emotional stress, caffeine intake, and excessive physical exercise may not apply to children, they also experience similar problems during sleep. However, twitching in sleep is less common in people of this age.

For Involuntary Muscle Trembling In Dogs And Cats

The treatment method widely varies depending on the cause of such twitching and may include medication, surgery, or other corrective measures. The common treatment methods include –

Supplementation

If the twitching is caused due to an imbalance or deficiency, the veterinarian may recommend supplementation to correct such nutrient imbalance. Although this treatment method is relatively less risky, but requires constant monitoring to ensure the nutrient levels are maintained.

Muscle Relaxants

This treatment method includes drugs to relax the muscles for reducing or eliminating tremors. The drug dosage must be properly regulated depending on the size and physical condition of the pet to reduce the possibility of side effects. However, if the trembling is a result of any medical condition, then such a treatment method must be avoided.

Anti-Anxiety Medication Or Anti-Depressants

In the case of psychosomatic causes, it is recommended to dose with any anti-anxiety or anti-depressant to improve the mental state of your pet. Proper dosing is necessary to minimize the risk of any side-effects.

A Final Word of Advice

Hypnic jerks or twitching in sleep are common occurrences and do not require any treatment or attention. However, if such conditions are interrupting your normal sleep or you are observing your baby or pet experiencing sleep twitching, you can take certain precautionary measures to try and reduce such conditions. In case of severe occurrences, you can also contact a professional medical practitioner for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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