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Dream Zone - The Jerk

Dear Lauri,
Is there a meaning to those dreams you have when you first fall asleep and you like fall or trip or slip and jerk back awake? Like barely any time has passed and the entire dream is just that quick fall that makes you jerk your whole you know what I am talking about? Am I making sense?   - Shelley, Chesapeake, VA 

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Lauri: Oh yes; perfect sense! In fact, I’ll bet every single person reading this has experienced exactly what you are talking about. It’s called the Hypnic jerk. It happens when you are in the first stage of sleep, the Hypnagogic state, hence the name Hypnic jerk. During this state the body completely relaxes and muscle control begins to fall away causing a falling sensation, which is why we call it “falling” asleep. If you have too much on your mind or if you are having a fitful night of sleep and are not fully releasing your worries, you are far more likely to jolt awake from the experience because a part of you is alert enough to go into fight or flight mode and try to catch your “fall,” which results in the jerking action of the body.


Sometimes it will happen and you won’t even wake from it. If you watch a baby fall asleep, you’re likely to see it happen but the baby will rarely wake from it.

Little mini “dreams” sometimes come along with it. Even though you aren’t in REM at this point, the hypnagogic state will cause dream-like visions because it is an hallucinatory state. One of my facebook friends had “dreamt” that she slipped on a wet sidewalk when she jerked awake. I once “dreamt” I tripped over a wrinkle in the concrete floor of the grocery store! My brother in law once jerked so hard that he kicked the wall. He actually went to the hospital because he thought he had broken his foot! It’s certainly nothing to worry about. It’s just one of those quirky little side effects of sleep.


-Lauri Quinn Loewenberg
Dream Expert and Author
"The brain is wider than the sky." - Emily Dickinson

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