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Why your body sometimes shakes while you fall asleep

by Bilal Hussain about a year ago in fact or fiction
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Or what are hypnotic idiots?

Ahh ... sleep. How nice. You turn off the lights. You close your tired eyes. You sigh. Relax. Your breathing slows down. Your mind starts to wander, disappearing into nighttime oblivion.


You stumble, stumble, fall. Your body shudders. Your leg kicks. Your heart is pounding. There is? What happened? Did you mistakenly fall asleep in a trapdoor?

No. You just experienced a hypnotic push.

What is a hypnotic idiot?

A hypnotic push, or beginning of sleep, is a phenomenon that occurs when the body transitions from wakefulness to sleep. It involves a sudden involuntary muscle contraction and is often accompanied by a feeling of falling or stumbling. It's that strange muscle spasm that happens when you're lying in bed, trying to sleep, and suddenly you wake up suddenly because you feel like you've tripped over something.

Hypnotic jerks are common and benign.

But what causes them? Well, nobody really knows. It is still a mystery. However, the researchers came up with two hypotheses that can explain them.

Hypothesis 1: Your body trembles when daytime motor control is canceled out by sleep paralysis

How can a bedmate not wake up injured and hurt if you dream of a boxing match? Is it because they are having a complementary dream in which they are blocking all their jabs, hooks and other punches?

No. The person sharing the bed with you is not assaulted because when you are sleeping, your body is paralyzed. This is called REM sleep atony and prevents you from making your dreams come true.

REM atony works by inhibiting motor neurons. It does this by raising the barrier to the amount of electricity that the brain must send to a motor neuron to trigger a movement. So, for example, the little bit of electricity your brain sends to your finger to make it move when you are awake is no longer enough when you are under REM atony.

Now, the fact is that there is not a single on/off button in your body that inhibits all of your motor neurons at once.

Instead, the subsystems of the brain that take care of sleep need to fight for control of the subsystems that take care of wakefulness. And sometimes, during this fight, some motor neurons are fired at random, making your body squirm.

Hypothesis 2: Your brain thinks you are a monkey falling from a tree

Imagine that you are a monkey and the last rays of sunlight just disappeared behind the green cover of the forest. It is getting dark and you say to yourself: bedtime.

Your brain starts to leak some melatonin into your bloodstream and you yawn. All sleepy, you sit on a comfortable tree branch.

Your eyelids become heavy and your breathing slows down. The outside world begins to disappear. The sounds are distant.

At that point, the subconscious part of the brain takes over. "Perfect", he says, "time to initialize the dream images". Your brain starts the dream procedure and when you are about to doze off completely, you notice that all of your muscles have suddenly and unexpectedly relaxed. “SANTA BANANA!” his brain screams in panic: “Mayday! Help! We are in free fall! Damn it! Wake up! Wake up! Shit, shit, poop! Prepare for impact! "

As you probably know, we humans are descended from primates that lived and slept in the trees. This means that we have inherited some monkey brain routines that no longer serve any purpose. Among them, according to the hypothesis of the monkey's fall, is a reflection that jolts him with a jolt when falling from a tree.

See, when a monkey is unexpectedly flying in the air, its muscles no longer need to support it and therefore they go limp. However, it is confusing that your muscles also become soft when you are sleeping.

So when you fall asleep and your muscles relax a little too quickly, your groggy brain sometimes misinterprets this as falling from a tree. As a result, his brain goes crazy and triggers a reflex that awakens him in an attempt to prepare for an imminent fall on the forest floor. Little does your brain know in its sleep state that you no longer live in the trees.


Hypnotic reflexes are involuntary muscle contractions that occur during the transition from wakefulness to sleep. They are more likely to occur if you are drinking too much coffee, are stressed or sleepless, or if you do some vigorous exercise before going to bed. About 70% of people have tried them. Even so, they are not well understood.

One hypothesis considers them to be nothing more than a side effect of the process that replaces normal daytime motor control with sleep paralysis. The other considers them an archaic reflection that we inherited from our ancestors who inhabited the trees, who were in danger of falling off a branch while sleeping.

Either way, hypnotic idiots are benign and there is no reason to worry. The worst that can happen is probably an occasional kick in the shin of someone sharing a bed with you, which should be fine, as long as you don't wear steel toe boots on the bed.

fact or fiction

About the author

Bilal Hussain

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