Are Body Jerks Due to Anxiety during Sleep Normal?

Written by: Shreya Manerkar – MA
(Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : June 07, 2022

Have you ever been worried about your body jerking during sleep? Have you ever wondered if these body jerks are due to anxiety? Has it made you question if your body jerks due to anxiety during sleep? Or is there some deeper meaning? Let us read ahead and clear these doubts.

Chapter 1:
What Are These Body Jerks?

These body jerks are termed as Hypnic Jerks or sleep starts. These happen in the period between being awake and falling asleep. They are generally harmless and happen quite frequently. Body jerks could be caused by sound, light or other external triggers. At times, our body jerks can occur due to anxiety or anxious thoughts. Sometimes these body jerks are strong enough to wake you up. However, at other times, you may not even realise you had a bodily jerk.

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Chapter 2:
Why Does the Body Jerk While We Sleep?

As mentioned above, these bodily jerks are harmless and happen often. However, it can still be a matter of concern for some of you. Let us ease your worry and understand the possible reasons why our bodies jerk when we sleep.

Caffeine or Nicotine Consumption

Coffee, tea, chocolates and energy drinks are some food items which are high in caffeine. Having these late in the night can disrupt sleep. These products remain in our system for a long duration of time. And therefore, you should avoid consuming excessive caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. Another possible effect of caffeine is anxiety. Too much caffeine in our body can lead to anxiety, which in turn leads to body jerks.  Since caffeine makes us alert and energetic, it makes it difficult for our body to be at rest. Hence, even if we do fall asleep, our body is still active and may start jerking.

Lack of Sleep

If you have been having trouble falling asleep or generally not sleeping well, you may feel tired. Both these lead to a lack of good sleep. Poor sleep can lead to poor mood and difficulties focusing. This can also cause body jerks due to anxiety during sleep. Ever noticed your mood when you have not slept well? The less you have slept, the more anxiety you are likely to feel. Again, the cycle will continue and the body twitching may be more frequent.

Anxiety and Stress

Everyday stress and anxiety can add to difficulties in falling asleep. Our body releases a hormone known as cortisol when we are stressed. It controls our mood and increases our energy level. As a result of this, we tend to be more active. These levels can be high even when we are sleeping. Hence, body jerks may be frequent during stressful sleep. The body could also jerk during sleep due to anxiety.

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Chapter 3:
Are Body Jerks Dangerous?

One common question people always have is, “How Dangerous are body jerks?”. The answer is – Body jerks are unsettling, but not dangerous. Studies have shown that these body twitches are a normal part of falling asleep. In fact, 70% of people experience body jerks. Let us understand some simple lifestyle changes you can make to deal with these body jerks.

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Chapter 4:
How Do I Manage My Body Jerks Due to Anxiety during Sleep?

As you can see from the reasons mentioned above, body jerks during sleep can be due to anxiety. We can see that we cannot control when we may experience body jerks. However, we can definitely make small lifestyle changes which can reduce the frequency of these jerks. Here are some simple tips you can try to improve your sleep quality and reduce anxiety.

Avoid Caffeine and Other Drugs

Products high in caffeine remain in our system for long periods of time. And therefore, you should avoid consuming excessive caffeine at least six hours before going to sleep. Caffeine consumed later in the day may trigger the body and brain, and make it difficult to fall asleep. Similarly, nicotine is also bad before going to sleep. It has the same effect as caffeine. When we drink alcohol or have other drugs, we may have difficulties going to sleep. Hence, it is extremely important to avoid these products.

Practice Meditation before Bed

Since the body jerks due to anxiety during sleep, it is important to feel relaxed before bedtime. Reducing negative thoughts and calming the mind can help us get better sleep. A good way to reduce stress levels is to practice guided meditation before sleeping. You can also practice deep breathing to feel calmer before bed.

Changing the Room Setting

Apart from anxiety, lack of sleep and having caffeine, body jerks can also occur due to light or sound.  Therefore, some changes that can be made in your room are – dim lights, and avoiding using phones and other digital screens.  You can also use an eye mask to block light and ensure the whole room is dark.

Though there is no research to suggest that these changes will reduce body jerks, they can surely help you sleep better. And as discussed above, lack of sleep could lead to body jerks. Good quality sleep will definitely help reduce body jerks which may be due to anxiety.

Have a Bedtime Routine

Closely related to changes in the room, having a bedtime routine can help calm the mind and get it ready for bed. Adults need approximately 7-9 hours of good sleep to feel rested and ready for the next day. A bedtime schedule will prepare the mind and body to relax and reduce stress.  Stick to one time to fall asleep. You can also listen to calming music and have hot milk or soothing teas. Avoid exercising at least three hours before bedtime.

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Chapter 5:
Should I Visit a Professional?

Body jerks are considered a common part of falling asleep. However, even after trying these techniques, you are unable to sleep well or your anxiety doesn’t reduce. Please visit a doctor to rule out any medical conditions. If you liked this article, you can check out some informative courses that we offer. We at https://epsychonline.com/, have some interesting articles on this topic. These are written by mental health professionals, who have years of expertise in this subject. Do visit the website to learn more.