Complaints about startling when falling asleep can be heard quite often. Some people simply state this fact with interest. Others say that the cramps during sleep are so intense that they interfere with a good sleep. What is the reason for this phenomenon and can it not indicate any disturbances in the body’s work?
What is night myoclonus
Light involuntary twitching of different parts of the body in a dream or when falling asleep, scientists call night myoclonia. Before dealing with this phenomenon, it is worthwhile to dwell on the physiology of sleep.
The process of falling asleep is associated with slowing down all body functions. Slower and calmer begin to work the lungs, heart. It is at this time that the brain begins to send signals to the muscles, as a result of which they contract. This is expressed in light jerking.
Some scientists wince while falling asleep are considered evidence of increased brain activity. In their opinion, the slowing of breathing and pulse is regarded by the brain as a danger signal. To eliminate the hypothetical threat, he activates muscles in case he needs to flee.
It should be noted that this is one of the hypotheses of the origin of myoclonic convulsions when falling asleep. Another group of scientists explains the phenomenon of myoclonia by the fact that when the phases of sleep change, the brain produces wave bursts that lead to involuntary contraction of muscles.
Neuroscientists claim that night myoclonia is result of congestion of the nervous system. Negative energy accumulated during the day – stress – is “processed” by the brain. As a result, when falling asleep, there are cramps in the legs, arms, other parts of the body. These convulsive movements lead to relaxation of the muscles, the entire nervous system.
Features of night cramps
Myoclonus is an unusual physiological phenomenon. On the one hand, it is comprehensively studied. On the other hand, little is known about him. Scientists have found that there are 2 types of twitching limbs when falling asleep: positive and negative myoclonus.
“Positive myoclonus” is what experts call active muscle contraction. This is when when a person is falling asleep or while he is sleeping, his arms and legs are twitching, his eyelids tremble. Convulsions when falling asleep may result in distortion of the whole body. It is usually the most intense, often provokes awakening.
Negative myoclonus is, on the contrary, a complete relaxation of nerve endings, a decrease in muscle tone. The syndrome can spread to a single area (for example, legs) or to the whole body. In the second case, there is convulsive distortion.
Muscle twitching in the process of falling asleep occurs in children and adults. The movements may be:
- synchronous and asynchronous;
- rhythmic / arrhythmic;
Most often tremble limbs, shoulders, facial facial muscles. Physiologists explain the formation of these convulsions by the fact that a certain group of nerve fibers reaching the muscles is suddenly simultaneously excited. Tension arises, causing the leg, face, or whole body to twitch during sleep.
Pathology or norm?
Myoclonus is peculiar not only to people, but also practically to all living beings. A slight tremor in the body in the form of rare single or group movements while falling asleep is considered normal. Doctors agree in opinion that this is nevertheless a physiologically conditioned and absolutely normal functioning of the nervous system.
Pathology is considered to occur with varying frequency and frequency of involuntary trembling throughout the night’s sleep. On the one hand, they themselves lead to sleep disorders. A constantly flinching person periodically wakes up, as a result, cannot sleep properly. Also, he may lose the sleep phase. On the other hand, myoclonic convulsions that do not stop after falling asleep may indicate disturbances in the functioning of the organism.
Doctors distinguish such features of seizures when falling asleep:
- They are never tied to a certain part of the body, therefore, it is impossible to foresee the appearance of twitching.
- In some cases, seizures are pronounced, felt as a large single wince. In others, they may have the character of a small tremor of the whole body when falling asleep (tremor).
- Doctors also consider the feeling of falling asleep to be a kind of myoclonic seizures.
- Usually myoclonus occurs in the phase of REM sleep. That is why it leads to awakening.
- Obsessive, repetitive from night to night convulsions are often accompanied by diseases of the nervous system (panic disorders, phobias, depression).
Read also … What does it mean if, when falling asleep, it throws it out of sleep and at the same time the pulse rises: treatment of panic attacks
Causes of myoclonia in adults
The main causes of pathological convulsions when falling asleep and during sleep itself in adults, doctors see in such conditions as:
- renal failure;
- iron deficiency;
- joint diseases;
- heart diseases;
- thyroid disease;
- spinal or head injury;
- blood flow disorders;
- Parkinson’s disease.
Why are twitching legs
Most of the other parts of the body myoclonia prone to the feet. How involuntarily twitching leg when falling asleep, many could observe. The main reasons for this phenomenon have already been described. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that jerking the legs during sleep in the case of these diseases is the lesser of evils.
If a person constantly notices that his legs are twitching when he falls asleep, it is necessary to turn first to the therapist, to tell about this symptom. The doctor will probably send you for an examination. It is not surprising if the result is a serious metabolic disorder or even a disease from the above list.
Many people with depression and sleep disorder describe their nightly feelings as “restless legs” (otherwise, the condition is called “Ecbom Syndrome”). All these disorders must be treated. Then the discomfort associated with falling asleep, gradually pass.
The way the legs twitch while falling asleep is often noticed by pregnant women. This is usually associated with a deficiency of iron, potassium, and some other trace elements.
What to do in this situation? First of all, consult a doctor. You may need a menu correction or additional intake of a vitamin complex. After the birth of the baby, the described discomfort will pass by itself.
Twitching legs during sleep often occurs in old age. This is due to a change in the functioning of the nervous system. To neglect myoclonia in this case is impossible. It is imperative to conduct a survey to rule out the possibility of serious diseases (for example, Parkinson’s disease).
One of the features of pathological myoclonia is that convulsions in a person arise not only when falling asleep, but also during the day, during wakefulness. This condition is most common in epilepsy. When falling asleep in a patient, different parts of the body may twitch. One night active limbs, the other – facial muscles.
The causes of convulsions when falling asleep in adults in this case may lie in the area of abnormal brain activity. In some patients there is a lack of oxygen in the brain tissues, in others changes occur at the cellular level.
In some cases, the pathological myoclonus is triggered by hereditary diseases. Shaking limbs or facial muscles can be observed in children when falling asleep at a very early age. This is possible with these neurological conditions:
- hereditary pathology of the cerebellum and other parts of the brain;
- disorders of the nerve endings in the case of diseases of internal organs (liver, lungs);
- the so-called “diseases of accumulation” (they are characterized by epileptic seizures, pathological diarrhea myoclonus, other, less noticeable manifestations);
- viral encephalitis;
- intoxication with overdose of drugs.
Jerking during sleep in children
Myoclonic convulsions in a child during sleep are divided into physiological (normal) and pathological. The reason for startle when falling asleep in infants is the adequate functioning and development of the brain.
The fact is that the sleep of small children differs significantly from an adult. They have a deep sleep phase 2 times shorter than a normally functioning, healthy adult. The kid jerks when falling asleep and later almost constantly due to the fact that he has a faster change of sleep phases, all the time the brain activity changes.
Parents do not have to worry if the child shudders when falling asleep. This is a natural process. But if any other pathological phenomena are added to these movements (for example, convulsions during the daytime), the baby should be examined.
Do I need treatment?
If we are talking about rare twitching of the trunk or limbs when falling asleep, then in most cases, treatment is not required. To normalize sleep and prevent excessive muscle activity, you can do the following:
- it is always necessary to go to bed and get up at the same time;
- fall asleep no later than 22:00;
- do not drink stimulating drinks at night (coffee, energy, alcohol);
- in case of pronounced problems with falling asleep, you can use light herbal hypnotic drugs (for example, Novo-Passit);
- before bed well relaxes, warm bath stimulates blood circulation;
- replenish the supply of trace elements will help the use of dairy products, vegetables, herbs (especially parsley, dill);
- in case of severe myoclonia, strong tonic drinks (tea, coffee) must be replaced with berry, fruit compotes, herbal teas;
- regular physical activity helps with cramps;
- in some cases, for the prevention of myoclonus, you can drink a course of sedatives.
Before you buy any medicine, you must check with the doctor! This will help in a timely manner to identify diseases of the brain, other systems. Only after a complete examination and elimination of serious pathologies can the doctor be able to prescribe suitable sedatives.
Treatment of pathological myoclonia is carried out only under the guidance of a psychotherapist. In some cases – a psychiatrist. For therapy, such drugs as Konvuleks, Clonazepam, Apilepsin, etc. are used. All of them are prescribed individually and are sold in pharmacies solely by prescription.