What Is Twitching Or Jerking?

Twitching or Jerking is an involuntary sudden movement of the body which can occur at anytime including when an individual is asleep. In some cases, these involuntary movements are temporary and require no specific treatment but in some cases these twitching episodes can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. There are quite a few medical conditions that can cause twitching when an individual is asleep which goes a long way in identifying a cause for the involuntary movements.

Twitching While Sleeping

What Causes Twitching While Sleeping?

It is very important to identify the type of twitching that occurs during sleep as it is a pretty good tool in trying to find a solution to the problem. There may be many causes for an individual to twitch but when it comes to twitching while sleeping there are a few distinct causes. Some individuals may find that just changing their routine sleep cycle gets rid of the twitching. This is usually true for people who take alcohol just before bedtime.

Sleep Myoclonus: This happens right at the onset of sleep and is a problem which occurs at the first stage of sleep. People feel as if they are falling as soon as they doze off to sleep thus having an urge to catch themselves. This sudden movement awakens the individual with a jarring type feeling. In some cases, the person may find it difficult to fall asleep after the episode. In some instances, Sleep Myoclonus may be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder which needs medical attention.

  • Sleep Myoclonus Treatment in Babies: Sleep Myoclonus may be easily observed in newborn babies where they jerk suddenly while sleeping as if they are having a seizure but it is nothing but a benign condition and resolves on its own by the time the baby is three months of age.
  • Sleep Myoclonus Treatment in Adults: Treatment for Sleep Myoclonus in adults is basically done with tranquilizers which helps in relaxing the muscles and inhibits muscle contraction. The most medication of choice is Clonazepam which is taken before bedtime. Since it produces drowsiness it helps in the individual sleeping peacefully through the night. Hence, this medication should be taken at bedtime. It may also be possible that the body may become tolerant to the drug if taken chronically hence it is important to take this medication sparingly. Sodium valproate has also shown effectiveness in treatment of Sleep Myoclonus in conjunction with clonazepam.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder: This is a type of a sleep disorder in which an individual has jerking movements while asleep which lasts for approximately half a minute. During the episode the individual has rhythmic twitching and it interferes with the sleep. Individuals with this type of sleep disorder may have daytime fatigue due to impaired sleep. Many individual may not be even aware that they have this problem as it may go unwitnessed and may be found out by their partners. These movements are quite small and involve flexing of big toe or a bend of knee, hip, and ankle. These movements if severe can interfere with sleep of the individual to an extent that the individual may have excessive daytime sleepiness, memory impairment, or depression. As long as these movements do not interfere with the sleep of the individual it is not considered to be a disorder and does not require any treatment. These type of twitching movements are diagnosed by conducting studies like polysomnogram.

  • Treatment Modalities: Treatment modalities may include antiseizure medications, sleeping pills, or narcotic pain medications. Some medications like lithium, certain classes of anti-nausea medications, and some antidepressants can worsen the twitching episodes hence it is imperative to keep a note of the changes in medications whenever they are done.

Restless Leg Syndrome: Restless leg syndrome is a type of sleep disorder which causes twitching while an individual is asleep. These movements occur because the individual has a strong urge to move the legs because of a feeling of something creeping in the legs.

  • Treatment Modalities: In some instances, anticonvulsant medications usually valproic acid has shown to be effective for this disorder while in some instances benzodiazepines are found to be extremely beneficial in treatment, especially clonazepam.

REM Behavior Disorder: During REM sleep, the individual is unable to move arms or legs. This prohibits individual from acting out his dreams while asleep. Once this REM behavior is disturbed it can cause sudden, involuntary movements or twitches. These movements can be quite vigorous.

  • Treatment Modalities: This disorder is usually treated symptomatically with different medications, although the response is variable. Hence, all forms of medications need to be tried before identifying the medication the individual is best responsive to. Studies have shown that clonazepam has been the most effective medication in almost 95% of patients with this disorder. Studies do not mention of any incidences of aberrant behaviors with this drug. It is seen that the symptoms recur as soon as the medication is stopped hence this mode of treatment should be continued indefinitely for best possible results.

How To Get Rid Of Twitching While Sleeping?

The best way to manage Twitching While Sleeping is to consult a sleep specialist. The specialist may conduct a detailed sleep study in which the individual may have to spend a night in the hospital to find out what disorder is the individual suffering from. During the study, devices will be used to measure body movements, including twitches. This study helps determine the exact cause of the twitches so that a detailed treatment strategy can be made to improve the individual's condition.

Some of the interventions include:

  • Exercises
  • Treatments for leg cramps
  • Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Managing sleep wake cycle.

Once the underlying cause is treated, then there will be spontaneous improvement in the twitching episodes. Hence it is important that if an individual has recurrent twitching episodes while sleeping then he or she consult a physician for a definitive treatment to cure the problem.

Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Twitching While Sleeping

Deep Breathing Helps Get Rid Of Twitching While Sleeping: As twitching while sleeping may be an indicator of an ongoing stress it is a good option to relax yourself by taking deep breaths and try relaxing as often as possible. You can also engage in yoga for de-stressing yourself.

Exercises Helps Eliminate Twitching While Sleeping: Try and make exercise a part of your daily routine even if it is for about 20 minutes a day. Diligent exercise keeps the body fit and healthy and also helps in reducing stress and can be easily incorporated into the lifestyle.

Magnesium Rich Foods Helpful In Stopping Twitches And Jerks In Sleep: Try and eat foods like broccoli, spinach, beans and the like which are rich in magnesium. These foods are quite helpful in controlling twitching while sleeping.

Maintain A Constant Sleeping Cycle To Avoid Sleep Twitches: In case if you experience twitching after consuming some alcoholic beverage or some medication then try and alter your bedtime routine to control this.

Adequate Water Consumption: Try and drink as much water as possible to reduce dehydration as it is one of the primary causes of Twitching while Sleeping.

Vitamin Supplements: In case if the twitching is caused by vitamin deficiency then try and take vitamin supplements in order to control the symptoms but ensure to consult with the physician before starting any vitamin supplements.

Lifestyle Modification To Eliminate Twitching and Jerking Movements In Sleep: Try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Limit consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Try and eat a healthy diet and maintain good sleep-wake cycle. Also engage in regular exercise. This will be enough to keep the symptoms of twitching while sleeping at bay.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: March 25, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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