Sleep Myoclonus: Moving During Sleep

Woman Sleeping on Stomach

What is Sleep Myoclonus?

Myoclonus is a brief twitching of the muscles that can occur separately or in groups, as well as in a sequence or at random. A common form of myoclonus while awake is hiccups, which are quick contractions affecting the diaphragm. Sleep myoclonus, is a form of myoclonus which occurs during sleep, usually in the stage just before deep sleep. Also known as a hypnic jerk or hypnagogic jerk, sleep myoclonus will rarely disturb the subject or bed partner to the point of waking and disrupting sleep patterns.

Sleep myoclonus may be a sign of other nervous system disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Even though myoclonus can be common in individuals, it may indicate the presence of sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and Periodic Leg Movement during Sleep (PLMS)

Sleep Myoclonus Often Occurs in the Toes

What Are the Common Symptoms and Effects of Sleep Myoclonus?

Myoclonus, especially sleep myoclonus, is not harmful or life threatening, though some of the more complex forms of myoclonus may indicate the presence of other potential nervous system issues, as previously mentioned.

Sleep myoclonus primarily affects the fingers, toes, lips, and eyes, and is often barely perceptible to anyone watching the person in their sleep. Sleep myoclonus has been shown to have some connection to stimulus-sensitive myoclonus, whereby contractions may be caused or increased by environmental factors such as light, sound, or movement.

Myoclonus has been connected to several areas of the brain. In many cases, stimulus-sensitive myoclonus is an overreaction of the brain in the areas that control movement in response to startling events. Myoclonus is actually fairly common in individuals.

Treatment For Sleep Myoclonus

Myoclonus on its own does not necessarily require any treatment, but if someone with myoclonus is exhibiting unaccountable symptoms of insomnia, it may be necessary to look into it further. The first step should be to rule out any other sleeping disorders that could be causing the problem by taking an overnight sleep study. The polysomnogram will not only detect any other possible sleeping disorders, but may also indicate whether the myoclonus itself is causing restless sleep.

Treatment for myoclonus is centered on medications which relax the muscles and inhibit contraction. Clonazepam is a commonly issued drug for sleep myoclonus, and when taken near bedtime has the added benefit of causing drowsiness. For this reason it should only be taken before bed, and not as a cure for myoclonus during waking hours. The body may also develop a tolerance for the drug and lessen its usefulness, so the more sparingly it is used, the greater the length of time it will remain useful. Sodium valproate can be used separately or in conjunction with clonazepam to treat myoclonus as well.

Other treatments may also improve other nervous system disorders that may be present during sleep in addition to myoclonus. These include barbiturates, phenytoin, and primidone.

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47 thoughts on “Sleep Myoclonus: Moving During Sleep

  1. Vincent Reply

    I had this problem for 10 months and got through it.
    What You have to understand that it is not the jerks that prevent you from falling asleep.
    It is our brain that is on alert, it scans and examines the slightest sign of a problem and as soon as it sees a small sign (like the jerk which is quite normal and which happens to everyone), the brain says to itself: damned, it’s serious what I have!! and now the stress occurs, which creates even more jerks and now the vicious circle begins!

    It is not the jerks that prevents sleep but it is YOURSELF that deliberately creates the jerks because you have unresolved problems deep inside you which accentuate the stress.
    It’s your stress that keeps you from sleeping.

    In internet forums, we mostly see people complaining. It seems like it develops their egos to be the one who is going to be the worst.
    Once the problem is solved, people stop thinking about sharing their experience.
    This is why I decided to do it today.
    How did it start for me?
    I was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea.
    I started to think more and more about this problem to the point that when I was falling asleep I asked myself questions such as: “am I going to have sleep apnea tonight?”
    once in the middle of the night, I had a jerk that woke me up, and I started to think to myself: “this is because of the sleep apnea”
    And from that day on I had these jerks that kept me from sleeping
    Sometimes I slept 1 hour a night, sometimes 2 hours, sometimes for two days in a row, I didn’t sleep.
    Sometimes I could at last sleep a whole night.
    That for 10 months: it was hell
    How I solved the problem? I went to see a psychologist, which made me understand that the shaking was not due to my problem of mild apnea but was due to my fear of sleeping
    in fact, I had entered a vicious circle.
    The fear of sleeping caused the shaking, the shaking prevented me from sleeping, and the lack of sleep caused even more stress which prevented me from sleeping.

    I had reached a point, that the simple fact of resting my head on the pillow caused me great anxiety and from the first jerk, the stress became terrible.

    Then during the whole day, I was afraid of the next night, and I was anxious all the time. The shrink gave me medication: anxiolytics and antidepressants. It helped me little by little to calm the anxiety and also I did some work on myself, because I had some problems. for example, due to the death of my mother that I had put under the carpet, problems that I had repressed.

    I wouldn’t have had these insomnia issues if I hadn’t had these repressed issues.

    If we repress problems they emerge one day or another in such and such a form; me it came out in the form of insomnia but for other people it could have come out in the form of serious illness for example.

    After a month of therapy with the shrink, I was able to sleep normally again.

    I also worked on myself, going to my mother’s grave more often, helping others, being in the present moment without continually thinking about what might happen later.

    Without thinking about the past with guilt.

    I have started to play more often with my 7 year old son because the children are in the moment.

    I try to listen to my wife more.

    I try to be less selfish.

    I was also interested in spirituality and less in material things, earning money etc. For example audiobooks that can be found on Youtube have helped me a lot. Edgart Tollé, whom I always listen to before going to sleep.

    There you have it, I hope my testimony can help other people.
    Happy New Year and good psychological and physical health.

    • Roman Reply

      Thank you very much for sharing. I’ve been going through something very similar and really needed to hear this.

  2. C. Ray Reply

    My husband was diagnosed with sheep apnea several years ago & now sleeps with a cpap machine. But for the past 2-3 years his body jerks so much at night,it keeps me awake. It’s not just his legs, it’s his arms & hands as well! He will not do anything about it, won’t even talk to his doctor! What can I do? It’s like sleeping with a bucking bronco every night! He’s had 2 back surgeries & 2 neck surgeries, but he seldom takes pain medication unless he is really hurting! I don’t know what to do anymore!! I’ve begged him to talk to his doctor but he just shrugs his shoulders & says ok next time. But he never does say anything to his doctor!!! I’m worried he could be in beginnings of dementia or Alzheimer’s too! But he denies that & won’t even acknowledge the issue!! What do I do without causing harm to my marriage of 45 years?

    • Kathy Reply

      I feel your pain…. My fiance and I have not been able to sleep in the same bed – going on four years now. When I first met him, this did not happen, then one day almost overnight … (oddly within a week or two of us sleeping in the same room/bed) constant almost all night long…. every once in a while he’ll enact his dream…… but most nights its totally random body movements…. I’ve been hit, squeezed, whacked, he’s whacked the wall behind him and hit himself in the head once…. they start of random and not so bad smaller movements but I lay there awake, with the anxiety of ‘what is to come’ every night while he falls asleep within a minute. WITHOUT FAIL a HUGE one will hit….. then I sadly have to boot him out….. Sad to say – this is SO common but NOONE is doing anything about it and all the docs just say “sleep in a separate room or bed”. We now sleep in separate rooms, and we try to start off in the same bed but his movements start within five minutes. We have been to EVERY doctor and NOTHING helped… no meds, supplements, working out, eating habits – tried EVERYTHING and NOTHING helps. I really wish someone would do studies on this and not just say “you’ll have to grow old sleeping in separate beds” 🙁 He’s had two sleep studies, electrodes on his head for 48 hours where I had to stay up and hit a button every time he moved – I must have hit that thing 200 times at least or more during the night – and the EEG showed NOTHING! during the two sleep studies at this place they said “he didn’t move”. BUT EVERY NIGHT with me its almost constant. I’m researching ANYTHING new now or new treatments or breakthroughs – but nothing. The neurologist gave up…. everyone gave up. So sad and frustrating 🙁 Kathy

  3. Fay Roose Reply

    My husbands lower body has jerked so bad it whips him out of bed, he usually lands on his back or his side on the floor. Then he awakens.
    He kicks out Very forcefully. He has kicked me. Sometimes he starts by whimpering, or by mumbling. Then thrashes out usually with his lower body.
    We really could use some help. Please advise?

  4. Jennifer Reply

    My husband recently started to shake during the night. It start of as just little jerks here and there mostly of mid to lower body. Over a period of several minutes they get longer and more aggressive on and off for 5-10 minutes. Then will have a gap for various amounts of time and then they start over a gain. I recorded him last night to show him so he can go see his doctor and find out if there is any need for concern.
    My question, in the meantime, should I be waking him up in the middle of them?
    If they wake me up I have been tapping him awake to calm him down. Not sure if I should be doing that.

  5. Cj Reply

    My daughter had twitching from head to toe for years on and off. We learned she had SIBO which is a bacteria imbalance in her gut. We essentially put her on a SIBO diet and twitching was gone.

    • John chumarow Reply

      I have jerking of right shoulder and head when relaxed, unfocused or trying to sleep for 7 years. Wondering what a SIBO diet is. My doctor never prescribe clozapem. Wonder if anything would help. I am at my witts end. Can’t take much more if it. Please is there any help out there. Thanjs

  6. Laura Reply

    If you have some mild twitches upon falling asleep it is nothing to worry about and quite common. But if you having tremors to the degree I have, then you need medication, specifically Propanalol or Clonozepam. I have had these tremors, sometimes called Essential or Benign Tremors, for 2 years and when they began I thought I was going to go crazy because I couldn’t ever stay asleep due to the extreme tremors. I can either take 40mg of Propanalol which will keep me asleep for 4 hours or 1/2mg of Clonozepam and I’ll stay asleep the whole night. Clonozepam can be addictive, but I haven’t had any problems and have maintained taking 1/2mg 15 min before bedtime for the past 2 years without increasing the amount. Hope this helps someone!

  7. Shana Reply

    I am 40 years last one year i suffer in sleep myoclonus twitching head in sleep, full night my head jerk and disturbing my sleep.pls told anyone remedy.

  8. Pat Reply

    I am 70 and just started with violet twitches mostly when I lay down I have tried magnesium cherry juice apple cider vinegar turmeric and then my doc put me on ropinerol from 1 to 5 tablets a day and sometimes it makes them twitch mire and then added cybalta I hate the side affects listed I don’t take any other pills but bp so it cant be withdrawals I am on a cpap but only can get a couple hrs sleep on it because I have to get up and walk also I get very dry mouth please help

  9. Olayiwola Reply

    I am 55, I have been told that my lower torso trembles when I am sleeping, it doesn’t wake me up, I don’t tremble while awake, though I remembered I complained to my dad of hands trembling @ 20 yrs, later no longer noticeable. My Son has restless legs while awake. What Is happening?

  10. Donna Reed Reply

    I babysit my grandson that is 3yrs old . He nap’s every afternoon and as soon as he fall’s asleep he give’s a big jerk sometimes twice it doesn’t wake him up . He sleeps good but that jerk he does when he first falls to sleep scares me . He only does it when he first fall’s to sleep .

    • Marie Reynolds-Carlisle Reply

      Did you ever find anything out about this ? My husband says that I do this same thing every night when I go to sleep. He says that’s how he knows I’m fully asleep.

    • C. C. Reply

      I have several sleep issues starting as insomnia when I was a teenager my brother had ùndiagnosed sleep apnea and snored very loudly & my sister had nightmares so sleeping well was only wishful thinking . Years later after a car accident and concussion I developed chronic insomnia & for a while some trouble with walking where I couldn’t walk straight & my body would slowly go sideways . Whenever I went for a walk I would use a big stick to help steady me. I developed severe case of Fibromyalgia also
      which brought on another sleep disorder ,delta 4 sleep anomaly. I want to caution others about 2 medications that I’ve seen mentioned here that can cause some bad side effects.The doctors didn’t warn about them . I had read up on them & they weren’t mentioned there either. Anyway years later I asked to be put on Cymbalta as I read how it helped some people with Fibro. After 5 years I developed facial & body tremors & I found out in Jan.2019 after facial & body tremors that I have Tardive Dystonia due to the Cymbalta. It was not listed in the side effects when I looked them up before I took them. My former Neurologist had told my primary Dr. that I had Dystonia & Myoclonus in 2016 the same year that he closed his private practice, but he never even told me!! My primary just casually mentioned it to me Dec. 2018 after I reported that something is really wrong with me & a few of the symptoms I have been having ! I was just stunned. I don’t know why they both kept it from me & let me experience symptoms without knowing. The next medicine I want to warn about Atlanta Pam clonazepam or Klonopin I was put on it to help me sleep and it was helpful fly number of years and then I develop blood disorder from it Neutropenia & Leukopenia. It caused in my case, my bone marrow to stop forming correctly. I had to go to the Cancer center and see a Hematologist for a while & get a bone marrow biopsy which was very painful even after 2 morphine IV’s. I ended up with a chipped hip bone from all of the pressure applied & big needle. They didn’t tell me it about it & was discovered years later by a tech during another test somewhere else. After much testing they said it was the Clonazepam. Sorry so long ,but please just be careful with those meds.

  11. Isaac Sutton Reply

    Hi I’m Isaac Sutton, and I’m 13 years old (going to be 14 on March 16), recently I have to get up at 7:00 in the morning to catch my bus but I keep over sleeping because it takes me forever to get to sleep. I don’t accually know when it started but what I end up doing is if I’m stressed or just trying to sleep my neck, thy, calf,leg and foot have a little twitch randomly but it’ll be with a minute and I don’t know what could have caused it. It is starting to effect my school work and my life in general, on a weekend 11am is early for me because it takes me so long to get to sleep, most of the time I don’t even get my 8 hours of sleep I should be getting every night. Please help me to see if this is an illness or anything that I should see the doctor about.

  12. Emma_didas Reply

    Hi Any one with experience of this kind of jerks are so starbon I can’t fall asleep plz. Help me which kind of medical should use to comfort my sleep.
    Write on emmadidas

  13. Anthony Brock Reply

    My fiancee has been twitching as she tries to fall asleep and it’s progressively getting worse. It used to be a little twitch here and there then a bit more and now it’s full blown she’s basically flopping around popping herself awake every 15 seconds or so, with tongue clicks and her whole body spasming out of control. She sleeps very little and im sure this is why. Im worried that it’s a symptom of something neurological thats never been diagnosed nor treated! I’d love for her to be able to sleep well for a change!

  14. Manpriya Reply

    I have been having these shudders for two weeks now. I can’t sleep because of this. As soon as I am falling asleep my body trembles. Sometimes it’s legs sometimes whole body. I am going through lot of stress right now so I think that might be the cause. But nowadays you don’t know what it could be.

  15. Jennifer Backfisch Reply

    Hi I’m Jennifer Backfisch my boyfriend says I twitch so bad that he can’t sleep I have no idea how long this has been going on but I don’t sleep very well at nights. I have no ideal what to do please help me.

  16. Ryan buenaventura Reply

    Hi im ryan, 35 years old. I have the same symptoms, i cant sleep now because of the jerks when i am falling asleep it will accur and i cant sleep anymore this started 4nights ago and still on. Pls i need help. Ty! God bless.

  17. Mary Reply

    I have had sleep myclonic jerk on and off for a few years. I started with restless legs and now my entire body jerks . The worst is sometimes I have dreams that accompany them. I may dream that I am being slapped. I hear the slap, I fell the slap. Then gradually I will wake up and have the body jerks. I have had cat scans, eel’s. Nothing. Sometimes it is scary.

  18. Abhishek kumar Reply

    My father last month survived a severe heart attack and since then he twitches while in his sleep, hr doesn’t complains of any pain or even the realization of that he twitches but he kind of jerks or folds his legs and shakes almost every 10 seconds. I don’t understand what is causing this. Please help

  19. Maggie Reply

    My bf has a twitching of an arm and a leg a while after sleep and periods of apnea. I was a little worried about but I’ve seen is very common.

  20. Rush Reply

    My 3yr old son has been twitching since 6 months old. I didn’t worry that much about it and read somewhere that it could be adrenalines way of releasing its self from the body as too much was developed for the day. His shoulder twitches straight through to fingers. His toes twitch as well. Seems like it’s every 20-30 second intervals.
    He still twitches and I am considering taking him to the Paed. I read it could be iron shortage or over active thyroid? I was also told to give him magnesium
    Supplement. Read also to undergo a EEG.
    Think it’s best for me to consult with the Paed. I’m hoping he will grow out of it I wouldn’t want him on chronic meds.

  21. Cynthia Reply

    My bf has spasms alll night every 3-5 seconds a part of his body moves. His finger, then whole hand, maybe a leg or foot, its constant throughout the night. It’s so worrisome l wonder how he can possibly get a good nights sleep ever? Help

    • Cynthia Reply

      Been reading for days on this. I keep reading that it could be a “Magnesium” deficiency. Ironically l started taking Magnesium because lt’s such a great vitamin that my sister recommended. So l will definitely be asking my bf to try this. His constant movements drive me crazy.

  22. Valerie Reply

    I also have muscle spasms and hiccups during the day. I was diagnosed recently with Raynaud’s disease I’m now wondering if it is related. Thank you for the information.

  23. james Reply

    my gf says my arm will twitch a few min later my leg will twitch and then my whole body will twitch repeadly everynight for a hour and a half before she falls asleep

    • Anonymous Reply

      I am wondering if I might have this. I have not slept at all for the last 2 nights because I cannot stop moving and twitching. My torso is most affected and my stomach muscles Will contract multiple times in a row. Happens whatever position I lay in.

      • cynthia zaleski Reply

        Mine started 7 years ago during a very stressful time in my life. Had unremarkable sleep test . Sometimes even during waking hours at work my leg could kick wastebasket across the room. They stopped for about 3 years but now are back. Could not work anymore. No pain just contractions in my feet, legs, stomach, back, arms and legs. Seeing a new neurologist in Jan.2018. Mentally feel better than i have in years but still have stress in my life.

  24. wendy Reply

    I have noticed that I have this as well…. my fingers, legs, arms, shoulders, etc, twitch, shake, and I have even swung outward with my arms. I notice this when trying to fall asleep. My husband noticed that while I was sleeping, my whole body goes through it on and off throughout the night. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know how long I have been suffering from this.

    • Eric Reply

      We are same symtoms. Me also when i traying to go bed in falling sleep the syntoms are attack me. So that i cant sleep properly sometimes im waking all the night. Is terrible for this kind of disseas.

    • Saima Reply

      I have a little girl with autism and she does the same right before sleeping..lots of hand/finger movement plus one arm and shoulder moving outwards, legs too restless. I think she gets night terrors too. It has been happening for a while now..didnt know until I read this post that other people are experiencing the same

      • Kiesh Reply

        This is exactly what is happening with my daughter at night. It seems to be mild when just falling to sleep, and much more prominent in the hour or two before she gets up for good. We also have nights where she sits up in bed, and lays back down again, and again. One night she kept waking me due to a jerking motion, and me needing to pull her away from the edge of the bed. She has lots of unusual thigns going on. She also has autism. I am seeking referral to a neurologists to find out if this is something to be concerned about, or if it is myoclonus. Like you said, her hands, feet, and shoulder are involved. Once I noticed twitching of her eyes, and lip smacking briefly during this active movement. I’m curious if your daughter ever has laughing episodes in her sleep. My daughter used to do that before I noticed all of this going on.

        • Mandy Reply

          Did you ever find a diagnosis? My 3 year old is experiencing the exact same thing and I am super worried.

        • natasha Reply

          I hope you have seen a neuro by now, your daughters symptoms sound like nocturnal seizures.

      • Jannette Reply

        My dad is under pal care has chronic heart failure has morphine at night only and has started doing this his legs and arms twitch and jump what causes it please jannette

  25. Pamela D Cox Reply

    I have these spasms one after another keeping my husband awake because the entire bed shakes.

    Pam Cox

    • Taylor Reply

      This happens to me as well and my wife now sleeps in a different room because of it.

  26. Renee G. Reply

    I believe I may have this as well. I am having a sleep study done in 2 weeks for night seizures. I have these seizures every other night and they wake me up with severe pain in my back. My muscle relaxers don’t seem to be helping me much anymore. I also have complex partial as far as the Dr knows anyway. My neck, lower back and arm are the parts affected in my sleep.

  27. kenneth kistner Reply

    I want to know if sleeping myoclonus is a form of epilepsy. I was diagnosed with sleeping myoclonus before I was diagnosed as an epileptic more than 30 years ago. The type of epilepsy I have is complex partial seizures / focal seizures.

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