Why Do People Twitch in Their Sleep?

Hypnagogic jerk or twitching is a muscle spasm that happens in an involuntary way, especially as one is falling asleep. It is so called because it happens during that transitional time between sleep and wakefulness. So, why do people twitch in their sleep?

Twitching is usually spontaneous, but it can also happen due to light or sound and other kinds of stimuli. The twitching can sometimes be accompanied by a sensation of falling, dreams, hallucinations, or even loud noises or bright lights that originate from their head.

It is very common for twitches to occur and over 70 percent of people actually get them. There are some that get the twitching on a daily basis and they may not even know it unless they actually end up waking them. There are some factors that can cause a frequency in the occurrence of twitching.

In most cases, the twitching is quite normal and it should not be something to be too worried about.

However, if you find yourself, why do we twitch when sleeping, because it is happening to you, it means that you are anxious about the twitching. You may not be getting enough sleep because of them and you should definitely talk to a specialist and voice the concerns.

Twitching in your sleep can be caused by restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. The sensation is very common, but sometimes you may not even know that it is happening. Sometimes twitching the foot or hand can wake you or your spouse up.

Many conditions can also cause twitching as you fall asleep and they include Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. A specialist can rule out the serious conditions. You should know that you can control all the involuntary movement of your muscles, but there are things that can help eliminate them.

Why we twitch as we sleep?

Involuntary contraction of muscles is referred to as myoclonus in clinical terms. It can be a mild occurrence meaning that it will not disrupt you or your partner, or it can be big and the movement can wake you or your partner.

The reason why the spasms occur is not really understood even though there are those who believe it could be due to the excessive reaction of the brain, especially the part that is responsible for controlling the movement of muscles.

It is important to note that not all twitching is actually myoclonus. The movement could be a muscle spasm. Leg spasms and cramps are common and can be due to muscle fatigue.

What does it mean when you twitch while sleeping?

Twitching in your sleep may appear to be a minor issue, especially if it does not disrupt your life or the life of your spouse. In addition, if you are fine during the day and you do not feel sleepy, then the issue may be nothing to worry about.

However, sometimes it is possible that twitching can be disruptive to you and your partner and you may end up not getting enough sleep. When you twitch, sometimes it means that you have some underlying health issues that need to be attended to right away.

Following the guidelines laid down can be helpful, but if necessary, consider getting professional help.

The causes are very many. Some of the things that can cause twitching may include:

  • Nerve damage that can be caused by cancer treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Arthritis
  • PAD (peripheral artery disease)
  • Pregnancy

The involuntary twitches can be caused by different conditions. However, the main sleep-related issues that can cause twitching include:

  • PLMD which means periodic limb movement disorder and
  • RLS which stands for restless leg syndrome

PLMD is usually related to nervous system issues. It is not a serious health issue but can be treated as such especially when it is adding to daytime sleepiness and insomnia. The condition can also be an indication of the presence of diabetes or anemia.

As for RLS, it is considered to be more serious because it is a neurological disorder. Persons with the condition feel uncomfortable, especially in the leg area. The condition is more than just twitching while you sleep. You may have wondered, why do people shake their legs?

It could be because of RLS because it gives the urge to move the leg area even when a person is sitting down. The symptoms of RLS are usually triggered whenever we lie down and we want to rest. You could experience PLMD if you have RLS.

Treatment and prevention

If you experience twitching in your sleep because if RLS or PLMD, you may be given medications that control the symptoms. This includes dopaminergic agents like Levopada which is usually used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Others may include Valium or other benzodiazepines. The above-mentioned drugs are only meant to be used over a very short time period.

For anyone who would like to try out some techniques that do not include the use of medications, then there are some other steps that they may attempt first. A good example is going to bed without caffeine in your body.

The movements you experience could be prompted by caffeine so avoid taking too much coffee. Caffeine is associated with twitching and you may try avoiding it for a couple of days so as to know whether it is the cause or not.

If you start to skip caffeine, you should continue exercising. According to research, physical activity can help ease twitching muscles even a little. You could try an intense workout or just walk. Any activity during the day that is optimal can actually reduce twitching while you sleep.

Another thing that could help is to try sticking to a sleeping schedule and make it as regular as possible. You should also ensure you have a set wake-up time. When you try to stick to such a schedule within a couple of days, you should see some improvement with the twitching.

It could even make other sleep associated issues recede. Taking a hot bath can also help in the relaxation of muscles. You could also try massaging your legs before you go to bed.

If you find that the above-suggested solutions do not work for you, it is always advisable that you talk to your doctor.

Types of twitching

Why Do People Twitch In Their SleepMyoclonus is the term used to refer to twitching or jerking when someone is asleep and it takes many forms. One thing to note is that the effects and causes of every type of twitching differ to a great extent. The types of twitching include:

⇒ Action myoclonus: this has to do with twitching which is usually intensified or triggered by movements that are voluntary. This type of twitching is quite disabling since it can affect your voice, face, legs, and arms. It may happen because of brain damage when you do not get adequate oxygen, or if your heart stops temporarily.

⇒ Cortical reflex jerking: this can be described as a kind of epilepsy originating within one’s cerebral cortex. Usually, the jerks will involve some muscles within a specific area of the body. However, many muscles can be affected at the same time.

⇒ Essential myoclonus: this is a kind of stable kind of twitching that does not seem to get worse over time. This is the kind of twitching that happens without any abnormalities within the nerves or brain or epilepsy. The disorder can be inherited as well.

⇒ Palatal myoclonus: this can occur at the rear of your mouth roof and can be regular and rhythmic kind of contractions. This kind of contractions can also occur alongside twitching in some other muscles, including those in the diaphragm, throat, tongue, and face. These contractions can be rapid and can happen up to 150 times within one minute. They can get more persistent as you sleep

⇒ PME: stands for progressive myoclonus epilepsy and it is a disease group that can be identified by epileptic seizures, twitching, difficulty in coordination and so on. The diseases can get worse with time and can lead to death.

⇒ Reticular reflex myoclonus: this is generalized epilepsy that originates from brain stem connecting to the spinal cord. External stimuli or voluntary movement can trigger this kind of twitching.

⇒ Stimulus-sensitive myoclonus: this can come from different sources such as movement, noise, and light.

⇒ Sleep myoclonus: occurs in the initial sleep phases and may be caused by the stimulus. In some cases, you may not need treatment for this.

Can you sleep with your eyes open?

For anyone who has a curious mind, this question may have popped up in his or her mind once or twice. To answer the question, I would say yes. Around 10 percent of people sleep with their eyes open. It may sound quite harmless, but there are many reasons as to why your eyes need to be shut when you sleep.

Why your eyes should be shut during sleep?

The reason why you should shut your eyes during sleep is quite simple. One thing you probably know is that the eyelids protect the eyes from different kinds of matter. When we are awake, we blink and this helps in clearing the eyes of particles and dust that may make their way into your eyes.

When we blink, we help in lubrication of the eyes so that they do not dry and then get irritated. When we fall asleep, we do not blink and so having the eyes closed is the only way to remain safe.

When your eyes are shut, outside stimuli like movement and light that may disrupt sleep can keep you from getting enough sleep, which is not a good thing.

What are the dangers associated with sleeping with eyes open?

If you sleep with your eyes open, you may wake up with dry eyes that are irritated and red. This can be painful and annoying. There are many issues that can arise if you happen to sleep with the eyes open chronically. You can cause your eyes to be inflamed and you may get ulcers, scarring, or even dry spots on the cornea or in the eyelids.

Why it happens?

Sleeping with the eyes open is not really understood, but can lead to nocturnal lagophthalmos, which is the inability to close the eyelids full when you sleep at night. Skin disorders or cosmetic surgery can be a cause of this while facial nerve issues can also cause the inability to close the eyes during sleep.

Most people who sleep with eyes open do not always suffer serious side effects. Treatment can, therefore, be simple such as using an eye ointment or fake tears before sleeping and just after waking to lubricate the eyes. You may consider using a mask over your eyes. If the case is serious, then it may be necessary to get surgery.

Why do hands fall asleep while sleeping?

It is not new to hear people say that their hands fall asleep while they are asleep. If this is something you experience, then you may be wondering whether this is a normal thing or you should be worried about it.

Hands falling asleep, as you sleep, is not something that most healthy people complain about so it should not be considered normal. If this is something that is happening to you, then it makes sense to find out exactly what is causing it in the first place.

When any part of the body goes numb, it means that there is a cutoff, of nerve supply. If the hands fall asleep when you sleep, it may be an indication that there is a nerve that is compressed.

Nerves get their own supply of blood and if there is pressure on a nerve, then the supply is cut off starving the nerve of nutrients and oxygen. This leads to a shutdown. When the pressure is released, everything goes back to normal. However, when this happens over and over again, the nerve can be damaged.

You may wonder why this happens. In most cases, it may be because of the neck stenosis. If your neck happens to be in a funny position as you sleep and the muscles are related, it may mean that the nerves can be crunched and this leads to the hand’s sleeping.

If this is a common thing that you experience, then a cervical collar can be used to get rid of the numbness. You may need to try out different kinds of collars that vary in tightness to find the one that works best.

The other cause is thoracic outlet syndrome. Many physicians who do not specialize in musculoskeletal treatment ignore numbness in the hands. It is important to find the root cause or you may start wondering why you are less sensitive over all. It may also cause your hands, elbows, and shoulders to ache all through.

Why is my middle finger twitching?

You may be alarmed if your middle finger is twitching. However, this can be quite a harmless symptom and in most cases, it can be because of muscle strain, anxiety, or stress. Muscle spasms and finger twitching can appear to be more prevalent now because of gaming and texting, which have become very popular activities today.

In most cases, finger twitching can be quite mild but there are some cases when it could indicate a very serious movement disorder or nerve condition.


It is a symptom that is put in motion by different disorders or factors. The most common factors that could trigger the finger twitching could include:

Muscle fatigue. This is when the muscle is strained or is overused. When you happen you work with your hands most of the time, play lots of video games, text a lot, or use a keyboard every day, then it is possible that the middle finger could get fatigued and this can result in twitching.

Vitamin deficiency: if you miss some important nutrients, it may end up affecting nerves and muscle function. Calcium, vitamin B, and potassium deficiency can all lead to hand or finger twitching.

Dehydration in the body means that you are not hydrated adequately. This is necessary for purposes of maintaining the normal electrolyte balance. Dehydration can lead to twitching.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that can cause muscle spasms, numbness, and tingling in the hands and fingers. The syndrome occurs when there is pressure applied to the wrist median nerve.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurogenerative disorder, which ends up affecting movement. Tremors can be common, but speech changes, writing disabilities, and bodily stiffness can also occur.

Lou Gehrig’s disease falls under nervous disorders that can destroy nerve cells. Muscle twitching is a sign of the illness and may progress to full disability.

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition that makes the body produce less of the parathyroid hormone. We need this for maintenance of phosphorus and calcium balance. One of the signs includes twitching.

Treating finger twitching

The issue of finger twitching may resolve itself. However, for persistent symptoms, you may need to talk to a doctor so as to find the best treatment plan. Usually, this will depend on the causes and the options can include:

  • Surgery
  • Brain stimulation
  • Botox or steroid injections
  • Bracing or splinting
  • Psychotherapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescribed medication

While finger twitching is not a symptom considered as life-threatening, it can indicate an underlying issue. If it happens for a long period and if there are other symptoms, you should see a doctor.


Sleep is one of the most important things to humans and it should be of the best quality. Resting well at night determines how well you perform during the day. Productivity can be affected to a great extent if you do not get enough sleep.

For this reason, you should deal with all sleep-related issues when they arise. Twitching is one of the things that need to be handled. Sometimes it can happen without your knowledge and this is quite common in different people. However, if twitching in sleep every night is disturbing your partner’s sleep or your own, then you need to get medical attention and try to stop it. There are medical ways that can help eliminate the issue while avoiding caffeine and exercising can also be tried out.

Written By
Kate Mallord is a health blogger. In the year 1988, She graduated from the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. Kate is an exemplary doctor. She has always devoted herself to caring for older adult patients. Read More