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Feels Like My Heart Stops, I Jolt Awake. Extremely Terrifying

I have always wondered what the explanation is for that phenomenon.
Hypnic (or hypnagogic) jerks are thought to be a result of stress or chemical overstimulation (like caffeine). There's another theory that they are an evolutionary remnant, from when we were more primate like and slept in trees. The jerk would serve to wake one up just before sleeping, in order to make sure that the sleeping position was secure, to avoid falling out of the tree while sleeping.

Sometimes they are just muscle twitches. But it's very common for them to be accompanied by the illusion of falling. They are pretty interesting. On waking, the person usually has an accelerated heart rate, sometimes sweating.


Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally.

When I am laying in...

I just had this occur. My phone rang in the other room and I jumped up to get it. Got in the other room and my heart started racing really bad. I laid down for a second and the next thing I remember is jolting awake to my heart racing again...this was the most frightening experience for me to date.


Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally.

When I am laying in...
I am so sorry I am currently going through the exact same thing I'm scard of dying sometimes it happens doing the day may God protect you from all evil no weapon formed against you shall prosper in the name of Jesus Amen that prayer was for me and you both and whoever else that feels like this and congratulations your acheivments and God always be with you!
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Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally.

When I am laying in...
So I had exactly all of this start happening about 4 years ago every single night, all night long, and it lasted for about 6 weeks, which is when after trying everything, I found something that worked for me to 'overcome' this awful sleep problem. I figured I'd share this here to help others who might be struggling with this. I did tons of internet research for weeks, circling around various physical problems it could be but eventually the people that I found had the most similar symptoms eventually discovered it was anxiety/stress related. At the time I did not make the connection, but I realize now that this terrible life-ruining sleep issue started shortly after being sexually assaulted by my black-out-drunk boyfriend when he came home late one night, I had been fast asleep. At the time I "brushed it off" and sort of forgot about it for 4 years so that trauma was being expressed by my body in a way I guess.
I thought it would never stop and I was convinced that if I didn't die in my sleep one night, I would eventually die from lack of sleep. For 6 weeks I was lucky to get 1 hour of sleep every night. I never saw a doctor about it since I have a severe medical phobia. I decided to eventually accept that it was anxiety/stress related (I attributed it to being in school at the time) and was able to slowly get better.

Obviously I'm not a doctor but it would seem that this kind of thing could be caused by just about anything that gives you anxiety or stress, and maybe even more so if that thing is sleep related, because then it forms a feedback loop, which is why perhaps a lot of people find that they experience this as part of other medical disorders that affect sleep. I think this could definitely be something experienced as a symptom of someone's PTSD based on my own experience. Once I was able to recognize it as a stress reaction and tell myself that I was safe, and I wasn't going to die, and that nothing bad was going to happen in my sleep, I was slowly able to overcome it. I also used weird techniques of 'brain distraction', as I call it. I slept on the couch for a while and listened to music I knew the words to while trying to sleep or I would play video games until I passed out. It seems like if I kept my brain distracted while it was trying to go to sleep, it would just do it without over-thinking it and panicking. Avoided caffeine, sugar, and weed like the devil until it resolved - anything that makes your brain think more than normal. It took a few weeks but eventually I went back to our bed and had 1 night that it didn't happen at all. From then on, I knew I was going to be okay and was able to move past it. Today it still happens 1x a week on average but only like 5 times before I'm able to just go to sleep, mostly on nights where I am anxious for whatever reason.


I have PTSD and the same problem, start falling asleep jerk awake feel like cant breath and heart racing. I was told to try taking magnesium. At bedtime I take a bit more than than daily recommended dose but the horrible hypnic jerks stay under control. They did come back but nowhere near as bad when I tried going down to daily recommended 400mg. Downside is magnesium can cause stomach trouble as it can be a laxative to some people. I hope this helps because the hypnic jerking is truely one of the scariest things I've been through.


Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally..
Hello there, I've been experiencing the EXACT same issue for over the past few years as well. I recently loss my mother and gotten a new job and now entering possibly a new relationship so as you can see I'm under a lot of emotions I can't explain nor tame. Im currently trying to make a life for my sister and I since we lost our parents.I refuse to take any medication cause I'm not sure what's going on? I need some relief cause I too haven't gotten any sleep lately and I'm beyond exhausted!!!

Hi there,
I would like to contribute to this discussion hopefully with a cure as I suffered the following symptoms...
Thank you so much for this post! I have gone through a traumatic experience and is trying to cope with it. I started my new job a few months ago and have been more tired than I've ever been smh I also need to watch what I eat, i do eat white rice like crazy and carbs. .so I'm eager to try these techniques in hope of major relief!
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I came to this site in hopes that I'd be able to find an answer. Over the past few months,(& literally never before this!) I've been having what my doctor says is panic/anxiety attacks. There is a huge part of me that doesn't believe him. I've had tons of blood work done, I wore a Holter monitor, all of my results were fine. I had a BIG episode in January that led me to the E.R. My hands to my elbows went numb. My fingers curled in. My face around my nose, mouth and jawline went numb. It felt like I was having trouble speaking. I almost blacked out a couple of times. They watched me for a little over an hour & then sent me home, telling me I was 'fine.'

I've been waking up in the middle of the night, in a total panic because it feels like my heart stopped. It scares me so much, I stay up as long as possible in order to exhaust myself because I'm scared I'll fall asleep & then not ever wake up again. My bigger problem is, it's begun happening to me while I'm awake & fully conscious. Does this happen to anyone else? Is there any way to stop this from happening?

I'm going through an entirely new thing tonight. Around my heart actually hurts. It's making gurgling noises and there are occasional sharp pains. It mostly feels like i put icy hot across my chest area.

I hope I don't sound like I'm out of my mind. I'm just (literally) exhausted from feeling this way & I'd love it if I could get it all to just go away.

Any information would be greatly helpful... thanks in advance :)


I've been having this happen now for about 2 years. It started up after I fainted one morning and went to the ER. They said I just had a vasovagal syncope... terrifying, but harmless really. I never accepted that diagnosis and spun into this crazy anxiety that I'm still living with. Then the sleep problem started right thereafter. I'm pretty positive this is an anxiety response. It certainly feel scary and feels like your heart has stopped and all... but if I take an Ativan before bed, it doesn't happen at all. Don't take Ativan, btw, except for short periods. It's easy to become dependent on it, and really hard to withdrawal from. But man it's like a magic pill where these sleep disturbances are concerned.

Anyway, I had my sleep stuff mostly under control for the better part of a year, but I think my antidepressant lost its efficacy. The jolts have come back pretty hard this past week. I have some Ativan on hand but I don't want to take it. It's really tough to deal with this. Getting an hour or less rest is terrible. Working on finding a medication that will be more effective and let me get on with my life. 2 years is a long time to suffer with anything. I cant imagine what it must be like for those of you that have dealt with it all your lives.
Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally.

When I am laying in...
....Hi this is my very first time on this web site after so many years with cPTSD.. I think you my have Sleep apnea? Do you cough yourself to wake up when sleeping? Or do you have flashbacks even in your sleep as well as through the day whilst trying to watch Tv?
Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally.

When I am laying in...
hey the same thing happens to me everyday its been few weeks now i dont know what to do i went to the hospital like 10 times i am scared of falling asleep and not waking up i dont know what to do i just wanted to know if you found a way to get rid of the problem plz let me know .


Over the past few years, this weird occurrence has happened to me occasionally.

When I am laying in...
I am having this exact same problem and have been for months. To be honest, it's ruining my life. I've talked to my doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist, and can get no answers. I posted about this here as well and if you're following this topic I'm sure you've read my post. It feels EXACTLY as you've described and I literally thought my husband would find me dead in our bed when he got home this morning. PLEASE someone help all of us suffering with this. It's hell.
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