Sleep Myoclonus – Waking Up with a Start. Do You Twitch or Jerk as You Drift Off to Sleep

Sleep Myoclonus is a benign condition that causes an arm or leg to twitch when a person begins to fall asleep. That’s enough to wake up someone who is trying to fall asleep. Doctors refer to the condition as “sleep starts” or “Sleep Myoclonus.”

The Condition.
Many people notice, just as they are starting to fall asleep, that they wake with a start, as if there were a sudden noise or movement in the room, although they knew there had been neither. Once the initial stage of falling asleep passed over into deeper sleep, they aren’t aware of those movements occurring again.

For some people, the left arm and shoulder will twitch. At other times, it is the right side that is involved. Sometimes it may be one leg that twitches, or possibly the entire upper torso. It is simply a single, sudden contraction of muscles of whatever part of the body is involved. You may have heard it called a “fright response” because the sleep start feels like someone shakes you.

The Diagnosis.
When diagnosed, you may wonder if the condition serious? Is it a warning sign of some neurological disease? Hoping for some answers, you may ask for a referral for a sleep study from your health care provider.

Many people are familiar with having a sleep study because they may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. For sleep apnea, the use of a C-PAP machine at night sends air under pressure into the throat to keep it open. If the machine isn’t used then sleep apnea causes snoring which affects breathing and wakes the person up. You may want to know if sleep starts do occur during sleep and if so, how they affect your sleep patterns.

You may find that the neurologist who interprets the results of your sleep study will note sudden involuntary muscular contractions and diagnose you with the condition known as “Sleep Myoclonus,” not “Periodic Limb Movement” which is also a common disturber of sleep. Knowing what the diagnosis is will help your primary physician determine the best course of treatment.

The Prognosis.
Sleep Myoclonus is the least serious form of myoclonus and is, for the most part, a benign condition, according to the National Institute of Health. The condition is not considered a disease or a signal of an impending health problem.

Your neurologist, however, may offer to prescribe a medication often used for neurologic disorders. But, if the sleep myoclonus is not affecting you much, you may choose not to take medication right now. The neurologist will most likely agree if the prognosis is that incidents of sleep starts are not likely to increase enough to disturb your sleep patterns.


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