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Oct 1, 2018

If You’ve Ever Jerked Awake Suddenly While Falling Asleep, This Is What It Means

It seems as though no matter how many times it happens to me, it never gets any better or feels any less abrupt.
You know, you’re starting to drift off into dreamland, but just as you’re about to slip headfirst into that deep sleep, you start to fall, or something hits you in the face, waking you from dreamworld in a sudden and startling manner.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been curious about this strange phenomena, but I have always wondered why this happens. Apparently, it’s something that happens to people on a regular basis.
And scientists have finally figured out what it means. They’ve even given it an official name, the “hypnic jerk.”

The hypnic jerk is described differently by everyone, but commonly shared experiences say that it feels like falling. Oddly enough, its also been described as a demon choking you in your sleep.
Researchers think that a few external causes, like caffeine and tobacco, might increase how often the hypnic jerk happens to you. They recommend avoiding any caffeinated drinks if bedtime is only a few hours away.
It’s also been seen that medications like Adderall and Ritalin can have similar effects, and sleep deprivation has been seen to trigger the phenomena as well.

The hypnic jerk is most often seen when a person falls asleep rapidly, during, or after they’ve been in an exhaustive state.
On rare occasions, when the body is really exhausted the brain will process stages of sleep too quickly, confusing itself into thinking that the body and its major systems are failing.
It responds by jolting you awake with a burst of chemicals, one that the brain might interpret, and then build a dream designed to wake you up, which is the basic premise behind the theory of the ‘hypnic jerk.’
See also: Science Says Listening to Sad Music Actually Make You Happier
We’ve all turned to melancholy music to make us feel better at some point in our lives, but why does doubling down on the sadness help drag us out of the mire?
A new study sheds light on what’s going on inside our brains when we match our music to our feels, and it looks like sad music can be enjoyable – rather than simply depressing – because it triggers positive memories that can help to lift our mood.
The study – conducted by researchers at Durham University in the UK and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland – analysed three large-scale surveys, covering 2,436 people in total, and found that there was a wide spectrum of responses to wistful songs.

But three key responses stood out in particular: pleasure, comfort, and pain. Often these reactions were triggered by happy or sad memories recalled by the music, according to the researchers.
Psychologist Adrian North from Curtin University in Australia – who wasn’t involved in the new study – says there are two groups of possible explanations for why we enjoy listening to sad music like this: one from social psychology, and one from cognitive neuroscience.
In terms of social psychology, one way of thinking about this is that we feel better about ourselves if we focus on someone who’s doing even worse, a well-known process known as downward social comparison. Everything’s going to be okay, because Thom Yorke is having an even worse day than you are.
Another hypothesis from social psychology is that people like to listen to music that mirrors the tone of their current life circumstances – the songs act as a sort of tuning fork for our own situations, and they resonate with us.

The second group of options, which North thinks is more convincing, is centred on neuroscience and the chemical processes actually going on inside our minds.
Some scientists think melancholy music is linked to the hormone prolactin, a chemical which helps to curb grief. The body is essentially preparing itself to adapt to a traumatic event, and when that event doesn’t happen, the body is left with a pleasurable mix of opiates with nowhere else to go.
Thanks to brain scans, we know that listening to music releases dopamine – a neurotransmitter associated with food, sex, and drugs – at certain emotional peaks, and it’s also possible that this is where we get the pleasure from listening to sad tunes.
Another hypothesis suggests sadness is handled differently by our minds when we experience it through art rather than first-hand: think a weepy movie, a poignant song, or a tragic painting.
Research published in 2014 showed that listeners often gravitate towards sad music because of its perceived beauty, and the greater aesthetic appeal of gloomy tunes was also noted in the new study from the UK and Finland.
That might link into the association between feeling miserable and creating iconic art: some research points to a melancholy temperament leading to works of art that are more appealing, to the extent that you can objectively judge art anyway. Arguably, sadness seems to make us more focussed and diligent, which could affect listening to as well as creating music.
One thing is certain: this pleasant sadness doesn’t work the same way in everyone. The authors of the new study discovered that for some people sad tunes were in fact distressing and negative, usually because of the bad memories they brought up – so a somber and depressed soundtrack may not always be the best way to cheer up a friend.

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