Jarred awake by sensation of someone grabbing, shaking, or poking me?
December 29, 2013 1:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm sometimes jarred awake by the physical sensation of a hand roughly grabbing, shaking, or poking me. What's going on? NON-WOO EXPLANATIONS ONLY, PLEASE!

When I wake up I find that there is no one and nothing in or near my bed that could have touched me like that.

Even after I'm fully awake, I continue to feel residual soreness where the "fingers" touched me just as I would with a real touch.

It doesn't correspond to any dream I might be having at the time, if I'm even dreaming at all.

I'm familiar with (and have experienced) sleep paralysis and hypnic jerks and it is neither of those.

The affected body part varies -- sometimes I'm poked in my side, armpit, arm, or outer thigh and sometimes my arm or shoulder is grabbed. There's nothing sexual about either the sensations or the locations.

I don't have any past trauma associated with being touched in those places and/or touched in my sleep.

I haven't kept a log but I estimate this happens at least a couple times per year and has been happening for as long as I can remember.

I feel terrified when I wake up, but I'm not sure if the terror is from being understandly disturbed by the feeling of a hand grabbing/poking me when I'm supposedly alone or if the spike in adrenaline precedes the physical sensations that wake me up. Regardless, it is very difficult for me to fall back asleep whenever this happens (hence this 4am AskMe).

In the future, I think it would help a lot if I could just tell myself "oh, that's just such-and-such phenomenon" (as I do with sleep paralysis intruder dreams -- they used to leave me terrified too but now I just think "ugh, sleep paralysis" and go back to sleep) but I don't know the name of what is happening to me or how it works. My Google searches thus far have just lead to crap about demons and spirits and other such stupid shit. :(

Please advise, my science-minded friends! Thanks!
posted by Jacqueline to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like a charlie horse, which your sleeping brain is interpreting as a grab or poke.
posted by cairdeas at 1:47 AM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


(It reminds me of the time I couldn't breathe in my sleep because a cat decided to sleep on my chest, and I dreamed that I was being crushed under a stack of paperwork I was stressed out about, and woke up asking for help to get the papers off me. Sleeping brains can come up with weird explanations for sensations.)
posted by cairdeas at 1:50 AM on December 29, 2013


I am pretty sure you are experiencing hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations. Basically, hallucinations that happen as you're waking up or as you're falling asleep (which can happen throughout the night to varying degrees.) This is normal-- some people see or hear stuff (shadowy forms, the doorbell ringing, someone calling your name), some people feel stuff happening. I've had creatures grab at me through my mattress, which is terrifying in the moment, but basically nothing to fear, health-wise. It's related to sleep paralysis and hypnic jerks.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:51 AM on December 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


Agree with the above. You could try adding a little extra salt and potassium to your diet for a couple of days and see if this stops. Leg cramps and twitches can be a symptom of low electrolytes.
posted by rpfields at 1:52 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can feelings from hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations linger even after fully awakening? One of the main reasons I haven't already written these experiences off as just dreaming is that I continue to feel as if I was actually grabbed/poked for a while -- like, right now my armpit still hurts from being "poked" awake two hours ago.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:02 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm poked in my side, armpit, arm, or outer thigh and sometimes my arm or shoulder is grabbed. There's nothing sexual about either the sensations or the locations.

It sounds like you're always getting a "jab" in a muscle? You're never feeling a grip around your elbow or ear or something that is definitely not a muscle?

If so, I agree with the above posters that it's a muscle twitch or cramp or even a very mild charlie horse. I used to get charlie horses and cramps at night sometimes, often but not solely in my legs, and the sensation is definitely strong (and often painful) enough to jerk a person awake.

You could try adding a little extra salt and potassium to your diet for a couple of days and see if this stops. Leg cramps and twitches can be a symptom of low electrolytes.

When I went to the doctor about a muscle twitch (in my eye), she said it was because I had an imbalance between salt and potassium. My diet tends to be heavy on the salt, but a few bananas or potatoes a week have kept the twitches and cramps at bay ever since.
posted by rue72 at 2:07 AM on December 29, 2013


Yup, now that you've pointed it out, I've realized that it does always happen in a muscle and the residual soreness does feel like the after effects of a muscle spasm.

I'm sometimes woken up by muscle spams that I can recognize as muscle spasms and I know that I sometimes I have other kinds of hypnopompic hallucinations so I suppose they must occasionally overlap.

Thanks!!!
posted by Jacqueline at 2:29 AM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ghosts. Because it's clearly not aliens.

I get this a lot. In fact, I have an entire litany of sleep things, including night terrors, sleep paralysis, sleep walking and the crushing hand. And they linger.

You can tell yourself its just a salt and potassium cramp (and it may be), because it sure as hell ain't ghosts or aliens, but my personal explanation is that it's my body reacting to sleep stimulus.

Shortages of minerals might be part of the answer though, but never discount the brain being odd as part of your reaction, because where I have had "it" is often way from muscles.
posted by Mezentian at 3:02 AM on December 29, 2013


I had some horrific night time cramps in my first year at university that ended when I addressed my low salt intake. The pains lingered for about half an hour after waking.
posted by knapah at 3:43 AM on December 29, 2013


In the future, I think it would help a lot if I could just tell myself "oh, that's just such-and-such phenomenon" (as I do with sleep paralysis intruder dreams -- they used to leave me terrified too but now I just think "ugh, sleep paralysis" and go back to sleep) but I don't know the name of what is happening to me or how it works.

My own code name for unusual perceptions that don't seem to relate to anything verifiable is "special effects" and I find that I don't actually need to know how they work in order to put aside any distress they cause; just reminding myself of the code name is enough.

One of the most useful aspects of psychedelic experiences is to ram home just how miraculous it is that what goes on in our brains usually does relate in some fairly detailed way to what's going on outside them. And since sleep is a state where much of what makes that work is shut down, weird mismatches between the real world and things perceived while sleeping or half-sleeping are only to be expected.
posted by flabdablet at 5:20 AM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have this.

I'm just falling asleep, and I get what I call 'Broomed' because it feels just like someone whacked me on the back with a broom. It's a full body convulsion.

There is medical terminology about it, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is called.
posted by Sphinx at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2013


Are you on any antidepressant medications? I ask because I am on a medication called Viibryd and one of the side effects is vivid dreams - for me, we're talking Inception-style, as real as reality dreams. That includes sensations of being touched, o someone whispering in my ear, of being locked inside a paralyzed body where I only have motor control of my eyes, and so on. If anything is new medwise it might be a good idea to read up on side effects to see if that might be the issue.
posted by echolalia67 at 12:49 PM on December 29, 2013


Nthing the cramp or charlie horse. The reason it hurts the next morning is because the muscle was tight to begin with, then the actual spasm occurs, which wakes you up. Because you're upset, you retain the tightness in the muscle--with or without realizing--and that translates to being sore in the morning. One thing that might help: if you know you've had a stressful day or are tight for any reason, try doing a full body relaxation before you go to sleep.

First, tighten the muscles of your feet, then deliberately relax. Try not to tighten anything else except what you're targeting. Then move up your leg, doing calf, then thigh, then other leg, then hips, abdomen, chest. Do fingers, forearms, etc. Even tighten your scalp and squint your eyes. Make sure that every muscle relaxes completely before you move to another muscle group. If this knocks you out before you can get your whole body done, then at minimum, relax the large muscle groups. I sometimes have to do it twice till I can obtain the completely relaxed, floating state that gives me a deep and dreamless sleep. Also do the potassium, etc. stuff above and make sure you're good nutritionally.

Good luck.

Sphinx: Broomed--I'll have to remember that. I hate when it happens. Didn't know it was a medical 'thing' just thought it was my weird body.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:42 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you use Melatonin? When I tried it to see if I could have a better quality of sleep, I ended up having vivid, scary nightmares and woke up with muscle cramps. This was on a very light dose.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:26 PM on December 29, 2013


I've never called it broomed, but both my partner and I sometimes get the full body convulsion -- usually just the one.
posted by Mezentian at 7:19 AM on December 30, 2013


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