There is a medical name for this thing. What is it?
February 22, 2016 9:24 AM   Subscribe

At some point in the past 4-6 months I have read a reference to a sleep-related phenomenon that I experience and is apparently super-common based on all my failed googling, but because it is so common I can't find the place where I read the name of the medical term.

The circumstances are this: upon laying down to sleep - in particular at an unusual time, like a nap or when suffering jet lag - the subject experiences the sensation (but not actual fact) of a racing heart, vertigo/swoops/spins, sometimes nausea, sometimes accompanied by hypnic jerks or the sensation of having just had one without actually doing it.

The word I would have used, and one I see all over the internet where it gets armchair diagnosed as anxiety but is not anxiety it is a sleep-related mechanism, is it feels like I am about to faint or am fainting, repeatedly. It's a really gross feeling, and I never have it at night.

And whenever I read this recent thing I read, it did in fact reference Vasovagal Response as being the thing that this is not, because that is vascular and can be triggered with a tilt table and this is part of the neurological sleep shut-down process that you're normally not conscious for, and it is a thing a sleep study might note but for whatever lizard brain reason it is most likely to occur when the sun is out. It can't be triggered with a tilt table, or by laying down but staying awake. You have to be in the process of falling asleep. I think it might have even said something about this not technically being a parasomnia because not being able to nap isn't considered a critical function. (I certainly can't find it on any lists of parasomnias.)

There's definitely a term. I am kicking myself so hard for not bookmarking whatever I read that told me the term. Do you know the term? It isn't a big deal that I can only rarely nap, but not being able to remember the name of the thing might very well start keeping me up at night.
posted by Lyn Never to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's not quite the same but you're not thinking of Exploding Head Syndrome are you?
posted by jessamyn at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No, and I meant to include this link, because as far as I can tell it's not anything on this list of sleep disorders, though I wish they all had that kind of memorable name and then I wouldn't have this problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2016

Ok, unfortunately I don't know the term for the thing you're describing, but I can at least attest to the fact that it is totally an Actual Thing. This is the first time I've seen it described in any coherent/recognizable way, though, so thanks! FWIW, this phenomenon is exactly why I can't properly sleep on airplanes (or in cars/buses), or take restful naps during the day. It seems to happen every time I start to fall asleep when I am either sitting up (eg, the airplane situation) or in a brightly lit room at an odd time of day. It IS a really gross feeling and frankly it's a major reason I've never attempted international travel, because it's bound to happen if I get tired enough but am not in an actual bed, at night.

I don't think it's the exact same thing as a plain old hypnic jerk, because those I've had falling asleep in bed on occasion and those are startling without including the nausea or icky faint feeling.
posted by aecorwin at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2016

Benign positional vertigo?
posted by the_wintry_mizzenmast at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2016

Hypnagogic hallucination?
The Wikipedia page for hypnagogia might help you identify it.
posted by curtains at 3:15 PM on February 22, 2016

I would love to know the name for this!! I've tried to google and also failed because a lot of people get vertigo or something while falling asleep so I just ended up on forums of people talking about it.

For me it seems related somewhat to a hypnic jerk, sleep paralysis, and vertigo - but not BPV. Hypnagogic hallucination doesn't describe what happens to me. I also have POTS and get episodes of vertigo and (I think?) vertigo related/vestibular migraines. It's only happened to me since the onset of those disorders over the past few years. Though I've occasionally had slight sleep paralysis and hypnic jerk episodes before in my life.

So, if my description below is what you have - then know I'm in the same boat and maybe the description can help someone find the answer.

I'm not dizzy when I'm laying down, but right as I fall asleep it feels like I've been flipped upside-down on a rollercoaster, my stomach flips and tightens, I feel severely nauseous, I get hot and start sweating, I gasp awake with my heart racing. I sometimes have a hypnic jerk with it, but it much more severe than that. It happens most when I'm overtired or have had a bad vertigo/POTS day. I've also had nights so bad that it happened the whole night to the point that I would have DREAMS that I was on something spinning or nauseas in my dream and then wake up after short periods of time and barely sleep.

So yeah, if someone can find a name for this, it would help me describe it to my doctor and figure out what can help it besides what I already do.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2016

Myclonus or myclonic jerk?
posted by Otter_Handler at 5:54 PM on February 22, 2016

I would agree that this sounds like hypnagogic hallucinations.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:30 AM on February 23, 2016

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