Whole Lot of Shaking Going On. But only right before bed. And not in the fun way.
November 26, 2007 2:29 PM   Subscribe

So, sometimes, right before I fall asleep, when I'm laying down in my bed, I'll feel like there's an earthquake. Not a big one. But SOMETHING. What's going on?

Now I live in California. So I checked the USGS and there's, they say, no more activity than usual.

The shaking happens infrequently. Like 5 times a year. MAYBE. But still, it's a little unsettling. It's like little shaking and a little rocking. And, according to girls that have been in my bed at the time, I'm the only one who can feel it.

Maybe I'm just sensitive to earthquakes. Or maybe this is my version of the falling sensation right before you fall asleep. But I'd love to know if there's any medical info on this. Maybe it's a syndrome. Like "Beddy Bye Shake and Bake" or something. So am I the earth sensitive guy from Phenomenon, is it something serious or is this something unusual but harmless like "photoelectric sneeze response" ?
posted by rileyray3000 to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Do you ever wake up suddenly to a falling sensation and a strong muscle twitch just after you have fallen asleep?

This strange falling sensation and muscle twitch is known as a hypnagogic myoclonic twitch or “Hypnic jerk” If this has happened to you on more than one occasion, don’t worry, you are not alone. Close to 70 percent of all people experience this phenomenon just after nodding off, according to a recent study at the Mayo Clinic.

Most experts agree that this is a natural part of the sleeping process, much like slower breathing and a reduced heartbeat. The occurance is well known and has been well documented. However, experts are still not completely sure why the body does this.

The general consensus among researchers is that, as your muscles begin to slack and go into a restful state just as you are falling asleep; your brain senses these relaxation signals and misinterprets them, thinking you are falling down. The brain then sends signals to the muscles in your arms and legs in an attempt to jerk you back upright. This misinterpretation that takes place in your brain may also be responsible for the “falling” dreams that accompany the falling sensation. These “dreams” are not really normal dreams, as they are not produced from R.E.M sleep, but rather more like a daydream or hallucination in response to the body’s sensations.

SleepingWhile this phenomenon happens to most everyone, studies have recently begun to link occurrences of “Hypnic jerks” to sleep anxiety, fatigue, and discomfort. People who are having trouble sleeping or can’t get comfortable in bed appear to experience the sensation more often throughout the night. It is especially more common with people who are trying to fight falling asleep or have deprived themselves of sleep for more than 24 hours.

Researchers believe that the lack of sleep from sleep anxiety or sleep deprivation confuses the muscles and the brain. The muscles continually attempt to relax and shut down for rest, while your brain remains awake creating continued “misinterpretations” of falling or loss of balance.

Scientists and researchers continue to study sleep twitching and jerking in a small capacity, but state that the sensation is completely normal for our bodies and is “of little medical significance”. Our bodies go through several procedures of shutting down and preparing for an extended period of rest. “Hypnic jerking” is just one of them. It doesn’t appear to cause damage to body and poses no danger to our physical wellbeing. That may be true, but it could pose a significant danger to my bed when I mess my pants next time I wake up thinking I just fell off of a building.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:35 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

My first thought is sleep paralysis. I get it as a side effect of going off my medication, but it's more like a complete inability to move coupled with a weird but very real-feeling sensation like i'm falling or throwing myself off the bed. If you always get this sensation right as you're falling asleep, it might be something like that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2007

Is there a freeway or major highway nearby? If so, it could be a large truck going by just at the moment when you're in between awake and asleep and it's just enough to awaken you, but you're not awake enough to realize what did it. Other people in bed with you may not be laying still enough (physically or mentally) to sense it, or maybe if they are more alert their brains inadvertantly filter it out (if they can hear the truck going by).

I experienced something like that when I lived near an L.A. freeway.
posted by Doohickie at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2007

How long does it last? If it's immediate, then I'd suggest these possible explanations:

- local phenomenon. Something big fell over a half mile from you. Or a sonic boom high up. Nothing the USGS would notice.

- hypnic jerk or Hypnagogia. (Your "falling sensation".)

- inner ear or neurological disorder. A teeny seizure or something.

- no more USGS activity than usual doesn't mean none at all. Maybe you feel the normal things when they're near to you.
posted by cmiller at 2:41 PM on November 26, 2007

That's almost certainly the hypnic jerk that Comrade_robot mentioned. It's entirely normal and I notice them sometimes too. My gf says that it always happens right before I fall asleep, but I only notice about one time in a dozen.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:42 PM on November 26, 2007

rileyray3000, I know just what you're talking about. I have it happen about 2-5 times a year. It feels like my bed is shaking, or there's an earthquake, but I know there's not.

And I don't think it's hypnic jerk, although it might be related. I also get hypnic jerk, and this is different. I do think it's probably part of the falling-asleep process. I also get night terrors if that's relevant. (At least more evidence that I have weird sleep stuff. I have sleep apnea too.)
posted by agropyron at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2007

Could it be a side effect of sleep paralysis? I had sleep paralysis relatively often in my early teen years, often accompanied with very strange sensations, like electric vibrations running through my body, or lots of wind rushing past me.
posted by pravit at 3:07 PM on November 26, 2007

I've normally just cursed my neighbors for doing laundry past 11pm when my bed shakes while I'm trying to fall asleep. I'm guessing your describing quick cycle vibrations and not a spastic kick(like the hypnic jerk).

So large trucks on a small road, laundry or other household devices may be shaking your bed.
posted by mnology at 3:17 PM on November 26, 2007

This has been asked before here. Maybe twice. I think the consensus was it's in your head.

But I experienced this in only two of the many places I have lived. One was Olympia, Washington. And it happened months before and months after a big earthquake. There were no big trucks driving anywhere near. No one else felt it.

I believe I notice very small earthquakes more than other people. I think I could feel a pea covered by 10 mattresses.

It always happened to me when I was in bed wide awake. It was never strong enough to wake me from sleep. I don't think I would have noticed through my feet when I was standing up.
posted by cda at 3:28 PM on November 26, 2007

Seconding mnology -- Those high-efficiency washers with high spin speeds can shake houses in very subtle earthquake-like ways if they aren't in the basement.

Where I live, the house is old enough that people climbing the ladders to their lofts or, ahem, otherwise shaking their lofts, can feel earthquake-like to me.
posted by salvia at 3:28 PM on November 26, 2007

I used to have this feeling very frequently. Turns out the roommates in the room right behind mine were having (quiet) wild kinky circus sex and I felt the tremors as they went at it. I never put two and two together until she said she something similar the last time my boyfriend was over.

So, got any roommates?
posted by sephira at 3:35 PM on November 26, 2007

Your head is exploding!
posted by idiotfactory at 3:38 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get this rarely and I live in a house by myself far from everything. When I was not in the hous eby myself I was assured this was not something anyone else felt. I also get the hypnic jerk things and this isn't it or it's different from that. I sort of liken it to feeling like if the blood that courses through your veins all of the sudden got like a jiggle to it and made you feel all fuzzy on the inside. I feel it more in my legs than anyplace else [and it's not restless leg syndrome] and I assume it's some sort of weird settling into sleep mind/body combination thing.
posted by jessamyn at 4:23 PM on November 26, 2007

Every so often (several times a year), as I am falling asleep I experience what feels like a cat walking up the bed (from foot to head) next to me, so that I can "feel" the footsteps on the mattress. Now, I don't own or live with cats, so this tends to wake me up completely as I look for the attack cat. There's never anything there. I've decided I have my own personal ghost cat, which works out well for my allergies.

I've no idea what you have.
posted by blind.wombat at 4:31 PM on November 26, 2007

MeTooFilter: This happens to me too! It feels like my bed is shaking under me, though I don't hear a thing and it isn't actually moving. I wish I had some advice to offer, but I don't. :( It sounds like it might be related to the hypnic jerk.
posted by cadge at 5:53 PM on November 26, 2007

When I was in Tokyo I would feel "earthquakes" while in bed. My room mate never noticed a thing any time it happened. I eventually put it down to a psychological / physiological bit of weirdness that arose from knowing I was sleeping on a floor ten stories up in an earthquake zone. Lying down in the dark I guessed my brain was just glitching on this.
posted by brautigan at 6:06 PM on November 26, 2007

Okay some quick things

1) Residential neighborhood, I'm on the third floor, and no subway, freeway or night-time construction site are nearby. It's actually a very nice little area. So I'd rule out all shakes transportational.

2) We have two regular washing machines downstairs that are in the back of the building and never seem to shake when I'm doing laundry. And as a man I've done many an unbalanced load. Often with little regard for separating my colors, let alone my woolens.

3) I get the hypnic jerk a couple of times a year. It's different from my falling one (which I also get a few times a year). This experience feels qualitatively different, physically.

4) It seems to last about 3 mississippis or so. Sometimes a little bit longer but not much. Enough so that it's not some quick and random anomaly. More like a non-predictable moderately short anomaly.

5) No roommates. Let alone any circus sex roommates. And as far as neighbors, I got the street to one side of me, a stairway to the other, a hallway to the other and a little bit of the elevator on the last side

And no. Not the elevator. It makes no noise. More important, when it's happened, and my girl Amber has been here, she's said she doesn't hear or feel anything.

So with that added info, back to the drawing board.
posted by rileyray3000 at 6:20 PM on November 26, 2007

Same thing happens to me but more frequently, something on the order of a few times a month. I always assume it's some type of sonic waves from a train or car, similar to the vibrations caused by obnoxious drivers with the bass blasting from their car stereo.

Or we're nuts.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:17 PM on November 26, 2007

I was also going to say large vehicle driving by or hypnic jerk.
posted by fructose at 9:54 PM on November 26, 2007

I feel the same sort of tremor thing all the time. If I am falling asleep and wake myself back up, my body trembles just slightly. I noticed this during my past relationship. My ex always came to bed about three hours after I did and that sonuvabitch would shake the bed. After getting all huffy with him for the nth time, I realized it was my body shaking. This happens to me about five nights a week, always on the falling asleep side of things, never in the morning.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:07 AM on November 27, 2007

Well if I don't have an answer, at least I have company in my near-sleepy trembles.
posted by rileyray3000 at 3:52 PM on November 27, 2007

For the last few years I've been getting sensations of the world moving in ways it shouldn't. Trembling, shaking, spinning,falling type sensations.

The most alarming (and frequent) one I get is just after I've parked my car and am about to get out, I get the feeling the car is rolling. I have multiple sclerosis, and while I don't recall such sensations being a common symptom, I have heard other MSers say they get the same thing.
posted by goshling at 7:27 AM on December 1, 2007

Sorry, I don't mean to suggest you have MS or anything of the sort, but it might be worthwhile to consult a neurologist.
posted by goshling at 7:30 AM on December 1, 2007

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