To a large extent, the science of sleep has remained a mystery. Let’s look at the role of the spine and the brain for a moment. We know that when we are conscious (up and moving), there is high pressure exerted upon our discs: our muscles are taut, and we hold position better. As we relax and drift to sleep, complex physiological changes are occurring along our spine and spinal cord. These pressure changes also occur within each intervertebral disc segment along our spine. The pressure drops drastically along with the relaxation of muscles.
If there is an impingement on a nerve root or if this drop in pressure occurs too quickly within the discs, this can result in sudden spasms or jerks. Considering this, it makes sense that these jerks are happening in these precise moments because our muscles relax and compress spinal nerve roots that are under pressure or have sustained damaged.
If this indeed the case, why does the jerking continue for many throughout the night? We can see evidence of this (visibly and by looking at sleep stage interruption). Are the experiences undetectable to the hypnic jerking sufferer because the pressure is lowered but the sudden drop in pressure isn’t present?
Moreover, I bet that these pressure changes can happen or be perpetuated from cellular gradient issues, not just spinal issues. I say this because the use of bicarbonate, electrolytes, lidocaine, or a mycotoxin binder that changes polarity/cellular electrical charge, helps us in the moment to bypass the sleep entry issue. Unfortunately, this does not typically translate to correcting the ongoing jerking issue.
The condition of hypnic jerking creates a scarcity of slow wave sleep with typically a preponderance of REM sleep. Dr. Stasha Gominak researches the topic of chemicals involved with sleep. In her Right Sleep protocol, she recommends vitamins D optimization along with vitamin B supplementation (B50, paying particular attention to B5). Her protocol recommends this for a period of three months to aid in the proper maintenance of cortisol and acetylcholine. See DrGominak.com
I have long thought that some of the struggle to understand the hypnic jerking issue is that our medical system is not focused on the root of the problem but quick fixes. Additionally, our system is fractionated into separate worlds of specialties, leaving few practitioners to look at the big picture. Our problem, as I see it, is a multi-disciplinary problem. Physiology and chemistry are at least two disciplines involved. Chiropractics (Neurological and Atlas Orthogonal), Osteopathy and Physical Therapy are likely part of the solution. Another option might include regenerative medicine approaches of stem cell or prolotherapy (injections) to strengthen the ligaments affected by spinal injury. This might especially be the case with craniocervical instability.
It seems that we might move forward by crafting a cross-disciplinary team together to further the discoveries- to expand solutions outside our current box of benzodiazepines, surgery, Keppra, Diamox, and momentary fixes above. Please see this website’s Services and Advocacy page (scroll to “Hypnic Jerking Forum, Our Think Tank” project) and consider becoming part of our solution discovery team.