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Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 17 Jun 2019 | comments*Discuss
Restless Leg Syndrom Periodic Limb


My husband (virtually every night) has involuntary jerking of his entire body. I have timed these jerks and they are every 10 seconds at its worst! They can go on for hours and it's driving me insane. After 4 hours or more I lose my patience and ask him to sleep in the spare room. I hate the fact we sleep apart but I suffer ME and being kept awake for so long means I can barely function some days.

Has this got a name? Is it a medical problem? I have read some stuff about this but not to the extent he is doing it. Three years ago he suffered a great deal of stress, could it be that?

(Mrs K.M., 19 January 2009)


The first thing to remember is that sleep is not the same as 'relaxation'. When you are alert but relaxing the muscles are relaxed and still. As soon as you fall asleep the mind is not controlling movement and you enter the different stages of sleep. We are all familiar with how the body moves when asleep and some people are more restless sleepers than others. Assuming that the restlessness and jerking is not causing any distress, this is nothing to be worried about and most people will be familiar with the experience of a jerk when they are drifting off to sleep.

Periodic Limb Movements

Of more concern would be Periodic Limb Movements, or Restless Leg Syndrome, which occurs mainly in the lower limbs and more frequently than an occasional jerk. Sleep Epilepsy also causes limb movements and other symptoms. If the jerking is causing distress or daytime fatigue, a visit to a GP will rule out any medical condition.

Look at the information in the Sleep Problems Category of this site and be assured that movement during sleep is normal and worry can keep you awake! The sleeping person is often unaware of the problem but it can keep a partner awake especially if they are concerned about their partner.

Visit Your GP

It would be helpful for both partners to check up on their sleeping habits and a visit to the GP will be useful in case there are any other underlying problems. Stress can have an impact on sleeping habits and last long after whatever triggered the stress has disappeared.

Moving beds in the middle of the night is not a long-term solution and with ME it is important that regular rest and sleep is obtained. If this is becoming a frequent occurrence, it may be a short-term solution to go to bed separately so that you both get a decent nights sleep occasionally. A cuddle in the morning will compensate for a few hours apart!

Check on your 'sleep hygiene' too – are you eating late at night and does your husband get enough exercise? Maybe there are a few changes you could make to encourage better sleep...

Make sleep your priority and get the help you need from your GP. Many people suffer for years before asking for help. Good luck!

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My husband has been twitching and jerking at roughly 20 second intervals since before we were married 4 years ago. He put it down to stress at work at the time but all of that has now gone yet the symptoms remain. On top of that he’s developed a major snoring problem. For 3 years I was driven quietly insane, not wanting to have separate rooms but surviving on only a few hours disrupted sleep and frequently wanting to kill myself. He was always oblivious to it, being asleep, and didn’t like being told he had an issue that needed sorting. He became aggressive if I woke him or tried to discuss the matter and eventually I’ve been driven to another room after trying everything including medicating myself (the dr gave him meds for restless leg syndrome but he didn’t like them) separate mattresses, wearing earplugs/earphones and white noise to muffle/drown the snoring. If we stayed in a hotel anywhere I’d end up on the floor or on the bathroom floor with the door shut. His parents live abroad so going to visit them was a nightmare, especially when his mother became convinced I was making it all up to be awkward (anyone who knows me will tell you how totally absurd and unfair this is!) as he’d told her ‘I’ was having trouble sleeping, still adamant there were no issues his side. Alone and undisturbed I sleep very soundly and have never had this problem with previous partners. I can now function properly in work on a proper nights sleep and am far less depressed (although I always hid it before). There’s massive damage done though and intimacy and closeness we were famous for, which I lived for, is eroding badly despite my best efforts to keep the flame lit in difficult circumstances. He’s being investigated for sleep apnea but this is a drawn out process and he’s not actively chasing things. He wants the world to think everything is normal rather than admit things need to be sorted out and won’t consider the misery he’s caused over the last 4 years as something which must be faced and dealt with rather than ignored and pretended away. Sorry for the outpouring but this forum seems to be a safe space where I may get help or advice.
Exhausted - 17-Jun-19 @ 7:33 PM
My partner keeps me awake he his continuously moving his arms and legs all night he doesn't realize he's doing this what could be the cause of this
Susie - 17-Oct-18 @ 9:47 PM
I would start jerking the second I closed my eyes. I once counted 100 jerks in 45 minutes. They would get progressively worse until it was like walking into a wall but no pain. I now take 300mg of magnesium glycinate. I tried regular magnesium and it made no difference. I still jerk but they take longer to start, are much milder and I am able to fall asleep. It has been amazing. So glad not to have to add another prescription medication.
Heidi - 8-Oct-18 @ 5:04 PM
@loulou - is he stressed, does he have a new job or something that is on his mind? As it may be about this and is hopefully not long term. You could always try sleeping in separate bedrooms until it is sorted out, if you need to get a good night's sleep. There are a lot of people recommending this these days, as we all have such demanding jobs and busy lives that it can drive us nuts if we don't get our full sleep quota. I hope you and he manage to sort this out soon.
Libby - 17-Mar-15 @ 12:05 PM
My partner is driving me mad all night he his jerking and keeping me awake he only used to do this for the first 10 minute of sleeping when we first met now its all night what can you recommend
loulou - 14-Mar-15 @ 9:34 AM
Hi there am a 32 and have suffered sleep problem since was dignosed with fibromyalgia iv tried various medicines to help with pain and sleep but still can't sleep I often get by on 3hrs sleep my gp won't put me on anything to help me sleep I end up having a seizure Im currently on amirtiptyline to help but it don't help im waiting to see neurolgy and a pain specialist but im desprate to get help
nat - 21-May-13 @ 3:06 AM
my legs jerk and so do my arms. not only at night but any time i sit quietly any sugestions?
none - 22-Jul-12 @ 1:18 AM
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