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Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 17 Mar 2015 | 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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[Add a Comment]
@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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