Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Today I learned that a sudden jerk that you sometimes experience when you are just about to fall asleep due to a sense of free-fall or weightlessness is called a hypnic jerk.

If, while sleeping, I roll over to the edge of the bed, I feel free-fall & jerk up from sleep if I am about to topple down.
But in case I am comfortably lying down in the middle of the bed with no chance of toppling down, how do I feel weightlessness or free-fall when I am just about to fall asleep and jerk up, i.e. hypnic jerk?
And not just on the bed; this is also experienced if you are sleeping on the ground where u cannot possibly physically fall.

A bit more research in Falling sensation tells me its the ears & the eyes that sense the free-fall.

Sensation of falling can be induced when the eyes detect rapid apparent motion with respect to the environment.

How is this accounted for during sleep. Or is it something entirely different?

share|improve this question
1  
TIL the same thing...and also the meaning of the acronym TIL ;) –  Nick Stauner Mar 14 at 5:35
1  
In the same way that people imagine smells or sights that they currently do not have: by recalling the experience from memory or making it up from memories of similar sensations. When you relax your muscles, you limbs move, you register this movement, correlate it to your relaxed state, draw the conclusion that if your leg "falls" you must be falling, your brain comes up with the fitting imagery. In the same way that you dream of the school bell when you hear your alarm clock and don't want to wake up. In the same way that you hug your teddy bear and dream of your girl friend. etc. –  what Mar 14 at 15:28

1 Answer 1

In short its still a dream. Weird things happen in dreams.

The mental state of the jerk/fall is called Hypnagogia. Its a transitional period when you are not quite awake or asleep. There is a nigh universal dream falling associated with this particular state of consciousness when a jerk is triggered. I do not think the jerk triggers the sensation of falling as when I have such spasms I do not have the sensation. Regardless its a false sensation, hallucination made possible by the lack of total consciousness and a mixed dream/wake state. So I'm sorry. I don't think it is directly related to the inner ear's falling sensation in all people. I know at least it isn't in me.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.