While sleeping we all have experienced a feeling where our feet or body starts to twitch, it may be due to a nightmare. It occurs unconsciously while we are asleep, we do not realize it unless we are woken up and told so. It may also be vice versa where we might be the one waking up the other person. These are minor incidents that we usually do not remember, but the regular occurrence could be assigned to a sleep tremor disorder.
What is a Sleep Tremor Disorder?
Also known as sleep or nocturnal myoclonus, it is involuntary spasms, a non-rhythmic muscle twitch, occurring when an individual is asleep. In this condition, the muscles suddenly jerk causing a twitch during sleep.
Does sleep tremor disorder affect a certain age group?
Sleep tremor disorder can be seen in infants and children, but it does not last for a long time. It is commonly seen in adults above the age of 65 and people suffering from neurological diseases.
What are its symptoms like?
It is usually unpredictable jerks or spasms that may occur in various body parts like; arms, legs, face twitching, whole body trembling. Lowering of body temperature.
The movements could be:
- Localized or widespread spasms.
- Muscle spasms.
- Trembling, severe shaking.
Is kicking in sleep also part of sleep tremor disorder?
No, kicking in sleep is not a part of sleep tremor disorder, it is considered as a symptom under REM behavior disorder (rapid eye movement). In this case, the individual’s dream feels more physical than just mental.
Is sleep tremor disorder a disease?
No, we cannot say that sleep tremor disorder is a disease because it might occur as a symptom of various underlying conditions.
Seizures occurring may be harmful as they might cause the heart to stop. But they are only seen in cases of underlying neurological diseases.
The causes can be varied depending on the various age groups it affects, it is majorly caused due brain and spinal cord issues. Diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s are neurological diseases that show symptoms like tremors. Many times the exact reason might also not be known.
- In Infants and Small children- It may be due to disturbed sleep, Pediatric Periodic Limb movement disorder causing brief muscle spasms. Rhythmic Movement Disorder causing head jerking motions.it is usually in cases of autism, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome. Epilepsy could also cause sleep tremors which are seizures.
- In Adults- Most adults affected by this usually have Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) a suggested neurological condition. It causes an unchecked urge to shake legs due to excruciating sensations, in turn causing temporary relief. This could happen at any time of the day. It could also be due to Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s disease.
- In Older people- In people aging over 60, major diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s could cause sleep tremors.
Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss and loss of motor control. This affects the coordination of the body causing seizures.
Parkinson’s disease causes uncontrollable tremors, muscle rigidity, slow automatic muscle response, loss of coordination, sleeping difficulty.
Creutzfelt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a brain disorder causing behavioral changes, body tremors, loss of coordination.
- It could be caused due to general reasons like strong medication, drug abuse, excessive stress, changes in the dopamine level of the body. Being excessively worked out with no rest to the body.
Types of Sleep Tremor Disorder
The sleep tremor could be of two types:
- Positive- it involves muscle contraction.
- Negative- it involves muscle relaxation and loss of muscle tone.
Treatment of sleep tremor
The treatment commonly involves medications like:
- Clonazepam, phenytoin, is used as an anti-seizure medication.
- Botulinum toxin.
Unless the case is severe and causes major disrupted sleep one should go for medications, as they might have side effects.
Home remedies include yoga, stretching, gently massaging the muscle or area where the spasm is usually caused. This helps reduce the severity of the spasm.
What should be done when one has a sleep tremor?
At times when one is very exhausted and restless, they might have a sleep tremor. Try some relaxation before sleep like stretching, rubbing your calves and arms. If one has a mild spasm sleeping do not wake them up immediately, call out to them, this helps raise consciousness. Then gently pat them trying to wake them up. If the spasm is extreme try to get the person conscious as soon as you can, then rub the area of the spasm.
How long does this disorder last?
It lasts for a period of weeks if it is not caused by any serious neurological disorder. In the case of such neurological disorders, it can last for a lifetime.
What helps reduce sleep tremors?
Sleep tremors can be reduced by making some lifestyle changes like consuming less caffeine, avoiding alcohol, taking out time for relaxation, workout or exercise for at least 10 mins a day for muscle flexibility.
Does sleep tremor have a treatment?
Yes, it has.
Does sleep tremor require a treatment?
No, as it is not a serious disease, treatment is not necessary unless this disturbs one’s sleep cycle.
Can vitamin deficiency cause sleep tremors?
Yes, vitamin deficiency could cause sleep tremors.
What is Huntington’s disease?
It is a brain disorder caused by a gene defect. As it affects the central area of the brain changes affecting mood, thinking, movement.
Are tremors or jerks harmful?
No, the tremors or jerks are not harmful. In most cases, they cause no pain. Muscular spasms might hurt a little but a gentle massage can ease it.
Should I be worried if I suddenly start shaking in sleep?
One need not worry about shaking in sleep, it could be due to stress, nightmares, muscle spasm. If the shaking continues for more than a few weeks one must consult the doctor and check for any underlying diseases.
How long can sleep tremors last?
Sleep tremors can last for a few seconds to 30 mins.
What does myoclonus mean?
Myoclonus refers to a sudden, involuntary jerk or spasm.
Can insomnia cause sleep tremors?
Well, insomnia means sleeplessness, and sleep tremors occur during sleep so it is difficult to say that it might be a cause. But if one is tired and does sleep for appropriate hours a day, tremors or spasms may occur due to tensed muscles.
Can sleepwalking and sleep tremors be related?
These two can be related on the basis that both are considered under para insomnia but the causes are different. Sleepwalking is usually hereditary caused due to disorders like sleep apnea ie. disturbed and paused breathing, urge of urination, anxiety, etc. whereas sleep tremors are caused due to underlying neurological disorders.
Sleep myoclonus or sleep tremor disorder doesn’t always have a cause, so one must not be worried unless they have an underlying neurological disorder. Medications are helpful in such cases. If someone in your family or close one has sleep tremors; don’t panic, a sudden occurrence is not harmful.