Nocturnal myoclonus: Everything you need to know

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Martí Micolau
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Nocturnal myoclonus: Everything you need to know



Nocturnal myoclonias are sleep spurts that usually occur at the onset of sleep or when falling asleep. These are very frequent involuntary movements: according to statistics, 60 to 70% of French people have episodes of nocturnal myoclonus.



It is often the partner who complains about the problem: it is like being in bed with a person who has tremors in his sleep and which mainly concern the arms and legs.

Those who have these sudden movements hardly notice them and in most cases they are benign nocturnal myoclonias, that is, they have no consequences or underlying problems and do not require special treatment or care.


 


The causes of nocturnal myoclonus

Why are these movements done during sleep? What are they due to? The reasons for nocturnal myoclonus can be of different types and can be divided into two categories.

 

Physiological nocturnal myoclonus

These are nocturnal movements involving subjects in good health. These are mild episodes, which do not require treatment, as they are short-lived and inconsequential. Here are the most common.

- Hiccups: That is to say an involuntary contraction of the muscles of the diaphragm

- Hypnic myoclonus: They concern the hypnagogic phase, that is to say that of falling asleep. Sometimes they cause an awakening and are linked to a feeling of falling into the void or loss of balance. The cause is to be found in a natural reaction of the brain which causes these tremors of sleep to regain control of the muscles. That is to say, the brain interprets the immobility of the body as a negative signal and launches these sudden shocks.

- The tightness in the sleep of newborns: They are perfectly natural and also manifest themselves until the sixth month of life. They can be occasional or even successive and concern only the limbs or the whole body. They occur when the baby is tired or has recently been breastfed before going to bed.

You can prevent nocturnal myoclonus by making your bed more comfortable. For example, if you have an old mattress or a mattress that is not the most comfortable, we strongly recommend that you choose a new support.

  


Pathological nocturnal myoclonus

They are also called secondary myoclonus and involve an underlying problem that needs to be fixed. These are therefore muscle spasms that have a pathological cause, so it is advisable to talk to your doctor about it. When should you be worried? When these night shots have consequences in the morning, when you wake up.


 

- Spinal cord sprains or violent blows to the head: Any injury to the spinal cord or brain can cause uncontrolled and frequent muscle spasms. These sudden nocturnal bursts can also occur in the event of stroke or cerebral ischemia.


- Parkinson's disease: sudden spasms and uncontrolled movements are one of the symptoms of this neurodegenerative disease.

- Alzheimer's disease: especially in the most advanced stages, when the functionality of certain areas of the brain is compromised, nocturnal movements can occur.

- Taking drugs or medication: in this case, the simple fact of eliminating the substance at the origin of the phenomenon solves the problem. Anxiolytics, antidepressants and opiates are some of the substances that cause these nocturnal movements.

 

Remedies for nocturnal myoclonus

Especially in pathological cases, to start sleeping well again, direct intervention at the source of the problem is necessary. For this reason, many doctors suggest an electroencephalogram and magnetic resonance imaging to avoid brain problems. Functional tests of major organs, such as the liver and kidneys, may also be recommended to rule out dysfunction.


In very rare cases, this condition is treated with tranquilizers or anticonvulsants.

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