No, that is not a really nasty guy who hypnotizes people. It is a technical term used to describe the feeling of falling one sometimes experiences at the moment one drifts into sleep. It often makes the person wake up again. I have not experienced it as kid, and even now it happens to me only rarely, when I am extremely exhausted at the time I finally get to go to bed.
But if you want to know more about this phenomenon and little that is known about its causes, head on to Pure Pedantry where Jake Young explains it.
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That was a really interesting article. Thank you for linking it. If nothing else, I think “hypnic jerk” wins my “Cool Phrase of the Day” award for today.
I’ve had regular (as in more the norm than the exception) hypnic jerks for my entire life, but I also have spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, so having spasms and feeling like I’m falling are, well, not exactly news. 🙂 I’m sort of used to weird effects like that, especially considering some of the goofy problems I’ve had with proprioception over the years. (“Visual inspection confirms that my left knee is not in fact, located beside my left ear…”)
Now I’m wondering if, besides RLS, hypnic jerks are correlated with disorders that cause involuntary muscle movements.