Do you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and realize that the cause is twitching muscles?

Big twitches in a major muscle group are most likely to snap someone out of a sleep.

And then you are just lying there in the darkness, feeling that crawling and squirming sensation just under your skin.

Perhaps it’s in the back of your upper arm. That can wake a person. Twitching of the muscles at the side of the torso or in a calf can also pull a person straight out of their sleep.

This isn’t about myoclonic jerks, which involve movement of a limb. Myoclonus is benign and occurs during the transition from wakefulness to sleep. It’s enough to wake people and startle them.

But myoclonus is not the same mechanism that causes what we know as “twitching muscles,” that sensation that worms are crawling under the skin in the affected area.

What to Do Next Time You’re
Awakened by Twitching Muscles

“This is usually a benign finding — and common (just like hiccups),” says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore; Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

“It’s a misfire of a nerve that causes the muscle to twitch. In normal healthy folks, it’s not an issue, but if it happens a lot or lasts for a long period of time, the person needs to have an evaluation to be sure they don’t have something else going on (like a metabolic issue/electrolyte imbalance or neurologic problem),”

Your immediate plan of action, though, is to just relax and drift back off to sleep.

During a light stage of sleep, just about anything that goes on with your body can awaken you. A little muscle twitch is no exception.

Do not allow feelings of powerlessness to prevent you from falling back asleep.

If you just lie there and begin imagining worst case scenarios, this not only will prevent re-entrance into sleep, but it will probably cause more muscle twitching!

Anxiety is a well-known trigger of these benign misfirings. If the problem occurs often, Carolyn Dean, MD, recommends a daily magnesium supplement, as she describes in this article.

Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.