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Body Jerks and Brain Freezes

Brain Freezes

Photo by ronnieb[ameins] morgueFile

Here’s a couple of wildly interesting thoughts I was having. You know when you’re sitting there watching a TV show and all the sudden you wake up and your body jerks and you sling your soda across the house? hahah Well sometimes it may not be quite that dramatic, but the reflex is still the same.

Another thought that crossed my mind was brain freezes. There you are happily gulping down some luscious ice cream or a slushy and BAMB! It hits you like a ton of bricks, the Brain Freeze! And it’s painful as all get out too, but why does this happen.

So let’s dig in a bit and find out about these two bizarre encounters with the body.

Why Do You Get Body Jerks When Falling Asleep?

This type of reflex actually has a scientific name and it’s called hypnagogic myoclonus. In Latin this means “twitches while falling asleep.” LOL Imagine that right….

According to science, there really is no definitive explanation for these random body jerks, and since it’s nothing life threatening there really hasn’t been a whole lot of research put into it either. But there are a few theories on this…

One theory suggests that body jerks at night may happen when you’re woken suddenly by subtle noises or movements around you while drifting into sleep. A quick experiment that helps prove this theory would be to whisper softly into someone’s ear just as they are starting to nod off, a gently poke in the arm should work just as well.

Another stranger theory says this reaction is something acquired from our ancestors. Going back many, many years when man lived in the wild we had to be very alert and tuned in to our surroundings. Something like a defensive impulse to wake suddenly to ensure our safety from predators. Kind of like 0 to 60 in under a tenth of a second…lol

Why Do We Get Brain Freezes from Consuming Cold Things?

Yep, you guessed it, this one has a scientific term as well. Brain freezes are known by doctors as an “Ice Cream Headache“. Yah, a lot of research went into this term I can assure you…hah.

Again this one is just as baffling as the involuntary body jerks in that there really is no documented reason as to why it happens. But it’s believed this is caused by blood vessels toward the roof of your mouth being contracted when the cold substance hits them.

The contracted blood vessels will prevent the blood flow which causes it to back up in your head. This will then causes the other blood vessels to stretch which results in the pain you feel. I know it’s a pretty simple explanation but it makes sense to me.

Ice cream headaches or brain freezes have been related to another extreme form of headache known as a migraine. Of course Migraine headaches are much more severe and will last a whole heck of a lot longer than brain freezes do. Not only that but migraines have a way of repeating themselves on a regular basis and also bring symptoms of sensitivity to light and loud noises.

But one thing I have found personally is that when you get an ice cream headache, try to breathe through your nose, it helps to get rid of it a little faster. This could possibly be because of the warmer air passing through the nasal cavity helps to warm the blood vessels back up to temperature. I bet you can’t wait to get another ice cream headache so you can try this remedy out, right?

So I know these explanations weren’t quite what you were expecting and we really didn’t learn anything too great, but I bet it’s left you with something to think about. So why not share those thoughts with us by leaving us a comment below.

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12 thoughts on “Body Jerks and Brain Freezes
  1. Really interesting, i used to get body jerks usually when i dream of something (Usually short and essentially while watching TV or reading a book), for example like falling, then i remember jerking in real when i wake up.

    1. Yah Hugh it’s a really weird thing, that sudden wake and you don’t realize where you’re at or what’s going on around you.

      It never fails when ever I get the body jerks I always have a full drink in my hand…lol

  2. Interesting story, had a lot of brain freezings when i was a child. Never learnt really to eat ice slow.

    1. Hey Mark, thanks for stopping by. I agree it’s hard to eat something slow when it’s so yummy.

  3. hi Robert,
    there are many-a-things which science and logic can not explain to a very satisfying level.
    This can also be stated to belonging to the same category!

    1. Very true Yogesh, the body jerking thing is the one that bothers me the most. It’s almost a nervous system type of thing. But for the most part scientists seem to find it harmless. Never fails I wind up throwing a full drink across the house when the ole jerks happen…blaaa

  4. You are one crazy Dude, Robert.

    That brain freeze is brutal. Seems is just desserts for that just dessert, no?

    1. Yah cold deserts are the worst as far as brain freezes are concerned. But I have to say I’ve been blasted with some pretty good ones from drinking a slushy type drink as well.

  5. I don’t know about other people’s experiences, but personally whenever I jerk in my sleep it is always connected to a dream. I dream that I am in some kind of danger or that something is about to hit me, and I jerk out of sleep. Now I don’t know whether I jerk as a reaction to the dream or the dream quickly adapts to the fact that I jerked. It would be an interesting research to find that out 🙂

    1. That’s a very cool twist on the “Chicken or the Egg” theory. That would indeed be some great research if one could figure out how to collect solid data.

      Thanks for giving me something interesting to ponder this morning!

      1. I just remembered something: once I dreamed about being on a ship, and suddenly an alarm sounded. Obviously the ship was sinking, and everybody was panicking. Then I woke up to find out that my phone was ringing. That may mean that our brain quickly adapts the content of our dreams to fit our sensations.

        1. According to your situation it would appear so. I guess certain stimuli from our environment may trigger the content of our dreams. Definitely an interesting subject that deserves more research on a personal level. Creating a controlled experiment would be the key.

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