Is there such a thing as “REM motion”?

Last night while putting my 3yo daughter to bed, I noticed once again that as she fell asleep, her hands twitched slightly for a minute or two. If was definitely different than her “I’m not asleep yet, just breathing slowly” hand motions that she had exhibited just a few minutes earlier, trying to get comfortable and slow down.
I know about the stages of sleep, and I’ve certainly seen my dogs twitching and moving about as they sleep (and kids too, but dogs seem to be far more active in sleep in my experience), but I’m curious whether there’s a, what, psycho-muscular stage of sleep where your limbs flip around a bit?


Of course, the whole topic of “falling asleep” is a big one when you’re a parent, in my experience at least. I mean, you’d think that it wouldn’t be so hard to fall asleep if you’ve had a busy, active day, and goodness knows, kids need more sleep than we under-sleeping adults.
I mean, do you even get seven hours of sleep a night? I know so many people who are operating on a permanent sleep deficit, where they go to bed around 12-1am and then are up and moving (albeit sometimes slowly) by 6:30 or 7:00am. There’s no question that different people need different amounts of sleep (I need less than Linda, for example), but children definitely need quite a bit, and it’s not unusual for my kids to get 10-11 hours/night of sleep and still be slow to arise the next morning.
Indeed, babies are supposed to sleep more than they’re awake (like puppies!) and even when they’re in pre-school, I have been told time and again that 12 hours is the target sleep level for the wee ones.
Nonetheles,s the number of times I sit in the room saying “just close your eyes, breath as deeply and slowly as you can and let yourself drift off…” to my children is rather extraordinary. Of course, being an adult, I’ll sometimes drift off with them, then get up and read/watch a movie/email/whatever for a few hours before I finally go to sleep, just to wake up before they do anyway.
How about you? How much do you sleep? How much do your kids sleep? And, finally, do your kids exhibit any sort of involuntary motions or movements as they just transition from awake to asleep?

4 comments on “Is there such a thing as “REM motion”?

  1. Sleep, glorious sleep. At least, I think it’s glorious; it’s been a while since I’ve experienced it. Seriously, my 1 year old daughter sleeps 10 hours a night, from 6 PM until 4 AM. I know everyone who just read that is thinking “why not put her to bed later so she can sleep until morning???” Yes, we tried. We listened to her fuss and whine for two hours several nights in a row while we kept her up until 8 PM. And guess what time she woke up every morning? 4 AM. She sleeps 2 – 3 hours during the day. Me, I get 6 – 7 hours of sleep a night. Enough to function, enough so that some mornings I feel rested. But the effects of chronic sleep deprivation are notable: my math skills have gone downhill, I forget to do really important things, I yawn a lot.
    And yes, my daughter often twitches as she falls asleep. I take it as the sign that I can put her down without her immediately waking back up. I think the twitching happens during the transition to deeper sleep. I read about it somewhere, and if I weren’t so tired, I’d remember where.

  2. My older daughter (now 4) twitched like that during a sleep study and ended up having an eeg to rule out seizures…. Long story, but she’s fine.
    Our kids are all over the map with sleep. #1 never sleeps, and dropped naps very early. #2 sleeps 13 hours a night and takes a 2 hour nap. With #3, it’s too early to tell. Because of that, I won’t even tell you how much (or how little) I sleep!

  3. I’ve always taken those twitches as the sign that I can safely put my kids in their beds after rocking them to sleep! I’ve always thought it was just normal, in any case. Kind of like when you jerk awake during the period of falling asleep, and you kind of dream you stepped off a curb? But less violent, so they don’t wake up. With my kids it’s their arms and legs that twitch.
    Right now my kids (5 and 3 1/2) sleep from 7-7:30 pm to 6:30-7 am, with at least an hour of napping each day. They’ve always been good sleepers. Now if I can just get myself to quit blogging and go to bed before 11 pm, I can get enough sleep myself.

  4. Twitching (and the big jerk you sometimes get just as you fall asleep) is called a hypnic (or hypnogogic) jerk, a.k.a. Myoclonus. It’s just the muscles releasing/relaxing, clunkily.
    Wiki it to read more.
    You do it, too, once you’re asleep, you just don’t know it. 🙂

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