You’re not asleep, but you’re not awake either. What’s the word for that mysterious feeling?

A hypnic jerk is someone you wouldn’t want to share a cab with, right? Actually, it is a feeling that many of us experience nightly.

In “Inception” the dream travelers move from dream to dream via a “kick,” which is like a hypnic jerk. Sleep starts, night starts, or hypnagogic jerks are also names for the feeling of an involuntary myoclonic twitch that happens just as we’re beginning to fall asleep. Myoclonus is when our muscles move suddenly, without any rhythm or pattern. (Find out if the word “inception” actually has anything to do with dreaming, right here.)

Hypnnic jerks happen during hypnagogia, which is a state that occurs between sleep and being fully awake. Some of history’s great thinkers and writers, including Aristotle, and in more recent times, Edgar Allan Poe, have pondered hypnagogia.

Hypnagogic is related to drowsiness, which we often feel profoundly when we are on the brink of sleep. The word drowsy comes from the Old English drusan or drusian, which means “sink” and “to become low, slow, or inactive.”

Interested in more thoughts on sleep and dreams? Read our post in which we discuss oneiromancy, the practice of predicting the future through the interpretation of dreams.

Had any dreams with words in them recently? Those are called hypnagogic images. Share them, and perhaps you can gain some insight from the collective wisdom of your fellow readers.