Why do weird feelings occur when falling asleep? (+5 facts)

In this article, we will discuss different factors which may cause weird feelings when trying to fall asleep. We will also discuss a few symptoms and management techniques to improve sleep quality.

Why do weird feelings occur when falling asleep?

You may get weird feelings when falling asleep due to various sleep disorders like chronic insomnia, sleep anxiety, sleep apnea, somniphobia (fear of sleeping) and exploding head syndrome amongst others. 

These feelings may also be induced due to anxiety. Patients with restless leg syndrome often have involuntary leg movements that disrupt sleep. If you take an overdose of drugs or alcohol, it may increase your heart rate and cause hyperventilation.

Some lifestyle factors such as improper sleeping patterns, hormonal changes, diet and caffeine intake may cause weird feelings when trying to sleep. You may experience headaches, a sense of falling, night sweats, sadness, and heartburn.

What factors may cause weird feelings when falling asleep?

Sleep disorders, sleep quality, underlying disease conditions and lifestyle factors may give weird feelings when trying to sleep. 

Sleep disorders

Hypnagogic hallucinations may cause sleep disturbance and give weird feelings when trying to fall asleep. These are psychological experiences, which may be visual, auditory, or physical sensations that feel realistic to the patient.

Sleep paralysis is a temporary loss of muscle control when falling asleep that may cause a feeling of suffocation and hallucination. Similarly, central sleep apnea may cause breathing difficulties and the feeling of getting choked while going to sleep.

Exploding head syndrome is a benign, sensory parasomnia. In exploding head syndrome the patient hears loud imaginary voices when trying to sleep. They may exhibit strong emotional reactions to the sound (1).

Patients with chronic insomnia may experience sleep anxiety. It is a fear of not falling asleep even after taking medications. Similarly, somniphobia is the psychological fear of falling asleep. The patients often think of nightmares, sleepwalking and how to avoid falling asleep.

Underlying disease conditions

Some underlying conditions and diseases may cause weird feelings when trying to fall asleep. Restless leg syndrome is an uncontrollable urge to move legs when trying to sleep. It may cause kicking, twitching, and jerking of the legs.

Hypnic jerks occur when the brain shifts from one sleep phase to another. It gives the sensation of falling from a building or sinking. Alternatively, nerve damage may cause tingling and numbness in the body after going to bed or in the daytime.

Substance abuse may cause sleep disruptions, irregular sleeping patterns, and weird feelings like euphoria and hyperarousal when trying to sleep (2). Stress and anxiety may cause heart palpitations, fear, night sweats and hyperventilation.

Drugs like benzodiazepines used for anxiety are known to cause breathing difficulties and the feeling of getting choked, especially when trying to sleep. However, such symptoms are more common in patients who take drug overdose.

In some cases, the concomitant administration of two medications at night, like melatonin and lorazepam, causes side effects such as respiratory depression, confusion, and memory impairment. This can induce weird feelings when trying to sleep.

Lifestyle factors

Some lifestyle factors and routine activities may give weird feelings when trying to sleep. Numbness may occur when you put too much pressure or weight on one arm while sleeping in an incorrect posture.

Spicy food may cause heartburn, stomach upset, regurgitation, and irritation, especially when lying down. A low level of progesterone in females makes it difficult to relax during bedtime. It also causes mood swings and makes them irritated.

Research suggests that taking 400 mg of caffeine 2 hours before bedtime may cause sleep cycle disruption, anxiety, and gastric issues. Chronic and large alcohol consumption may cause sleep apnea and weird feelings by reducing REM sleep and disruption of melatonin (3). 

What does research suggest?

In one of the case reports, a young boy who experienced restless leg syndrome had sleep onset insomnia and weird feelings in the body. He was treated with iron supplements which improved his sleeping pattern and reduced periodic limb movement (4).

Another patient reported a feeling of drowning when trying to sleep on his back. He was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. The patient was started on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)  machine to reduce the feelings of drowning and sleep apnea (5).

What are the symptoms of weird feelings when falling asleep?

Some weird feelings which a patient might experience when trying to sleep include:

  • Fragmented sleep,
  • Insomnia,
  • Hallucinations,
  • Heartburn,
  • Anxiety,
  • Grief and sadness,
  • Breathing difficulties,
  • Irregular heart rate,
  • Heartburn,
  • The feeling of getting choked,
  • Sense of falling, and
  • Tingling and numbness

What to do if you constantly feel weird when falling asleep?

Some clinical interventions might help to induce peaceful sleep.

Pharmacological treatments

  • Benzodiazepines: They may be given to the patient to reduce the stress. This may improve the quality of sleep. Examples include diazepam and triazolam.
  • Antiparkinsonism drug: Drugs like gabapentin and ropinirole may reduce the restless syndrome by reducing the abnormal excitations in the brain.
  • Melatonin receptor simulator: These can increase the melatonin level to treat insomnia. Examples include ramelteon.
  • Doxepine: This is prescribed to patients who have difficulty staying asleep. 

Helpful tips

Improving the sleeping environment, reducing mobile use before bed, and following a good sleep routine may lessen weird feelings. Clear your head before going to bed. Try to resolve conflict, or avoid stressful situations before sleeping.

Avoid caffeine, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake before going to bed. They may stimulate the brain and affect the quality of sleep. If you get hallucinations, consult your psychiatrist immediately.

After long working hours, I often get weird feelings like headaches, heart palpitations, and night sweats due to stress. Eating a good meal, taking a warm shower, and listening to good music often relax my mind before going to bed.

If weird thoughts keep you up at night then you should consult your psychiatrist and ask for therapy sessions. Your psychiatrist may prescribe you medication and exercise techniques to improve your sleep quality.

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Sharpless BA. Exploding head syndrome. Sleep medicine reviews. 2014 Dec 1;18(6):489-93. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079214000227


Roehrs TA, Roth T. Sleep disturbance in substance use disorders. Psychiatric Clinics. 2015 Dec 1;38(4):793-803. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4660250/


Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2013 Nov 15;9(11):1195-200. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.3170


DelRosso LM, Ferri R. Case 32. A Young Child with Sleep Onset Insomnia and “Weird” Feelings on His Legs. InSleepless and Sleepy: 50 Challenging Sleep Medicine Cases 2023 Mar 21 (pp. 139-143). Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-18374-4_32


Nowack WJ. Epilepsy: a costly misdiagnosis. Clinical Electroencephalography. 1997 Oct;28(4):225-8. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/155005949702800407