Hello from Adelaide, Australia. I don't post in forums much but I think it is important to add ones experiences cause it really sucks when you start having the "am I dying?" conversation with yourself.
I have been having these on or off for just on 15 years now (since I was 25). I have been on Zoloft for for four years, and people say that causes them, but I can say that in at least my case I had them well before - in fact after 11 years of struggling it is probably a key reason why I am on Zoloft!
For me I get them right at that instant prior to falling asleep, there's that millisecond of falling then bam i am jerked out (like foil on a filling is how I explain it) - I get it through my brain, temples, down the jaw line and through the teeth.
Often I will physically jerk up with a sensation that I am bleeding from the mouth or nose, and I grab the pillow looking for blood. Quite scary actually.
I typically get at least one a night, but I have had up to 30 or 40 (several hours or falling asleep, bam, falling asleep, bam). When you get them chronic like that it's like a double edged sword - its exhausting but you can't sleep.
I have never met anyone with the same problem, and when I went to the doctors it was difficult to explain and mostly not believed. I've haven't found a cause or prevention, though for me I have had a better existence on Zoloft. My guesses for a cause include;
- serotonin issues (history of depression in family / had a mild affair with extasy in my late teens to early 20's)
- nerve problems round the temple, like a short circuit, maybe TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) / teeth clenching related
- stress & exhaustion - it does appear to happen more often
- mild epilepsy - if it was discovered that it was a very very mild epileptic fit I would not be surprised
- tumour - I don't think so, never been checked, but hey for all I know it could be a vestigial twin
- teeth - an extreme case of sensitive teeth?
- neck / spine - I have a lot of tension in my neck (scared of chiropractors though) - maybe it is compression of the nerves at the back of the neck, then as you relax some tension is released a bam a short circuit?
All of these are guesses based on my symptoms.
Sorry for the long post, but as I said some of this information may give some comfort to the next person. I was convinced after the first couple of years I was going to die but 15 years later I am still kicking - so if you are just experiencing this or have had it once or twice I wouldn't panic - see your doctor, get the tests done and if all is okay don't panic, you are just in a small club of freaks :O).
Time and experience helps as well. I can now feel the transition to sleep occurring and am concious enough to be aware it could happen - if it doesn't then that's the last thing I remember, if it does I don't panic so much - this seems to keep the count down to maybe once or twice.
Again sorry for the long post.