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Many a time while travelling, I fall asleep and then my head starts falling. I immediately wake up with this but then go back to sleep again, and this keeps repeating.

What is this known as, “falling of head while sleeping”?

2 Answers 2

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Nodding-off or to nod-off sounds about right:

  1. To let the head fall forward when sleepy.

Not exactly one word, but might still be wroth using.

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This is called a hypnic jerk, where hypnic is a fairly uncommon word meaning sleep. It is derived from Greek ὑπνικός, because in Greek mythology Ὕπνος was the personification of Sleep, Death’s gentler brother. Sleep-inducing medications are sometimes called hypnotic ones for this reason.

Wikipedia provides several synonyms for hypnic jerks:

A hypnic jerk, hypnagogic jerk, sleep start, sleep twitch, or night start is an involuntary twitch which occurs just as a person is beginning to fall asleep, often causing them to awaken suddenly for a moment.

Hypnic jerks should be confused with hippie jerks :)

Regarding the HYPNO- prefix, the OED reports that:

The compounds in Greek were not numerous, and all those employed in English are new formations, and chiefly pathological terms.

Here are a few of them that it mentions:

  • ‖ hypna [n. pl.] ← ‖ hypnum [n.]
  • hypnaesˈthesic [adj.] ← hypnaesthesis
  • ‖ hypnaesthesis [n.]
  • hypnagogic [adj.]
  • hypnaˈgogically [adv.]
  • ‖ ˈhypnale [n.]
  • hypnic [adj.]
  • hypno- [pref.]
  • hypnoanalysis [n.]
  • hypnoˈanalyst ← hypnoanalysis
  • ˌhypnoanaˈlytic [adj.] ← hypnoanalysis
  • ˈhypnobate ← hypno-
  • hypnocyst ← hypno-
  • hypnodylic [adj.] ← hypno-
  • hypnoˈgenesis [adj. n.] ← hypno-
  • hypnogeˈnetically [adv.] ← hypno-
  • × hypnogogic → hypnagogic
  • hypnoid [adj.1]
  • hypnoid [adj.2]
  • hypˈnoidal [adj.] ← hypnoid
  • hypˈnologist ← hypno-
  • hypˈnology [adj. n.] ← hypno-
  • hypnone [n.]
  • hypnopaedia [n.]
  • hypnoˈpaedic [adj.] ← hypnopaedia
  • hypnoˈpaedically [adv.] ← hypnopaedia
  • hypnophilous [adj.]
  • hypnoˈphobia [adj.] ← hypno-
  • hypnopompic [adj.]
  • Hypnos [n.]
  • ˈhypnoscope ← hypno-
  • hypnosis [n.]
  • hypˈnosophist ← hypno-
  • hypˈnosophy ← hypno-
  • ˈhypnosperm ← hypno-
  • hypnoˈsporic [adj.] ← hypno-
  • ˌhypnotheraˈpeutic [adj.] ← hypnotherapy
  • ˌhypnotheraˈpeutically [adv.] ← hypnotherapy
  • hypnoˈtherapist ← hypnotherapy
  • hypnotherapy [n.]
  • hypnotic [adj.]
  • † hypnotical [adj.]
  • hypˈnotically [adv.] ← hypnotical
  • hypnotism [n.]
  • hypnotist [n.]
  • hypnoˈtistic [adj.] ← hypnotist
  • hypnotizability ← hypnotize
  • ˈhypnotizable [adj.] ← hypnotize
  • hypnotiˈzation ← hypnotize
  • hypnotize [v.]
  • ˈhypnotized [ppl. adj.] ← hypnotize
  • ˈhypnotizer ← hypnotize
  • ˈhypnotizing [vbl. n.] ← hypnotize
  • hypnotoid [adj.]
  • ‖ hypnum [n.]
  • ‖ hypnums [n. pl.] ← ‖ hypnum [n.]
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  • Incidentally, "hypnopompic" can refer to jerks or tics that occur as one is waking up, as opposed to when one is falling asleep. Dec 26, 2014 at 9:35

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