Jactatio capitis nocturna: symptoms, causes and treatment

Sleep is a fundamental process for humans and other animals because it allows the body to rest and repair itself. We have spent a large part of our lives asleep, and not doing it properly can have a noticeable effect on our abilities.

But sometimes, even though our mental activity and brain waves are mostly sleeping, our body is not as drowsy because it hasn’t finished shutting down and making movements even though they are not. aware.

This is what happens in sleepwalking or sleepwalking CASTING of capital movementsThe latter being the sleep disorder that we will be discussing throughout this article.

    Jactatio capitis nocturna: description of this parasomnia

    It is called jactatio capitis nocturna an impairment of sleep which is characterized by the appearance of rhythmic and involuntary swings, thrusts and movements of the head, and sometimes of the whole body. Sometimes there is also growling or making unconnected sounds.


    As a parasomnia, it assumes the existence of abnormal behaviors during sleep they are executed without the victim being aware of it and without waking him up.

    In the case of nocturnal jactatio capitis, the movements are generally gentle, although they can sometimes be sharp and violent and lead to beating and injury, without the patient waking up. These episodes usually last about a quarter of an hour, And the average is about 60 or 70 movements per minute.

    This disorder occurs during childhood and usually occurs between six months and the first four years of life, although it is more common between nine months and two years. Although rare, this parasomnia can occur or persist in adolescence or sometimes in adulthood. It can appear in both boys and girls.

    the causes

    The causes of these movements are not entirely clear, however. it has been suggested that they have the function of relieving anxiety, Imitate the rocking motion to relax and ease sleep or simply as a source of gratification.

    Some theories suggest that in some cases it may appear in the presence of a vital stage in which the child feels tense and frustrated. too much it can arise as a result of deprivation of emotional stimulation, or as learned and conditioned behavior in which the child acquires the sway as a method of comfort (by tying it to the cradle or parent sway).

      My son has it: should I be worried?

      The existence of this type of parasomnia generally generates deep concern among parents, often in front of fear that the child has a neurological problem or is suffering from some type of epilepsy epidemic.

      Although some of the movements performed during sleep may resemble epilepsy in cases where the movements are violent, the truth is that nocturnal jactatio capitis does not involve a neurological disorder and in fact no alterations are observed in the body. wave level or brain function. However, it is worth making an assessment in this regard as the presence of these could promote this type of problem.

      Nocturnal jactatio capitis is usually a harmless sleep disorder that does not harm the victim, although it is advisable to be careful to place a barrier on the bed to prevent falls or make sure that there are no corners or items that the child can hit and hurt themselves with.

      The prognosis is positive and, as a rule, this is a type of parasomnia that goes away after a few monthsAlthough it can last for years and even last into adulthood (although the latter is rare).

      Treatment of this disorder

      While nocturnal jactatio capitis usually goes away on its own over time and does not present a health risk, it is sometimes possible to resort to different treatment options, especially when the movements are particularly virulent and generate blows with walls and objects where they are very frequent.

      It is necessary to consider first of all analyzing whether there is some type of environmental element which can generate stress in the child or to assess whether he is receiving sufficient or excessive stimulation which frustrates him or provokes him. need to calm down.

      As for the problem itself, on a psychological level a method similar to the pee-stop of nocturnal and conditioned enuresis cases can be applied: An alarm or a light device is placed which is activated when the child begins to perform the movements. This, although slightly aversive, will wake the child up and interrupt movement and over time the child will stop linking movement to comfort. Sometimes it may also be considered appropriate to use medications, still under medical prescription, such as benzodiazepines or tricyclic antidepressants.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Walsh, JK, Kramer, M. and Skinner, JE (1981). Case report of nocturnal jactatio capitis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 138 (4).

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