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Phil Jackman, author of Collected Wisdom.Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail

This week, Collected Wisdom looks at the topic of jerks in the bedroom. Okay, maybe we should rephrase that …

THE QUESTION: Rory Gilfillan of Lakefield, Ont., wonders why, when he begins to fall asleep, he'll sometimes jerk suddenly and wake up.

THE ANSWER: "These are hypnic jerks," writes Joel N. Eisen, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, "and refer to the phenomenon and not to the inquirer."

He says almost everyone has them and they're associated with sleep deprivation. "The jerking is caused by contraction of the large muscles and lasts less than a second. Usually, there is a sensation of falling. It's not well understood but thought to be related to levels of electrical activity in the brain as one falls asleep."

In regards to the falling sensation, Jessie Bahrey of Delta, B.C., writes:

"When I was studying evolution in high school, one of my teachers taught us that modern humans have retained a few characteristics and behaviours that are remnants of our evolutionary ancestors, specifically from when our ancestors lived in trees."

He says one of the behaviours is our tendency to jerk awake as we are falling asleep, as this would happen if we were about to fall out of a tree. "I have not ever read this since that class," he writes, "but it does seem to be plausible to me."

A final theory on this now from Garry Robbins of London, Ont. "As you are falling asleep, your heart rate sometimes slows faster than normal. Your brain interprets this as if you are dying, and sends a signal to your muscles to revive you. I used to have this when I was younger. I don't seem to have it much any more. Maybe my brain is giving up on wanting to revive me."

THE QUESTION: Does the Queen have to carry a passport when she travels? Pauline Rowe of Hamilton wants to know.

THE ANSWER: The Queen does not need a passport, because U.K. passports are issued in her name, writes Ronald A. McCallum of Mississauga.

Inside the front cover of a U.K. passport, it states: "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty …"

He notes that Canada's passports, on the other hand, state: "The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada requests in the name of Her Majesty, the Queen …"

All other members of the Royal Family, however, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales, do have passports.


  • "Why do ink cartridges cost so darned much?" asks Michael Hanlon of Cobourg, Ont. "I bought one the other day that contained a mere 1.35 fluid ounces of ink, about a third the size of a decent martini. The price: $46.58."
  • Joanna Ranieri and Mark Hazelden of Toronto were canoeing recently and wondered why you steer a canoe (or an airplane) from the back, but you steer a car or bicycle from the front.
  • In Canada, precipitation amounts are reported and recorded differently - rain in millimetres and snow in centimetres. Why? Sandy MacDonald of Toronto wants to know.

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