The good news is that exploding head syndrome is not to be taken literally. However, it is a very real condition that is just beginning to be understood by researchers who have started to investigate the uncommon and rare sleep disorder seriously. People that suffer from exploding head syndrome will hear a sharp, loud noise that resembles a thunderclap, explosion, or gunshot, as they are falling asleep or as they are waking up from a deep sleep. Often, they will experience flashes of light as well as feelings of anxiety, shortness of breath, and an increased heart rate. Let’s take a deeper look at this sleep problem.
What Causes Exploding Head Syndrome?
Due to the fact extensive research has yet to be performed on the condition, researchers are not sure as to what specifically causes EHS. Some experts believe that it has to do with a minor seizure in the temporal lobe of the brain while others think it might be a type of hearing disorder.
Exploding Head Syndrome and Stress
Some sufferers of exploding head syndrome only hear an explosion in one ear, while others hear it in both. In some cases, patients report hearing the sound from within their head. Researchers have found that this condition typically occurs in those who are dealing with a high amount of stress and mental fatigue. It affects both women and men. However, it seems as though it is more prevalent in women.
EHS is considered a type of hypnagogia, which means that it occurs during the transitional stage just between wakefulness and sleep. Hypnagogic jerking is another kind of hypnagogia, which is the involuntary twitch or spasm in the muscles that occurs randomly or in some cases because of external stimuli. Although researchers are not sure what causes either, some hypothesis says that they are a natural part of the body transitioning into or out of sleep.
People experiencing EHS have also reported other symptoms along with the loud noise heard inside his or her head. For instance, some people report seeing a light or video static flash along with the loud sound. Additionally, people report shortness of breath and palpitations, which are likely caused by the stress of being surprised by the loud sound. Others report a buzzing sensation in their legs and arms afterwards, along with feelings of panic and insomnia.
Does Exploding Head Syndrome Have a Cure?
When EHS is caused by lack of sleep or stress, it is recommended that you practice stress-management methods like meditation, taking a hot bath before going to bed, or light yoga. However, doctors have also reported that sleep disturbances such as exploding head syndrome have to do with a particular drug or medication that the person is taking. In this case, moderating drug use may alleviate EHS. For severe cases of the condition, some studies suggest that taking clomipramine, which is a type of tricyclic antidepressant can aid in reducing the symptoms.
Due to the fact exploding head syndrome is not considered a dangerous condition and does not tend to have a dramatic effect on sleep for most patients, many people choose not to get help to alleviate their symptoms. However, it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor and discuss your medical and sleep history to ensure that you are suffering from EHS and not a more dangerous condition.
Diagnosing Exploding Head Syndrome
When diagnosing someone with EHS, the psychologist or physician will follow a simple step-by-step diagnostic approach. Typically, they will first look at their medical history to determine how often and when it occurs. They will also do a physical examination to determine if any physical conditions are causing the EHS. For extreme cases, an overnight polysomnography may be in order, which is a type of device to examine a parasomnia condition.