Exploding Head Syndrome

Exploding head syndrome is a mysterious medical condition that causes the sufferer to occasionally experience a loud noise as if from within his/her own head. Exploding head syndrome belongs to a class of sleep disorders called parasomnia. The loud noise that people hear usually varies from person to person. While some hear an explosion, some hear a roar, some complain of a ringing noise, while some hear the sound of glass breaking. Sometimes, people just cannot decipher the loud noise in their head that has just woken them up.

What Exactly Happens?

  • Usually after one or two hours into sleep, some people tend to hear this loud noise that comes from within their head that causes them to wake up. Ironically, that loud noise that causes a person to startle from his/her sleep is not heard once the person is awake.
  • This is not the result of a dream and can happen during daytime as well. Also, the attack can sometimes be a one-timer or can repeat itself over a period of time. Although perceived as tremendously loud, the event is normally painless. In some cases a sudden stab of pain in the head is reported.
  • Though painless and not considered to be dangerous, exploding head syndrome is known to terrify the people experiencing it and sometimes can be very distressing. Sufferers often feel a sense of fear and anxiety after an attack, accompanied by an increased heart rate.
  • Exploding head syndrome can be confused with other headache syndromes but, headache syndromes cause great pain.

Who Can Suffer?

It is not known how many people have exploding head syndrome. It may be more common in women older than 50 than in men, although the average age when it first appears is 58 years. It can begin at any stage. It has even been reported that it may occur as early as less than 10 years of age.

People might observe a flash of light along with the loud sound heard. A muscle twitch or jerk may also occur. The condition may happen or develop at any time. The number of attacks varies. They can happen very rarely. They can also occur many times in one night. Some people report having a cluster of attacks over several nights. It may occur in a space of days or weeks followed by months of remission.

What Causes This Phenomenon?

The causes of Exploding Head Syndrome are not exactly clear. Parents with children suffering from the condition may mistake it for a nightmare or some form of trauma.

  • Some physicians have reported its correlation with stress, anxiety, and extreme fatigue.
  • It may be the result of a sudden movement of a middle ear component or of the eustachian tube.
  • It may be the result of a form of minor seizure in the temporal lobe where the nerve cells for hearing are located.

One has to bear in mind that the above reasons are only possible but not definitive reasons for one to suffer from this relatively rare phenomenon. This phenomenon can also not be associated with disorders like migraines, epilepsy or myconic jerks. As of now, the only thing that can be associated with the phenomenon is sleep.

Treatment of Exploding Head Syndrome

  • There is some evidence that the medicine clomipramine (an anti-depressant) may help in treating a few people suffering from exploding head syndrome. Some reports also suggest that sedatives can help people suffering from this syndrome. Interestingly, even stimulants are known to have worked for a few.
  • In most cases though, one can only wait for the phenomenon to recede by itself. It can take anytime between days to years for the loud noise to stop altogether.

Consult with your doctor and discuss as to what can be done. Please do note that Exploding Head Syndrome does not, in fact, cause the head to explode.