Spotlight on sleep disorders: Exploding Head Syndrome

06 Jun Spotlight on sleep disorders: Exploding Head Syndrome

Did you know there are over 100 types of different sleep disorders? Amazing that there are so many disorders that can interrupt or impact on your sleep or sleep experiences. This article aims to shed some light on Exploding Head Syndrome. How have we not heard of all these exploding heads on the news? Exploding head syndrome certainly sounds like a really interesting sleep disorder. In truth the disorder sounds more dangerous than it really is, and you may have even experienced or experience this at some point in your life.

What is it?

Exploding head syndrome is characterised by a sudden loud imagined noise or sense of violent explosion in your head as you are falling into or coming out of sleep. Don’t worry, these episodes are generally entirely painless. You may also experience a flash of light or a body jerk at the same time. Often these episodes are described as a loud bang or explosion, like a bomb exploding or a loud clash of cymbals. Understandably these episodes are quite frightening, so expect your heart to race, you may even think you are having a stroke! Luckily these episodes are generally isolated and not overly frequent. However for an unfortunate few, these events have been noted to occur multiple times per night over many nights.

Who gets this and when?

We actually don’t know how many people experience this in the population, nor do we have a clear idea of the age of onset or if it runs in the family… so basically it may happen to anyone at any age. It is often reported to happen when you are overly stressed or really tired. It is thought to generally occur as you are falling off to sleep, although some say it happens after they have fallen asleep. We think these “mid sleep” events are likely to have occurred after waking up briefly and then falling back to sleep. The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying this hypnagogic (falling asleep) phenomenon are unknown. No epileptic activity or relationship between epilepsy and exploding head syndrome has been identified. It is thought that exploding head syndrome is a sensory variant of another sleep disorder: Hypnic Jerks (sleep starts), where your body gives a large jerk just as you are drifting off to sleep waking you up.

For more information on sleep disorders: Refer the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (http://www.esst.org/adds/ICSD.pdf) or other stories on our website.