28 May Exploding Head Syndrome… It’s more common than you think.
Exploding head syndrome, is an anomalous sleep experience characterised by hearing loud noises (e.g. resembling an explosion or gunshot) in one’s head at either wake–sleep or sleep–wake transitions. Having experienced this myself, I would agree that gunshot or a back firing car would be an accurate description. This parasomnia has received little attention from researchers and is unknown to the majority of clinicians (only 2 studies could be found by the researchers cited below). Most patients and Dr’s I have spoken with in the general population have never heard of this condition, however when the condition is explained they often know exactly what I am talking about. So it is relatively common but can lead to significant levels of distress in some cases. I thought “am I going crazy” when it first happened to me.
Despite receiving little attention from both researchers and clinicians, studies suggest that approximately 10%–15% of individuals have episodes, with significant levels of fear occurring in a subset of these cases. The article from Denis et al. cited below notes a lifetime prevalence of between 29.59 & 37.19%, with between 3.98 & 6.54% experiencing at least one episode a month.
Denis et al. recently published an article focusing on exploding head syndrome in the Journal of sleep. They utilised two independent datasets to investigate whether insomnia symptoms, well-being, and other sleep experiences are associated with exploding head syndrome. Insomnia symptoms, dissociative experiences, and unusual sleep experiences such as sleep paralysis predicted the presence of exploding head syndrome in multiple regression models.
Their results provide some initial information about multiple factors that may contribute to exploding head syndrome, which will be useful in designing future interventions.
Dan Denis, Giulia L Poerio, Sarah Derveeuw, Isabella Badini, Alice M Gregory; Associations between exploding head syndrome and measures of sleep quality and experiences, dissociation, and well-being, Sleep, Volume 42, Issue 2, 1 February 2019, zsy216, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy216