Sleep Care

Exploding Head Syndrome

Despite the dramatic name, Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS) is a painless disorder that does not involve any swelling or bursting of the head and is generally not considered to be serious. Instead, EHS is a parasomnia in which the sufferer experiences a loud bang in their head just as they are falling asleep or waking up. The occurrence is painless, but can sometimes be accompanied by a flash of light or other parasomnia-like symptoms; including difficulty speaking or sleep paralysis. Following the event the sufferer will often report feeling scared or anxious, and may have difficulty sleeping due to this stress.

Also referred to as Auditory Sleep Starts, the exact cause is not known, however it typically presents during times of stress or extreme fatigue. Medical experts believe the loud exploding sound could be related to the sudden movement of the middle ear or Eustachian tube. Another theory is that these occurrences are related to minor seizures in the temporal lobe, the section of the brain near the hearing center.

Episodes of EHS are often reported in clusters, occurring several times over days or weeks, and may go months or years without any symptoms. Those experiencing EHS were typically over the age of 50, but cases have been reported as young as 10 years of age.

Resolving the symptoms are often as simple as reducing stress and getting more rest. Stress reducing activities such as exercise or reading a book before bed have shown to be effective, while developing a more balanced sleep regimen can eliminate the extreme fatigue associated with EHS. One medication that has been used to treat exploding head syndrome is clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant.

If symptoms of EHS occur along with pain, this could be a sign of another more serious health concern and sufferers should consult a physician. Additionally if EHS is occurring frequently and is detrimental to your quality of life you should see your doctor for a full evaluation.

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