The Woes and Whys of Exploding Head Syndrome

headDo not let today’s April Fools date confuse you, it really exists.  Yes, Exploding Head Syndrome is a medically-recognized sleep phenomenon characterized by being awakened by a loud, but nonexistent, noise.  This noise usually happens at the onset of sleep or within an hour or two of falling asleep It is experienced by as many of 20% of college-aged people, according to a Washington State University study.   Although typically painless, these noises can cause fear and distress to the person experiencing them, who are confused by  their symptoms.   And because it is very intermittent, the condition is difficult to diagnose. Worst of all, there’s no effective treatment to deal with this sleep-disturbance condition.

We bring this attention largely because we were amused by the name assigned to this condition by scientists.  While this is a serious condition, whoever came up with the name had to have anticipated not only the accompanying titters but the reaction evoked when you might tell someone:  “My doctor diagnosed me with Exploding Head Syndrome”.

This is unfortunate, as it is a very real and disturbing condition.   So if directly before or during sleep you experience:a tremendously loud noise similar to the sound of an explosion, gunshot, door slamming, roar, waves crashing against rocks, loud voices, a ringing noise, the terrific bang on a tin tray, the sound of an electrical arcing (buzzing), or a thud…..but no one else hears it…..then you might have this syndrom. In some cases an instant flash of what is perceived as video “static” is reported both audibly and visually for a fraction of a second.

This syndrome can also cause you to feel an extreme rush or adrenaline kick going through their head, sometimes multiple times. In most cases, it occurs when you are in a state between asleep and awake. Some sufferers report familiarization with the subsequent fear or panic element such that they no longer consciously experience it. EHS can also mimic nocturnal headache syndromes and seizures. Some patients report a brief, mild jab-like sensation.

Please know that if you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s not in your head.   Well, actually, it is in your head, but you aren’t crazy.  Well, you might be driven crazy by it, but you aren’t making it up.   It’s real.  And it warrants treatment or, at a minimum, a visit to your doctor.   But you might want to think twice before sharing this diagnosis with your friends or family.  You’d not want them to suffer from a case of uncontrollable Exploding Laugh Syndrome.

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