Exploding Head Syndrome – You might have looked at the title of this article and quickly surmised that it’s not actually a real thing, but we can assure you it is. There are a number of rare conditions that sound made-up. Take for instance “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” or “Werewolf Syndrome” or “Alien Hand Syndrome” and one we have actually talked about in the past sometimes called, “Walking Corpse Syndrome”.
But as far as maladies go, we think “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome” is perhaps the best name out there. We won’t cover any of those today and instead concentrate our efforts to explain to you cases of exploding heads. Thankfully, exploding head syndrome isn’t as bad as you might think.
If you ever watched the old science-fiction horror movie “Scanners”, you’ll have seen an exploding head in all its horror. In fact, while this film was made back in 1981, you can’t really beat it regarding heads just being blown apart from the inside. Exploding head syndrome isn’t quite as dramatic or gory as that.
It’s still pretty terrible though for those that suffer from it. Let us explain. It seems physicians wrote about this as far back as 1876, but we didn’t get the name exploding head syndrome, aka, EHS, until 1988. It’s quite a mysterious condition and doctors are still not sure how to treat it.
We’ll first explain what it might feel like to have this condition, then look at why it happens and later listen to some people who have experienced Exploding Head Syndrome. Let’s imagine it is happening to you. You are just about to go to sleep or perhaps you have just awoken. Then suddenly your head is flooded with loud noises, but these noises seem like they come from another place.
There could also be bright flashes in front of your face. It might feel like you have some kind of alien interference in your brain. You are no doubt frightened, but it will soon pass. That’s exploding head syndrome in a nutshell. Because more research has to be done on Exploding Head Syndrome we don’t know how many people are regularly affected or have been affected at least once by this.
Those that have experienced it have mostly described it as we have, but others have said that accompanying their auditory and visual hallucinations there were also rises in body temperature, or sometimes a tingling feeling going through the body as if electrical currents are passing through it.
Others say they just stopped breathing, that they jerked around, and after initial panic the thing just went away. Yep, it really does sound like something from a science fiction movie. As it usually happens just before sleep or after waking the most common hypotheses for why it happens is something goes wrong in the brain during that transition from waking to sleeping.
But as no one is really that sure what Exploding Head Syndrome is, it might also be related to seizures,stress, anxiety, problems with the ear, medications, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. We just don’t know. It’s classed as a sleep disorder, and for centuries people have written about something crazy happening to some unfortunate people just before they sleep or just after they wake.
It’s been called a “snapping of a brain” or more recently “episodic cranial sensory shock”. It might even have happened to you because we are told that it may affect as much as ten percent of the population. If it does happen, and happens again, you’ll likely be given some medication. The U.S. National Institutes of Health, however, called it rare. It said this parasomnia, which means something abnormal going on during sleep, for some people is just hearing a very loud bang.
It gave the example of an Indian man who had had a series of these attacks and described them as “explosions in my head”. He went on to say that just as he was getting off to sleep they would happen, but then he would see bright flashes and he’d feel something like an electric jolt in his head.
While scary, he said after it happened there was no pain at all. NIH concluded, “Exploding Head Syndrome is a benign, uncommon, predominantly nocturnal parasomnia that can mimic primary and secondary headache disorders along with seizures. No treatment is generally required as the condition is self-limiting. Reassurance to the patient is often all that is needed”.
The Guardian wrote in 2017 that some other people hear different kinds of noises, and understandably these people might be somewhat frightened. People have heard a series of gunshots, while others have heard fireworks, shouting, clapping and even cymbals crashing.
It sounds like one of those prank wake up videos we see on YouTube, but it’s all in the head, not the work of an annoying friend. The Guardian wrote, “Recent research has contradicted the idea that Exploding Head Syndrome is rare. One study found that 10.7% of healthy subjects, 10% of patients with a sleep disorder and 13.8% of psychiatric patients reported having experienced Exploding Head Syndrome”.
Other studies have revealed it has happened to even more people, with women seeming to suffer more from this scary condition. In the UK, researchers wanted to know more about the condition, especially as it seems to happen to so many people. Universities in the UK have been asking folks to come forward if they have experienced it, because a lot of people just don’t tell anyone.
If they can know more about a person and that person’s lifestyle and sleeping habits, perhaps they can better understand Exploding Head Syndrome. One man interviewed by the BBC said he has Exploding Head Syndrome and unfortunately his head regularly explodes. This is how he described his episodes: “There’s this sudden crescendo of noise, then a profound and jarring explosion of sound, electrical fizzing and a bright flash in my vision, like someone has lit a spotlight in front of my face”.
The BBC said it’s such a mystery condition that people have at times said it must be something related to the succubus and incubus night demons, or alien abduction or perhaps a government conspiracy. It cited a study in which 211 students at one university in the USA were asked if they had experienced Exploding Head Syndrome and amazingly 18 percent of the respondents said yes.
The lead researcher who conducted that study said it’s much more likely to happen if you already have a sleep disorder, or perhaps if you are suffering from jetlag. It’s likely to happen during that weird period when you don’t know if you are asleep or awake. That researcher said that when we sleep our body just shuts down and we become paralyzed,and this is so we don’t act what we dream.
We don’t want to be actually fighting in the bed when we are just dreaming about a fight. But he said with people with Exploding Head Syndrome something just doesn’t shut down correctly; there is a delay of sorts, and this can lead to the fireworks and bombs going off. The BBC explained it like lots of neurons firing all at once, saying, “This delay is associated with a suppression of alpha brain waves that are normally responsible for drowsiness, and a sudden burst of neural activity in the areas of the brain responsible for processing sound”.
The guy who was interviewed about his Exploding Head Syndrome said yes, it certainly feels like that, and there seems to be lots of electricity going through his body when it happens. He said, “It feels like an electric shock. You can feel the current passing through you”. It’s been compared to something called sleep paralysis, which we guess many of you have experienced.
This is when you are still asleep but part of you wakes up. You are still dreaming, but are conscious, so you experience things as if you are awake but you are asleep. You can’t move, but are somehow awake. That is also scary. Research in the past pointed towards this mostly happening to middle aged people, but as you’ve heard, it seems a lot of young people have experienced Exploding Head Syndrome.
So, now we open this to you and will ask you if your head has ever exploded this way. Tell us all about it in the comments.