Exploding Head Syndrome is in a class of sleep related disorders called parasomnias. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the term “parasomnia” refers to all the abnormal things that can happen to people while they sleep, apart from sleep apnea. Parasomnias can occur as a person is falling asleep or at any point in the sleep cycle. Parasomnias, as a whole effect 10% of the population, most often children.
Exploding Head Syndrome, or EHS, is a parasomnia which, while quite rare, has been discussed more frequently on social media of late. EHS, as described by the American Sleep Association, occurs when the subject experiences a loud bang in their head similar to a bomb exploding, a gun going off, a clash of cymbals or any other form of loud, indecipherable noise that seems to originate from inside the head. Contrary to the name, exploding head syndrome has no elements of pain, swelling or any other physical trait associated with it. They may be perceived as having bright flashes of light accompanying them, or result in shortness of breath, though this is likely caused by the increased heart rate of the subject after experiencing it. It most often occurs just before deep sleep, and sometimes upon coming out of deep sleep. Unlike most parasomnias, EHS is found most often in persons 50 and older, but may be found as young as age 10.
Episodes can cause a high level of distress and fear. Many people think that they are having a stroke. The number of attacks varies. They can happen very rarely. They can also occur many times in one night. Having many episodes can greatly disturb your sleep. Some people report having a cluster of attacks over several nights. Then a few weeks or months will pass before it occurs again.
EHS is thought to be highly connected with stress and extreme fatigue in most individuals. What actually causes the sensation in individuals is still unknown, though speculation of possible sources includes minor seizures affecting the temporal lobe, or sudden shifts in middle ear components. It may occur more often when you are very tired or under stress. In many people the episodes occur less often over a period of years. Since EHS is rare and does not significantly impact sleep, it goes largely unreported and therefore untreated. Other sleep disorders need to be ruled out before attributing experiences to EHS. Some find relief with certain anti-depressants. If source is suspected to be stress, relaxation techniques may help.
Due to the oddity of this experience, and how little is reported regarding EHS, sufferers are likely to be confused about the source of the sound. Some report the sensation of re-entering their bodies when experiencing episodes of EHS. If a client of a paranormal research team experiences these sensations together, a sleep disorder specialist should be consulted rule our EHS or other sleep disorders prior to coming to any conclusions. This should be a part of debunking routine.