Exploding Head Syndrome Is Real, But What Exactly Is It?

Exploding head syndrome sounds like something one would expect to see happen in an over-the-top action movie. But a new study claims that it does exist, and many people have experienced it.

According to Medical News Today, the study was conducted by Dr. Brian Sharpless of Washington State University. It was previously thought that exploding head syndrome was something that “people in their 50s” only experienced, but Sharpless said he didn’t believe that conclusion.

“That didn’t make a lot of biological sense to me.”

Sharpless conducted a study and published it in the Journal of Sleep Research, which can only be read via subscription. But upon further review, Sharpless concluded there needs to be more research done in order to fully understand it.

So, what exactly is exploding head syndrome? Sharpless says it’s something that occurs as people are getting ready to fall asleep and are then suddenly awakened by a loud, unexplainable noise. The cause of the noise could be from the auditory system still operating, instead of shutting down with the rest of the brain.

Sharpless told the Atlantic that exploding head syndrome could happen for a variety of reasons.

“My gut would tell me that things like anxiety and insomnia, and a general preoccupation with bodily symptoms and fear of them, would make people more likely to have exploding head [syndrome].”

The study Sharpless conducted looked at 211 undergraduate students from Washington State University to see if they had experienced sleep paralysis or exploding head syndrome. Eighteen percent of the participants noted at least one occurrence of exploding head syndrome. And though the study didn’t have too many participants, Sharpless said exploding head syndrome could be something that is more “common” in younger people.

“Given the potential clinical impacts, it is recommended that it be assessed more regularly in research and clinical settings.”

Sharpless added those who experience the condition had a difficult time trying to figure out the random noise they heard.

“Some people have worked these scary experiences into conspiracy theories and mistakenly believe the episodes are caused by some sort of directed-energy weapon. For this scary noise you hear at night when there’s nothing going on in your environment, well, it might be the government messing with you.”

There isn’t a cure yet, but Sharpless mentioned that one is in the works.

“One of the drugs they gave for exploding head syndrome actually didn’t make the noises go away. It just turned the volume down.”

[Image via Ripley’s Believe It or Not!]