Exploding Head Syndrome
Exploding head syndrome is a rare kind of sleep disorder, categorized under parasomnias. Parasomnias can be termed as eccentric occurrences at some point during sleep, while falling asleep or when waking up. The condition was first documented in 1920 by Armstrong Jones, a scientist who described it as “snapping of the brain”.
Individuals who are above the age of 50 years are the most vulnerable although it can happen in childhood. Below is a comprehensive look at the disease in the quest to understand it better;
Exploding Head Syndrome Symptoms
1. Individuals experiencing this condition describe hearing a sudden and loud sound in the head. Often, it sounds like;
· The sound of a gunshot
· A deafening clash of cymbals
· The sound of a slamming door
· Shouts and screams from people
· An electric buzzing sound
· A tremendously loud rushing sound
· Loud sounds which cannot be described precisely
2. While exploding syndrome is not painful, some individuals describe it as painful at the onset. Most are scared or upset when it wakes them up from sleep.
3. Individuals may experience sensations of flashing light
4. Brief occurrences sleep paralysis accompanied by an out-of-day experience
5. Difficulty in breathing which only lasts for a short period of time
These episodes last for a few seconds, or a few minutes and do not occur during the main stages of sleep; only when falling asleep or waking up.
Causes and Risk Factors
The main reason why exploding head syndrome occurs the way it does is yet to be explained. As perplexing as it is, some psychologist and physicians have sighted the following reasons outlined below as the probable causes
· Trifling seizures in the temporal lobe
· Spontaneous movements of the parts of the ear including the ear drum or the tensor tympani which is the muscle responsible for reducing sound, like the sound of chewing food for instance.
· Damage to the brain cells
· Muscle jerks, referred to as sleep starts, nocturnal myoclonus or hypnic jerk
· Anxiety, fatigue and stress
· Sharp stabbing pain, although it’s very rare
· Age factor
If you’re diagnosed with the exploding head syndrome, a physician or psychologist will carry out the following procedures on you;
· Assess your medical history to ascertain when and how often it happens. Mostly, bed partners are called upon to provide the necessary information.
· Physical examination aimed at establishing if you have any physical disorders which may cause the condition.
· Overnight polysomnography PSG which is basically an exam to test the sleep so as to ultimately study your sleeping behavior.
· Electroencephalograms, EEG, a process which involves recording of the attacks and analyzing any activities that are deemed to be abnormal.
· Urine Drug Screening Examination so as to rule out any possibility drug abuse.
Treatment for exploding head syndrome involves;
A Visit to the Doctor – By paying a visit to the doctor, individuals can be sure of proper advice and correct diagnosis. It’s important to mention that it’s only a qualified doctor who is allowed to diagnose such conditions.
Controlling Stress – One of the causes of exploding head syndrome is stress. It therefore goes without saying that if patients embark on a stress relief therapy they will be going a long way in improving the condition.
Keep a Sleep Journal – Recording how often the experiences occur comes in handy when trying to track the syndrome.
Avoid Periods of Fatigue – Research shows that parasomnias are likely to occur when an individual is exhausted. Fatigue can be avoided by getting enough sleep during the day or sleeping for the recommended 8 hours everyday.
Medications – If the above mentioned treatments don’t work, you can request the physician to prescribe a medication for you. Medications prescribed include depressants such as Clomipramine.
Exercise Patience – Exploding head syndrome resolves with time and sometimes all you have to do is be patient and wait for the condition to recede.
Other conditions related to the exploding head syndrome include;
Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis – Individuals suffering from this condition are aware of the surroundings but cannot move their bodies. It occurs as you begin to sleep or wake up.
Kleine-Levine Syndrome – Unlike exploding head syndrome, Kleine-Levine syndrome is characterized by excessive sleepiness and mood swings which can last from hours to weeks
Free Running Syndrome – This is typified by irregular sleep cycles that changes later each day and is one of the hardest sleep disorders to correct.
Fatal Famillial Insomnia – This is a rare condition that affects the brain and may lead to losing the ability to sleep at and subsequently death.
Sleep may come across as an unproductive activity but in the reality it is paramount in maintaining and enduring human health. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention should you be affected by any of the above sleep disorders.