When these mind blowing explosions happen in the head, people often try to make sense of it with the external. However, in actuality, it is the auditory neurons in our head exploding and cracking down. It is graphic because of the hallucinatory imaginations in our head that dwells beside the two waves: alpha and delta, former induces drowsiness while latter that incorporates sleep even external environment to stay in mid sleep.
When studied on undergraduates who underwent the Exploding Head Syndrome or EHS (*should not be confused with Electromagnetic Hyper-Sensitivity), every 1-in-5 of them recorded their experiences. In fact, statistics shows that 10-20% of every adult has more than once in their lives, awakened from deep sleep by long and crystal clear bomb, gunshot or thunderclap resounding explosions inside their heads, mid-sleep or when shutting down.
Some connect it to heart attacks while others vouch it as illegal energy weapons deployed or even alien abduction disorder (or sleep paralysis). Statistics shows that 4 billion Americans associate alien abductions with EHS.
What is Exploding Head Syndrome ?
The study by Brain Sharpless found that EHS is a common occurrence with most people today. He advocates that this explosion in the head is actually a momentary hiccup of our neurons or an occasional malfunction in the hypnic state (transitional level of brain to shut the body down to sleep). When actually, these auditory neurons are actually sending the signal of a system’s crash to the brain.
Exploding Head Syndrome, although lesser sounding in importance due to its ‘certain subtlety’ is critically exclaimed as the exact phrases of the billions of people and Wikipedia who go through EHS, without deliberately ignoring it.
This alarming episode of loud cacophony in the head during the drowsing period is actually a serious parasomnia, which refers to highly unfavourable events that occur alongside your transition into sleep. Symptoms of EHS should not be, confused with migraine headaches, as the former is painless without fail, unlike the latter, which is excruciating!
How does Exploding Head Syndrome occur?
According to researchers, when a person sleeps, the physical body shuts itself down while entering paralysis, which prevents the body from acting out the dreams in the mind while it sleeps. These transitions are usually slow and occur bit by bit through each of the sleep stages.
During the transformation, a sound processing neuron region in the brain suddenly bursts when the alpha waves begin to produce the drowsing sensation in the brain. This neural hiccup happens in brain’s reticular formation area, which supervises the routine shut down of the body. Certain areas do not switch off automatically to the routine, but instead are replaced by a sudden firing of the auditory neurons or hypnic jerks.
Certain people enter into a state of mild electric shock from head to toe for a few seconds before EHS. Alternatively, others enter paralysis soon after, due to the traumatic loudness and length of the outburst, while another majority relate the aura to alien abductions and encounters with futuristic energy weapons!
Causes of Exploding Head Syndrome
According to Dr. Brian Sharples from Washington State University, ‘EHS is parallel to a computer that shuts down as the motor, sound and visual brain cells turn itself off in certain stages of sleep’.
Due to lack of sufficient research on this parasomnia, EHS is still in pitch dark and it owes most of the factual fundamentals to sleep paralysis. This jerk or confusion in the transition from wakefulness to sleep and can be thus, explained with the outburst of auditory neurons, which registers as an explosion in the head. In terms of fatal sleep disorder like sleep paralysis, while the consciousness has woken up and the mind perceives hallucinatory sounds and visuals that resound day-like memories as it is still in REM sleep (like, dreaming awake).
This sudden surge of electrical energy amidst the 100 billion neurons in the human body can be scientifical, hypothesized to the following causes:
Temporal lobe seizures:
– Known to cause déjà vu in some people to extreme fright in certain others, temporal lobe seizures are simple partial epileptic seizures (no loss of awareness) unlike complete partial seizures. They are known to occur after traumatic experiences or critical injuries to the head. The abnormal synchronization of brain cells in the temporal lobe can also lead to EHS episodes.
Dysfunction in (tiny) bones of the middle ear:
– When our ears hear a loud noise, like that of a gunshot, the ossicles in our ears (tiny middle bones) immediately shifts to absorb the direct emphatic sound so as to prevent it from reaching the inner ear. Theories suggest that EHS must be the dysfunction occurring due to the unplanned shifting of the middle ear bones.
Fatigue, Stress and anxiety attacks:
– When the fatigue and stress are extreme in our body, anxiety leads to the difficulty of staying awake. During the hypnic state when the body transitions into sleep, these daytime extremities of stress, fatigue and anxiety, recurs. One inference of the research was that distressed or fatigued patients heard the sounds in interiors of the head and sometimes from either side of the head.
Rapid Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines or serotonin inhibitors:
– As the withdrawal symptoms are majorly defined as somnipathies with anxiety, panic attacks, tremors, seizures and hallucinations, often the sensation of Explosion in the head can be caused by this rapid withdrawal from Benzodiazepines.
– Researches advocate that EHS is a benign sensory subset of hypnic jerk. These muscular jerks happen when a person is transitioning from wakefulness to sleep or vice-versa. This occurs due to the twitch or kneejerk reaction during sleep or awakening from sleep. This twitch is a muscle spasm, also called ‘sleep starts’.
Decline in Delta sleep (Slow-wave sleep):
– Sleep stages 3&4, gives rise to delta sleep or slow-sleep stage of REM, which is also a restorative state for the body. In this stage, regenerations for tissue damages also take place. Hence, occurrences in the external are often incorporated into the dream stage, to prevent the person from waking up. During stage of decline or end of delta sleep (last stages), the skeletal muscles of a person are paralyzed and any neural abnormal synchronization can lead to EHS.
What are the symptoms of Exploding Head Syndrome?
From ten year olds to fifty year olds, EHS cases have been documented across all ages of the human history. However, as these resound imaginative sounds, tactile and sensory hallucinations, people often think EHS is uncommon and thus keep it to themselves as a mystical or paranormal activity.
Some symptoms of EHS are:
Explosion in the Head:
There are a variety of EHS explosions that EHS patients suffer from and some of them are experienced as:
- A painless loud bang: – One prolonged moment of a painless big bang in the ears, from which the sleeper awakes shuddering.
- A clash of cymbals: – A thunderclap or loud gong tap on the cymbals that alerts the sleep awake.
- A bomb exploding: – A loud explosion lucid in its detonations is heard temporarily, to jerk awaken the sleeper.
- A stab: – A sudden stab in the head that is long, yet short to twitch the sleeper into awakening.
- A flash of Light and sound: – Some people also experience intense searing white light with an explosion due to fast heart rate.
Usually the sleeper awakes in a pool of sweat, simultaneously feeling cold, due to hallucinatory experience, as in a time lapse.
Fast heart rate:
Before the hallucinations jerk the sleeping body awake, the heart rate shoots up and breaths begin to become shallow.
A common symptom of people with EHS is that the sleeper awakens with an uncomfortable gasp, often as an act of escape from the hypnic jerk of EHS.
Any awareness of the sound, touch or image is startling as it is, incorporated as hallucinations through delta waves.
The patient experiences drowsiness throughout the day
The extreme traumatic auditory and sensory or hallucinatory experience during EHS is flawlessly painless!
Often defined as an episode of paralysis experienced while the person wakes up (hypnocampia) or falls asleep (hypnagogia). This is a temporary, yet scary (serious as well!) paralysis when the patient loses the ability to move, use any sense organs and is lost in insanity.
Obstructive sleep apnea:
EHS is common after episodes of the somnipathy- snoring.
How to Test for EHS?
As there are billions of people suffering from EHS and very little research has been done yet. Hence, it is not easy to speculate EHS, let alone test it to confirm it. The two ways to confirm it are:
The only real plausible explanation is to keep a sleep diary and record your occurrences soon after, to help a doctor confirm it. To keep an ideal sleep diary for Exploding Head Syndrome, record your:
- Sleep duration including waking up in the middle of sleep
- Any occurrences of EHS
- Detailed 10 Lines of description
- Increase your description whenever it recurs
A medical observation of the patient while sleeping in a facilitated sleep chamber that measures many physiological units of sleep.
- Respiratory Airflow and Excursion
- EEG- electroencephalogram, EOG- Electrooculography , EMG- Electromyography , ECG- electrocardiogram
- Lower Limb Movement
- Electrophysiological units
After confirming that you have Exploding Head Syndrome, finding the right way to cure it is effortless!
Treatment of Exploding Head Syndrome
Treating these random, yet terrifying episodes of explosions inside your head is not only essential, but it necessary. As this mind-blowing-experience, can sometimes cause psychosomatic pain disorder, temporary tachycardia, panic disorder, depression and psychiatric episodes when misinterpreted.
Here, are some painless treatments of Exploding Head Syndrome:
Visit a Sleep Doctor:
If your sleep diary shows 2+ occurrences of the Exploding Head Syndrome , visit a sleep doctor, who will prescribe you drugs for the same. Or, choose the natural ways to effortlessly treat your body out of this manic sleep disorder.
No drugs are currently available that can cure this somnipathy, but it can be suppressed effectively for the seizures and stress. Some are:
- Clomipramine (antidepressant tricyclic): 50 mg at night
- Flunarizine: 10 mg every day
- Imipramine: 10 mg
- Alprazolam: 0.25 mg
- Nifedipine: 90 mg every day
- Topiramate: 200 mg every day
Undergo proper daily yoga with mindfulness and meditation and have a minimum of 6 hours of sleep every day. This will reduce your mind’s side of anxieties, which appear along with EHS. Learning to stimulate calm through relaxation and exercise is necessary to achieve deep sleep.
Balanced Diet to treat internal body or biological clock:
One great advantage to treating EHS through self-help is that you not only de-stress, but also de-toxify. A balanced diet is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals needed for your body to treating Exploding Head Syndrome through correcting body’s circadian rhythm. Give it a try, today!
Many a times, we get into the habit of consuming sleeping pills and benzodiazepines or serotonin supplements (SSRIs, antidepressants) which regulate EHS occurrences. This is due to the withdrawal mechanism of craving the substance, by our body. If you have noticed this as a dependent factor, it is time instill lifestyles changes NOW!
Support, Encouragement and Self-confidence for Stress removal through natural detoxification:
Reassurance is the first step after a person accepts to having Explosions that awakens when he or she sleep. Find support groups, sleep clinic or the internet to find more on the subject.
With all the above steps, if you feel that you need psychiatric help, feel free to record the reasons you feel for the same, in your diary and take it to the next visit with your sleep doctor.