BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Imagine going to sleep with the sounds of gunfire, or a large object crashing to the ground?
No, these aren’t the night terrors of someone living in the war-torn third world. It happens every single night, inside the mind of someone with Exploding Head Syndrome. Despite its name, your head doesn’t literally explode — it just sounds like it will.
Like most people, you’ve probably never heard of this bizarre-sounding syndrome. But apparently it may be more common than researchers originally thought. A recent study by Live Science shows that around 13.5 per cent of people experience this at some point in their lives.
Thankfully, there is usually no pain involved and no imminent danger. It’s not associated with any serious illness either. It is a sensory sleep disorder, and classifies as a parasomnia. The best way to describe a parasomnia is undesirable events that accompany sleep. With Exploding Head Syndrome, disruptions happen when a person is falling asleep, or waking up. As you can imagine, it is extremely disturbing.
Those suffering with this syndrome often think they are having a stroke. The invariability of episodes further compounds the issue because you can’t predict the number of times you will hear noise, or when it will come.
Some people experience several episodes a night. Then nothing for months. You may also see a flash of light, and your body can twitch or jerk as a coping mechanism. For some people (although rare), sudden onset of pain in the head occurs.
Triggers to avoid if you have Exploding Head Syndrome:
- Sleep deprivation
- Extended work hours
Ways to reduce the number and/or its severity:
- People with this syndrome need to be diligent about the number of hours they sleep. Greater sleep will increase the likelihood of greater sleep quality.
- Take up yoga, reading, exercise and mindfulness if stress is a trigger.
- Speak to a health care practitioner about potential medications.
Usually, tests aren’t compulsory measurements of Exploding Head Syndrome. At your doctor’s discretion, an overnight sleep study will be conducted to determine patterns, or further reviews of your brain’s activities. This is called a polysomnogram, which documents your heart rate, brain waves, breathing and bodily movements.