Parasomnias 101: Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS)

Parasomnias 101: Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS), sleep disorder, exploding head syndrome

“My head is going to explode!” Sounds familiar, right? We’re all guilty of using the expression from time to time when our kids are getting hyperactive and we can’t manage that, or when work stress takes over and it seems like there are not enough hours in a day to complete all our tasks.

For some people, though, an “exploding head” is a legitimate syndrome they have to live with. Unfortunately, not many people pay proper attention to the exploding head syndrome (EHS) and simply write it off as the result of a stressful day or some other issue. Let’s get it straight: exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a serious parasomnia, which needs to be addressed by a doctor appropriately.

What is Exploding Head Syndrome?

Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a type of parasomnia in which person hears extremely loud noises when going to sleep or waking up. The sounds are often described as a bomb explosion, gunshot, thunder and lightning, fireworks, or gunfire. One patient described exploding head syndrome like “this sudden crescendo of noise, then a profound and jarring explosion of sound, electrical fizzing and a bright flash in my vision, like someone has lit a spotlight in front of my face”.

No matter what type of sound a person hears, it’s almost always painless and short, but very disturbing and confusing. Additionally, people suffering from exploding head syndrome may have tachycardia and palpitations associated with the parasomnia condition.

What causes exploding head syndrome?

Unfortunately, scientists and researchers don’t have a univocal response to that question. Some scientists state that EHS is linked to minor temporal lobe seizures, while others claim that the syndrome is caused by ear dysfunctions or by good (not really) old stress and anxiety. That being said, variable and broken sleep can certainly be considered as a highly prominent cause of exploding head syndrome.

For example, Dr. Brian Sharpless of Argosy University, Northern Virginia explored that exploding head syndrome is actually linked to isolated sleep paralysis, that is another parasomnia in which a sufferer can’t move or speak when falling asleep or awakening. In the study of 211 undergraduate students Dr. Sharpless was conducting, he and his team found out that one-third of all EHS sufferers also experience sleep paralysis.

Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS) risk groups:

Scientists claim that exploding head syndrome only affects 1/10 of the entire population. On top of that, the researchers say that women are more prone to the condition than men and the average age of those obtaining the syndrome range between 50 and 65 years old.

Exploding Head Syndrome treatment:

 Due to its benign nature, in most cases, EHS doesn’t require medical treatment. However, if a person is experiencing a disturbed sleep as a result of EHS or has any other disturbing consequences, a treatment may be required. Although there’s no specific treatment existing, a number of medications ranging from anti-seizure drugs to calcium-channel blockers can be used to relieve the symptoms in addition to other therapies like relaxation, improved sleep routine, and counseling. Beyond that, a sleep study may help to identify the underlying causes and find an appropriate treatment for each particular case.

What to do if you suffer from Exploding Head Syndrome?

 While there’s no clear EHS treatment out there, a sleep study may help to identify the underlying causes of the condition and fight the seizures with an appropriate treatment. If you find yourself having EHS attacks, don’t wait until it turns into a complete nightmare -just contact our sleep center and ask for help. Our sleep doctors have an outstanding experience in all types of parasomnias and will be able to find the right treatment for you.