Ask SleepBetter: Exploding Head Syndrome

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is from a man who has static in his head that won’t let him sleep:

“So, I have been having this problem when I try to fall asleep, and I have yet to find someone who has experienced it. I usually don’t have trouble falling asleep, but recently I have been experiencing what I can best describe as a static bomb. I will be at the point where I am starting to fall asleep, and then this “static bomb” goes off. For a fraction of a second, I see a really bright light and I hear a roaring static. Then it just stops. Its been happening quite frequently, and I don’t know what to make of it. Its almost like turning a TV at full volume onto a static channel while sitting in a dark room. Do you have any idea what it could be? I just don’t know what to make of it.”

-Josh H. (via email)

As always, we recommend that you discuss the issue with your doctor, to rule out any serious issues that could be causing your problem.  However, what you’re describing sounds very much like a sleep disorder called Exploding Head Syndrome.  The name sounds rather ominous, but the symptoms are exactly what you describe.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine describes the disorder like this:

“Exploding head consists of a loud noise that you suddenly imagine just before you fall asleep. It can seem like a violent explosion has gone off in your head. It can also occur as you wake up in the night.”

The AASM says the “noise” has also been described by patients as a painless loud bang, a clash of cymbals or a bomb exploding.  A flash of light may also accompany the sensation of noise.

Science knows very little about this disorder.  They believe it impacts more women than men, and seems to be more common among those over the age of 50.  One suggestion to help ease the symptoms is to learn relaxation techniques that you can use before bed.

Again, we do urge you to visit a doctor to ensure than nothing else is causing your issues.  You may also want to consider discussing your problem with a sleep doctor.  To find one in your area, use this link.

UPDATE: New research indicates that more people may experience exploding head syndrome than previously thought.  Check out this updated article on exploding head syndrome, published on SleepBetter.org.

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