That loud sound you hear as you are going to sleep is not real. It's in your head.
It’s a modern move, indicating the receipt of some earth-shattering news: you place your hands near your head, then move them out away from your head as you make the sound of an explosion.
“You’re making my head explode!” you say.
Well, guess what? You probably know someone who suffers from a sleep disorder known as Exploding Head Syndrome.
It turns out that as many as 20 percent of us have Exploding Head Syndrome, which is when you hear an alarmingly loud noise, usually a booming sound, go off in your brain just as you are nodding off. This noise, which you are absolutely certain occurred outside of your body, in fact took place inside your brain, information that does little to help you fall back to sleep.
Researchers at Washington State University published a paper on Exploding Head Syndrome in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews in 2014. The phenomenon was first diagnosed in the late 1800s.
“People might think they are having a seizure,’’ said study author Brian Sharpless, Ph.D., in an interview with MSN.com. “Essentially, you are having a misfire in the part of your brain that is responsible for having you transition from wakefulness to sleep. Instead of shutting down your auditory neurons, your brain causes them to fire all at once.”
And when your auditory neurons all fire at once, you hear a “boom”.
Experimenting with 211 college students, the WSU researchers determined that almost 20 percent were determined to have experienced Exploding Head Syndrome, which previously occurred mostly in women over 50 years of age.
Researchers and doctors do not know what causes Exploding Head Syndrome, although disrupted or irregular sleep is considered a possible cause. Stress and anxiety can also be responsible.
Exploding Head Syndrome is not considered dangerous; it rarely causes physical discomfort, pain or injury. But it can happen more frequently with persons suffering from isolated sleep paralysis, which is the inability to move your muscles while sleeping.
Treatments for EHS are currently ineffective, and the only prescribed remedy is consistent sleep. But Sharpless said some research indicates that knowing this experience is not unusual to you, and that others have similar experiences, could reduce the frequency.
“Learning the fact that other people have it too, that there’s a name for it, and that it’s not scary can help to normalize the experience,’’ Sharpless said.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.