Very little is understood about one of the more obscenely named sleep disorders known to science: exploding head syndrome.
Despite the outrageous name, this phenomenon is typically harmless — but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily debilitating to everyday life, as it can frequently be disruptive to patients’ sleep. Those forced to endure exploding head syndrome usually hear a loud bang sound similar to cymbals crashing, a gun firing, or a bomb exploding- when no actual noise is really happening.
A recent review of the existing studies done on exploding head syndrome looks at exactly how overlooked this strange condition really is. As of right now, there’s not much scientific evidence that accurately indicates current U.S. frequency rates, diagnostic tactics, or even treatment plans, admits the review.
“In layman’s terms, our best guess is that it occurs when the body doesn’t shut down for sleep in the correct sequence,” researcher Brian Sharpless, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and director of the Psychology Clinic at Washington State University, discussed in a statement. “Instead of shutting down, certain groups of neurons actually get activated and have us perceive the bursts of noise. Behavioral and psychological factors come into play as well, and if you have normally disrupted sleep, the episodes will be more likely to occur.”
Sharpless goes on via email discussing that he’s dealt with roughly 40 cases of exploding head syndrome in his continued study of the disorder- and while it’s usually believed to be related to stress and severe fatigue, it’s also considered to be more common in women than men. It also shows up more frequently in people over 50, though it has been witnessed in children as young as 10 years old, says the American Sleep Association.
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