Parasomnias are a group of sleep disorders which makes you act unusual and sometimes move unnaturally. A parasomnia occurs when you’re sleeping and can happen anytime during the sleep cycle. The more common types of parasomnias are: sleep-walking, sleep-talking and nightmares however, there are some kinds of parasomnias which are less well-known and spoke about; one condition known as ‘exploding head syndrome’.
What is exploding head syndrome?
Exploding head syndrome is a rare and still quite new (regarding research) event where a sufferer hears a loud noise such as a gunshot or a bomb exploding which seems to come from within the head. Along with the loud noise a sufferer may sometimes see a bright flash or feel a thump on the side of their head although this parasomnia is in no way dangerous; a person who has experienced this wakes up with no pain or swelling. This event can cause fear as it can leave an individual with a shortness of breath from the adrenaline rush (increase heart rate) and can leave them feeling anxious making it difficult for them to fall back asleep. Exploding head syndrome usually occurs before a person falls into the deep sleep stages. Episodes usually happen in clusters and can last for a few days then return several months/years later or never return again.
Although this parasomnia is rare and can affect anyone it is usually reported by people over the age of 50 and it is more common in women. According to the Sleep Association reports have shown that children as young as ten have experienced this phenomenon.
The exact cause of exploding head syndrome is still unknown however some experts believe that it may be brought on by extreme stress and tiredness whereas other experts believe it could be from movement in the middle ear; the Eustachian tube.
A person who suffers from this parasomnia may develop insomnia as they may grow a fear of falling asleep in case the event happens again; they may find it difficult to fall or stay asleep with the worrying thoughts on their mind.
How can I manage or prevent this from recurring?
Although there is no clinically proven treatment for exploding head syndrome there are ways to manage it and prevent it from happening again in the future.
Firstly you should see your doctor who can look over your sleep history and symptoms; although you may think you’re experiencing exploding head syndrome you may actually be experiencing another sleep issue.
You should reduce stress and anxiety in the evening; there are many ways to help relieve stress such as yoga, gentle exercise, taking a warm bath or reading a light-hearted novel.
You should aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep each night; some experts believe these episodes are heavily connected with fatigue so aiming to sleep for the recommended hours should help reduce the risk of an event occurring.
You should eat a healthy and balanced diet; the vitamins and minerals found in fresh fruit and vegetables help the body deal with stress during the day and prepare our bodies for sleep at night.