Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


'Exploding head syndrome' -- a real but overlooked sleep disorder


WSU psychologist says phenomenon is disconcerting but largely harmless

It sounds like a phrase from Urban Dictionary, or the title of an animated gif, but a Washington State University researcher says "exploding head syndrome" is an authentic and largely overlooked phenomenon that warrants a deeper look.

"It's a provocative and understudied phenomenon," said Brian Sharpless, a WSU assistant professor and director of the university psychology clinic, who recently reviewed the scientific literature on the disorder for the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews. "I've worked with some individuals who have it seven times a night, so it can lead to bad clinical consequences as well."

People with the syndrome typically perceive abrupt, loud noises—door slams, fireworks, gunshots—as they are going to sleep or waking up. While harmless, the episodes can be frightening.

"Some people start to become anxious when they go into their bedroom or when they try to go to sleep," said Sharpless. "Daytime sleepiness can be another problem for people."

Some patients report mild pain. Some hear an explosion in one ear, others in both ears, and yet others within their heads. Some also see what looks like lightning or bright flashes.

Researchers do not know how widespread the problem is, but Sharpless is fielding enough reports of people with the disorder that he thinks it is more widespread than presumed. Just this week, a story on the disorder in Britain's Daily Mail prompted several people with the syndrome to contact him.

The term "exploding head syndrome" dates to a 1988 article in Lancet but it was described clinically as "snapping of the brain" in 1920. Silas Weir Mitchell, an American physician, wrote in 1876 of two men who experienced explosive-sounding "sensory discharges."

While the syndrome is recognized in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, studies using electroencephalogram recordings have only documented the disruptions in periods of relaxed but awake drowsiness.

As with many sleep phenomena, it is largely mysterious.

"In layman's terms, our best guess is that it occurs when the body doesn't shut down for sleep in the correct sequence," said Sharpless. "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."

Judging from the limited scientific literature and available statistics, Sharpless said the syndrome is more common in women than men. Some medical treatments are available for it, but one possible intervention can be simply reassuring a patient that it is not a dangerous condition.

Brian Sharpless | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht ARTORG and Inselspital develop artificial pancreas
26.11.2015 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Laboratory study: Scientists from Cologne explore a new approach to prevent newborn epilepsies
24.11.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>