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What is exploding head syndrome? [Exploding head]. Retrieved from: [Exploding head]. Retrieved from:
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Yes, there is something called "exploding head syndrome." According to Brian Sharpless, an assistant professor and director of the university psychology clinic at Washington State University, those with exploding head syndrome are frequently woken up by hallucinations of very loud and abrupt sounds. The disturbing, though ultimately harmless, syndrome, causes those who are either about to go to sleep or about to wake up "hear" explosions, fireworks, gunshots, door slams, etc (Washington State University, 2014). While it is harmless in and of itself, it can lead to clinical problems if it happens several times a night, as it does with some patients.

The phenomenon is not new, according to researchers. The term itself was coined in a 1988 article, but was referred to in 1920 as "snapping of the brain." It was also mentioned in 1876 by a physician who described two patients who experienced the syndrome in the form of hearing explosions. The syndrome is recorded in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders. Brain activity of patients with the syndrome have been observed with an electroencephalogram. But what causes it? Researchers don't know:

"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 (Washington State University, 2014).

Washington State University. (2014, May 6). 'Exploding head syndrome': Real but overlooked sleep disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from

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