Age: First mentioned in 1920, clinically described in 1989.
And this is a disease, is it? Well, it’s a syndrome, which is a vaguer term to describe a few symptoms with a tendency to go together.
In this case, the rapid disintegration of the skull, cerebrum and associated tissues? Prognosis: mess. Treatment: mop and bucket. Like in that early David Cronenberg film Scanners. Er, no. Nobody with exploding head syndrome actually turns up at the doctor’s with an exploded head.
Well they can’t, can they? You misunderstand. Sufferers merely feel as though their head is exploding.
Ouch! Not even ouch, particularly. Rather than any pain, they experience a sudden loud noise while sleeping, usually as they are dropping off.
Ah, yes. I get that. I call it “musician neighbour syndrome”. This is different. People hear the noise in their head, but there isn’t actually a noise happening. It’s an auditory hallucination and, according to new research, is more common than previously thought.
Whose research? Washington State University’s Dr Brian Sharpless’s.
What did he do? He asked 211 undergraduates whether they had exploding head syndrome; 18% said yes, at least once, during the study period. EHS seems to be harmless, but people don’t talk about it much, and some get very worried.
Really? Apparently so. “Some people have worked these scary experiences into conspiracy theories and mistakenly believe the episodes are caused by some sort of directed-energy weapon,” Sharpless told Medical News Today. “This scary noise you hear at night when there’s nothing going on in your environment, well, it might be the government messing with you.”
Yeah. I reckon if you believe that then you might have a few other syndromes, too. Maybe.
So, is this like that thing when your whole body suddenly twitches awake and you feel like you’re falling off a cliff? Ah, the hypnic jerk. Yes, it’s a bit like that.
And what causes EHS? The main theory is that the auditory neurons in the brain somehow activate together during the process of shutting down for sleep.
No one really has a clue, do they? Er, no. No, they don’t.
Do say: “Sorry I was late for the lecture. I thought my alarm clock was an auditory hallucination.”
Don’t say: “Bang!”