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Exploding Head Syndrome Is More Common Than Previously Thought, Study Finds

Exploding Head Syndrome Study

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have found that nearly one in five college students might be suffering from a psychological condition known as exploding head syndrome (EHS), according to a new study.

In the study, which was recently published in the journal Sleep Research, the researchers interviewed more than 200 undergraduates in what was the largest study of the sleep disorder to date.

Assistant WSU professor of psychology Brian Sharpless, who led the recent study, was quoted by the Seattle Times in a report as having explained the syndrome, which he says most doctors haven’t heard of, as “an extremely loud noise, or gunshots, or the sound of extremely large guitar strings breaking” which occurs suddenly while those afflicted with the syndrome are going to sleep.

You’re going to sleep and become relaxed. Then, all of a sudden, you hear an extremely loud noise, or gunshots, or the sound of extremely large guitar strings breaking […] Some people feel like there’s an explosion inside their heads.

EHS is characterized by the perception of abrupt loud noises when going to sleep or waking up. While the noises are typically painless, they can induce a sense of fear and distress in those suffering from the condition.

After reviewig the scientific literature available on EHS in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, Dr. Sharpless decided that more research would be required to fully understand the condition. He was quoted by Medical News Today as having said that he “didn’t believe the clinical lore” which suggested that the syndrome “would only occur in people in their 50s,” as this notion “didn’t make a lot of biological sense to me.”

The recent study’s research suggests that all auditory neurons might activate simultaneously instead of shutting down properly, which is why sufferers experience what Sharpless referred to as “crazy-loud noises” which can’t be explained.

In the study, 18 percent of the 211 participants reported having experienced the syndrome at least once and over a third, thirty-seven percent, of those who reported at least one experience also reported experiencing isolated sleep paralysis.

According to Dr. Sharpless, there aren’t any well-articulated or empirically supported treatments for EHS and of the two drugs which have shown promise in early testing, one of them “didn’t make the noises go away,” but instead “turned the volume down.”

Have you ever experienced exploding head syndrome?

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