Our local PBS station had a Doc Martin marathon this weekend, and on one of the episodes Doc Martin diagnoses a villager with something called “exploding head syndrome“. The young man had been hearing loud noises, and feared he was losing his mind. Doc Martin assured him his head was not going to literally explode.
I’m not sure what happened after that, because I was busy Googling “exploding head syndrome”. I couldn’t believe it. In spite of the outrageous name, it’s a real thing, is benign, and is turning out ot be more common than doctors have previously thought. I finally had a name for something I’ve been experiencing for years.
When I’m very tired or stressed, I will experience sudden (inaudible) “noises”. Sometimes, it happens when I’m trying to sleep, and sometimes it happens when I’m awake and moving around. The only time it becomes a real problem is when I need to go somewhere (driving becomes unsafe) or do some sort of physical activity where being startled could be dangerous for myself or someone else.
There is no actual pain involved, and I’ve always perceived the symptoms as my body’s way of telling me that I need to calm down, and to go lay down and rest (which I do, as soon as possible). Unlike the poor young man in the TV drama, I’ve never been concerned that it was a sign I was losing my mind…because the symptoms only occur when I’m really exhausted. I’ve never really discussed it, however, because I felt like it was just too hard to explain rationally, so I had no idea others had the same experience. Apparently about 20% of us experience this phenomenon at one time or another. I wonder if that number will increase as more people become more comfortable speaking about it?
Because the noise I hear resembles noises I heard as a child in a serious car accident, I had assumed the symptoms were residual PTSD symptoms, but according to current research, it is more likely a sleep disorder, and may be related to migraine auras and isolated sleep paralysis (also real, but not quite as terrifying as it sounds).
While the doctors are experimenting with some treatment drugs, it seems most people like myself are relieved to know there is a name for what is occurring, and that it is most likely not a symptom of or precursor to anything more serious, and they simply learn to live with it.