Bang! A noise of a gunshot or a possible explosion would cause anyone to jump in bed and wonder what exactly is going on.
With a racing heart, you eventually come to the realization that no obvious accident has happened, but you know that you heard a distinct loud noise.
So what gives?
Apparently there is a rare disorder that could explain some loud noises you may hear during sleep. It's called “exploding head syndrome.”
According to the American Sleep Association, this is a parasomnia sleep disorder. Parasomnia means “general sleep disruptions from the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle and non-REM sleep cycles.” These disruptions can cause a person to wake up or only partially wake up, although they are “asleep” during the event.
The Association describes exploding head syndrome as follows:
“Exploding head syndrome is a rare and relatively undocumented parasomnia event in which the subject experiences a loud bang in their head similar to a bomb exploding, a gun going off, a clash of cymbals or any other form of loud, indecipherable noise that seems to originate from inside the head.”
Fortunately there is no pain involved in this syndrome. Your head does not actually explode.
Sometimes patients can experience shortness of breath and see bright lights, but this could be accounted for by increased heart rate, according to the Association.
Generally symptoms are experienced prior to deep sleep, or just as a person comes out of deep sleep.
Symptoms are not always consistent with this disorder. Syndrome sufferers may go for a long stretch of time without hearing the noises. However, just hearing it once could cause distress or fear.
Although it can happen at any age, according to the Association, most people experience symptoms after they are 50 years old, and women are more likely to suffer from the condition.
The Association suggests reducing stress and getting at least six hours of sleep every night to avoid sleep deprivation.
Dr. Nitun Verma, the medical director at the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders said in an email that he has treated only two patients with exploding head syndrome due to its rarity.