A new study reveals that an unexpectedly high percentage of young people experience 'exploding head syndrome'. Exploding head syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are awakened by abrupt loud noises, giving the sensation of an explosion in their head.
The researchers found that nearly one in five of college students interviewed said they had experienced it at least once. It was so bad for some that it significantly impacted their lives, he said.
"Unfortunately for this minority of individuals, no well-articulated or empirically supported treatments are available, and very few clinicians or researchers assess for it," said Dr. Brian Sharpless, lead researcher from Washington State University.
The study also found that more than one-third of those who had exploding head syndrome also experienced isolated sleep paralysis, a frightening experience in which one cannot move or speak when waking up. People with this condition will literally dream with their eyes wide open. In fact, both exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis have been misinterpreted as unnatural events.
The waking dreams of sleep paralysis can make for convincing hallucinations, which might account for why some people in the Middle Ages would be convinced they saw demons or witches.
The results appeared online in the Journal of Sleep Research
. The disorder tends to come as one is falling asleep. Researchers suspect it stems from problems with the brain shutting down.
"When the brain goes to sleep, it's like a computer shutting down, with motor, auditory and visual neurons turning off in stages. But instead of shutting down properly, the auditory neurons are thought to fire all at once," Sharpless said. "That's why you get these crazy-loud noises that you can't explain, and they're not actual noises in your environment."