Exploding head syndrome: One-fifth of US college students suffer from ailment, study finds

Little-known syndrome had been thought to only affect older people

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The Independent US

Exploding head syndrome sounds like a mock malady but it actually affects one-fifth of college students, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Sleep Research.

The syndrome does not actually involve heads exploding, but instead is characterised by hearing sudden, loud noises when going to sleep and waking up. Not much is known about the condition, but the study disproves a previously held theory that it only affects older people.


The study was conducted by Washington State University and studied 211 students, who were checked for exploding head syndrome and sleep paralysis. Of those students, 18 per cent reported exploding head syndrome at least once.

The study also found that exploding head syndrome frequently results in a clinically significant level of fear, as many who experience it are unable to rationalise what they heard.

“Some people have worked these scary experiences into conspiracy theories and mistakenly believe the episodes are caused by some sort of directed-energy weapon,” said Brian Sharpless, the author of the study, according to Medical News Today. “For 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.”

Medical professionals think that exploding head syndrome happens when the brain has trouble shutting down when going to bed or starting up when waking, reports say. Dr Sharpless said that the loud noises associated with the condition could happen because auditory neurons activate all at once instead of shutting down properly.

So far, there are a lack of treatments for the syndrome, but the study suggests that spreading information about it could help reduce the fear in people who experience it.


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