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Exploding Head Syndrome

What is exploding head syndrome?

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 1:31 PM - Do you hear loud crashes in the middle of the night, similar to loud thunder, only to wake up and discover it was all a figment of your imagination? You may be suffering from exploding head syndrome.

People afflicted with the disorder report hearing a loud sound as they drift off to sleep -- something like a bomb exploding, fireworks or drum symbols, or a major storm -- but in reality, the noise is just a mind trick.

An episode can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and it usually sets in within an hour or two of falling asleep. 

People with exploding head syndrome typically don't experience any pain and there doesn't appear to be any physiological or medical consequences associated with it.

Still, it can be a jarring experience.

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Dr. Neil Klein of the American Sleep Association told NBC that it's enough for some patients to develop an aversion to sleep.

"They’ll develop insomnia because they’re concerned by these occurrences. But they’re usually rare. I’ve never heard of it occurring regularly," he said.

Researchers aren't sure what causes the disorder but it has been linked to extreme fatigue and stress. It's not known how many people have exploding head syndrome but it may be more common in women than men.

The youngest patient to be diagnosed with the disorder was 10 years old and the average age when it first appears is 58 years.

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