So Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS) is a Real Thing
But It’s Not What You Think and More Than You Imagine
In the past couple of months I have experienced a very strange phenomena as I was drifting off to sleep on three separate occasions. Just as I was moving into the deeper realm of unconsciousness I “heard” an extremely loud bang, like a gunshot the first two times, and like cymbals crashing the last. In addition, there was a bright flash of light and sort of an electrical zapping noise that accompanied the intense loud noise every time. I have no better word for them than explosions so for the remainder of this post I will refer to the events as such. Each “explosion” immediately woke me fully in a state of panic, heart racing and breathing heavily. It took me several minutes to fully comprehend what had happened and to recognize that I was OK, in my room, totally safe and unharmed. The first time it happened I chalked it up as my imagination at work or a hallucination, perhaps the first part of a dream and I quickly forgot about it. Then it happened again and I grew a bit more concerned but after some deeper contemplation I again concluded it was nothing to worry about and again quickly forgot it ever happened.
Then it happened a third time and I finally decided this might be a symptom of something more serious. I had ignored the early warning signs of my pancreatitis and it almost cost me my life. I have argued elsewhere that in fact it did but that is neither here nor there. In this case I decided I would be a bit more proactive and at least use the internet for something useful for a change and do a quick search. After about 30s I came across the title of this post, exploding head syndrome, with symptoms that matched exactly with what I had experienced. From Wikipedia with appropriate verification from other sources .
“Exploding head syndrome (EHS), alternately termed episodic cranial sensory shock, is a benign condition in which a person hears loud imagined noises (such as a bomb exploding, a gunshot, or a cymbal crash) or experiences an explosive feeling when falling asleep or waking up. These noises have a sudden onset, are typically brief in duration, and are often jarring for the person. Neither the cause nor the mechanism is known.Though harmless in and of themselves, episodes have been known to create distress or impairment in the lives of individuals.”
The physician Silas Weir Mitchell is said to have been the first to encounter the disorder in 1876, when he described two men who suffered from what he called “sensory discharges” — the men themselves described it as hearing “loud bells” or a “gunshot” that would wake them from sleep. I could find no independent or credible verification of this claim but it is clear that this and similar conditions have been around for at least 100 years and probably much longer. For whatever reason the condition seems to only occur or be reported in Western civilizations (specifically North America, Europe, and Australia) as I could find no cases like it with an (admittedly brief) search of Asian and African medical histories. It should be noted that the frequency of these events has been proven to increase with the level of sleep deprivation of the individual affected and I have been sleeping very poorly the past few months. After reading more any fears for my health or mental well being were allayed but my curiosity was definitely stoked. Further reading on the Wikipedia page revealed the following
“Some individuals mistakenly believe that EHS episodes are not natural events, but are the effects of directed energy weapons which create an auditory effect. Thus, EHS has been worked into conspiracy theories, but there is no scientific evidence that EHS has non-natural origins.”
I will overlook the fact that the sentence is tautology as it states something which is true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form for it is not possible for there to be “scientific” evidence for something of non-natural origin as science only is capable of having anything to say about the things in the universe that are natural. There can be some debate about the existence of non natural things in the Universe but there can be none about the possibility of science having anything to say about them, it cannot for if it could they would be natural. In any event I will forgive this crime against logic and instead focus on the awesomeness of the conspiracy theory and my total surprise and shock in finding out that I am quite possibly involved in and/or a victim of one. And holy shit down the rabbit hole did I go.
This is interesting
It turns out there have been several small studies in which patients experiencing EHS have been hooked up to neural imaging devices. I should mention that I have major methodological and other issues with the use of neural imaging. I have touched on some of these in previous posts though not recently. Add to that the extremely small sample sizes and poor controls used in these experiments and the results are mostly meaningless. That said what the researchers “found” is fascinating and touched off a wave of speculation and conspiracy mongering that persists unabated to this day.
Apologies for the modified cut paste job but I could not say it better.
“These small studies suggest that there may be a burst of neural activity in the brain that coincides with the reported explosion.
Normally, when we go to sleep our body shuts down and becomes paralysed so that we don’t act out our dreams. During this transition from wake to sleep, the brain usually turns off bit by bit…However, in exploding head syndrome, there is a hiccup in the ‘reticular formation’ — the part of the brain responsible for overseeing this general shut-down — which results in a delay in switching off some areas.
This delay is associated with a suppression of alpha brainwaves that are normally responsible for drowsiness, and a sudden burst of neural activity in the areas of the brain responsible for processing sound. We think the neurons are all firing at once which results in the sensation of an explosion in your head.
Suppression of the brain’s alpha waves may partly help explain the condition
“This theory makes sense to me,” …. “It has always felt electrical in its nature. The sensation of an explosion is accompanied with a very loud sound in both my ears, as if you’ve crossed two wires in a circuit and zapped them together.”
…..some people also feel an aura of electrical sensations that moves from the lower torso to the head, immediately before the explosion strikes.”
I did not have the electrical sensations but did “hear” a fizzing or zapping noise which was electrical in nature. I should probably add something at this point. Something which may or may not be relevant, my mom has experienced EHS just this week (with gunshot and electrical zapping sounds) for the first time in her life and mentioned it to me earlier today. In fact that discussion is what inspired me to write this particular post. She also did a really quick internet search and came across the Wikipedia page but left it at that. As you will soon learn multiple people in the same family experiencing EHS fits into at least one of the most favored conspiracy theories quite neatly.
Stay tuned for part 2 when things really get nuts. You have to know that alien abduction is going to get wrapped up in this. I mean of course it has too, right? I am chomping at the bit to get that one written and published. There is no way I am going to be able to top the title of this one though. I mean that is so fucking good isn’t it? Clever, on point, cute, funny, smart, all rolled up in one. Probably my best post title ever. Sweet.