I have Exploding Head Syndrome

An article detailing my personal experiences with a multitude of sleep disorders.


Jenna Lowrance, Journalist

Sleepeducation.org defines it as a parasomnia. “A parasomnia involves undesired events that come along with sleep. Exploding head syndrome consists of a loud noise that you suddenly imagine just before you fall asleep. It can seem like a violent explosion has gone off in your head. It can also occur as you wake up in the night.” I define it as a terrible crash that infringes on my sleep. According to mayoclinic.org not much is known about this sleep disorder other than the fact that it isn’t known to cause any physical harm. I’ve suffered from many sleep disorders over the years, and in this article I’ll be detailing my experiences.

The first sleep disorder I want to talk about is sleepwalking. This phenomenon is also defined as a parasomnia. Sleepwalking is when you suddenly get out of bed and walk around, even though you’re asleep, you likely won’t remember anything you’ve done in that time unless you wake up while doing it. Most of the time you just do normal everyday things like brushing your teeth, or even going outside, except it’s nighttime. People have been known to cook meals, or even drive somewhere while they’re sleeping. I bet you’re wondering what my story is. Well, I can tell you that no, I didn’t dive anywhere, and no, I didn’t really do anything crazy. 

I was about seven years old when I did it for the first time. I don’t remember doing this, but my dad told me about it the next morning. He told me that at around midnight I had walked out of my room and into the living room where he was watching football, and asked, 

“Where are my shorts?”

“Huh?” He had asked, obviously confused.

“You said you were getting me shorts.” I answered. He knew there was something wrong because there are two things off about this conversation. 1.) It’s the middle of the night, and 2.) It was winter. He got up, and came over to me. He told me my eyes were glassy and confused, so he  walked me back to bed. 

The next time I did it, I was about eleven. I was staying the night at my grandmother’s house. I had dozed off on the couch, and she was sitting in her chair watching a movie. He told me that I sat up, and looked around, seemingly confused.

“Where’s JujuBee?” I asked. JujuBee was the name of my cat who was at my house, down the street. She informed me that my cat was in fact safe and sound at my house, and  I laid back down and went back to sleep. The next morning I had no recollection of the prior night’s events.

The next, and last time, I did it, it was a bit stranger. I was about thirteen. For this story, you’re going to need a little context. I was about to fall asleep, and I felt something jump on my face. I screamed, and slapped crazily at myself, knocking the thing off. My scream woke my dad up, so he came into the room. I told him what happened, and after laughing we started looking for whatever fell on my face. We soon found the culprit. It was a small green frog. We caught it, and let it back outside. I changed my pillowcase and washed my face because I was thoroughly grossed out, and I went back to bed, and was informed the next morning that my dad had found me wandering around the house claiming that I was going to find ‘that stupid frog’.

Now let’s talk about sleep talking. The medical term for sleep talking is somniloquy. I’ve experienced this many, many times. I’ve been told that one night I was talking loudly about a vacuum cleaner, then it was talking about a dragon, then I said the dog was in my room. I had at least  three episodes a month. Sometimes I talked clearly, other times I just spoke nonsense. Sleep talking is a bit more common than the rest of these sleep disorders, and a lot of people have funny stories of things they’ve said in their sleep, and I’m no different.

I think I’d like to talk about Sleep Paralysis now. Sleep Paralysis is absolutely terrifying and I hate it more than anything. Sleep Paralysis is when you get stuck between  being asleep and being awake. Your brain is working like you’re awake, but your muscles are completely relaxed so you can’t move, like when you’re asleep. Feelings of anxiousness and fear fill your brain, and all you can think is ‘I’ve got to move!’ It’s common to hallucinate during these episodes, and that makes things much scarier. Most people report seeing aliens or shadow people during their episodes, other people see demons or rats. Some people even say that they feel things touching them.

I’ve only experienced Sleep Paralysis two times. The first time it happened, I was staying the night with my grandmother. I was laying in my bed, and it was about 11 o’clock. I fell asleep quickly, but soon woke up. I glanced at the clock. It was 3 o’clock in the morning… the witching hour. I was soon met with the realization that I couldn’t move. I had done extensive research into Sleep Paralysis, so I immediately knew what it was. I didn’t want to see what was about to happen, so I squeezed my eyes shut. I was stuck on my side with my arms stuck out behind me. I prayed that it would end soon, but I was soon met with the feeling of a hand with long slender fingers laying on my shoulder.  Shivers went down my spine, and prayed harder and harder by the second, silently begging for this horror to end as the hand felt like it swept the hair off my shoulder. I tried to ignore it and eventually fell back asleep. I woke up fully at 5 o’clock. I gave up on sleeping at that point, and went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. 

The second, and final, time it happened I was at home. I was in my bed, and I woke up around what had to be 5 o’clock in the morning. I quickly realized that I couldn’t move, and I felt anxiety and fear fuel my brain. My body was stuck so I was face down against the bed, but somehow my eyes surveyed my room. In the corner  of my alcove, near my window, I saw him. He was tall and slender. His body was shrouded in shadows, and I was absolutely mortified. He stood there, completely still, and I snapped my eyes shut. I felt his hand touch my shoulder, and  again, a shiver ran down my spine. I soon fell back asleep and it felt as if I only slept for another few seconds when I was jolted awake by my alarms waking me up for school.

Now it’s time to talk about what you clicked on this article for. Exploding Head Syndrome. I defined it simply in the first paragraph, but to go into more detail, Exploding Head Syndrome is when you hear a violent explosion go off in your head, usually as you’re falling asleep, that jolts you back to consciousness. Some people say it sounds like the crash of cymbals, others say it’s more like a bomb exploding. I, unfortunately, deal with the latter. Sometimes, when I hear the explosion I see a flash of light with it. When some people experience it they mistake it for a stroke or a thunderclap headache. Unlike a thunderclap headache though, Exploding Head Syndrome causes no pain, and seems to have no lasting effects. Unlike the other sleep disorders that I’ve experienced on this list, I don’t have any crazy or zany stories to pair with this. I’ve experienced this one a handful of times and the story is always the same, I was on the edge of sleep, and I was suddenly jolted awake by the loudest noise I’ve ever heard. It’s happened many times over the years, and there’s really not much you can do to solve it. So, like the rest of these sleep disorders, I just have to deal with it. If you want to, feel free to do your own research into these interesting topics, and if you experience any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor.