URGENT: EXPLODING HEAD SYNDROME IS A THING. How have I not heard of this until this morning? Well, let’s move into it calmly and rationally.
Let’s Start with Sleep Paralysis: It’s Already Scary Enough
In an article published in LiveScience, Alice M. Gregory discusses how science can explain supposedly paranormal events we experience as we are sleeping. She begins with an explanation of sleep paralysis* and how it causes the feeling, described by people throughout the ages, of being threatened by an intruder while being inexplicably paralyzed, glued to the bed, terrified, and helpless.
For Catholics, it was demons. For protestants, it was demons. For others, it was Satan herself, or demons. There were also imps, elves, succubi, vampires, ghosts, fairy-folk, kidnappers**–whatever parents could use to scare their children so they would stop running around and being noisy and happy and stuff.
You guys, I have had sleep paralysis many times, always when napping on the couch. I think I’m awake. Someone (the iconic “intruder,” or as I like to call him, “the bandit”) breaks into the house, steps into the room, and tries to “hurt me.” Like, stands over me menacingly. I try to move and open my mouth to scream, but can’t. Sometimes I wake myself up with weird, low moaning sounds that are actually me trying to yell out “BANDIT!”
Suddenly I’m awake, and I think, “Oh. That was a dream. Thank F*CK. Didn’t FEEL like one. But now I can go have a nice espresso that might might make up for the oh-so-relaxing NAP.”
But Let’s Get to the Important Part
As you’re falling asleep, you may hear what sounds like something heavy crashing to the ground, or an auto accident, or fireworks, or your bro-friend practicing a sick riff on his electric guitar right next to your head. (Dude, quit it! I told you, turn off the amp after 11 pm!)
Anyways, a neurologist named JMS Pearce, a very serious person named after a ship who would never say anything silly, coined the term “EXPLODING HEAD SYNDROME” to keep everyone calm and sensible.
Gregory summarizes Pearce’s official scientific theory, which was published in The Lancet, so we have to believe it:
When we fall asleep, the reticular formation of the brainstem (a part of our brain involved in consciousness) typically starts to inhibit our ability to move, see and hear things. When we experience a “bang” in our sleep this might be because of a delay in this process. Instead of the reticular formation shutting down the auditory neurons, they might fire at once.
Aha, a-hahaha, I get it. So you’re not “hearing” anything. It’s just all your auditory neurons exploding in your brain as your subconscious strolls ten feet ahead with cool, steely, macho-man ‘tude safely into dreamland. I always knew I was The Rock in a previous life.
*Link goes to WebMD. As you know, searching for a condition on WebMD will immediately cause said condition.
**It just hit me: “kid” and “nap” together, No wonder I don’t wanna go to bed!