Exploding head syndrome is a common sleep disorder. It usually affects everyone to some degree from time to time. We spoke to David Uskavitch, M.D., clinical director of the Vanderbilt Neurological Clinic, Vanderbilt Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.
If you think you might have exploding head syndrome, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner
Exploding head syndrome sufferers hear a booming sound as they are drifting off to sleep. Some sufferers may see a flash or feel a single thump on their head. These sensations often startle the sleeper awake. Exploding head episodes are part of a family of disorders called sleep-related myoclonus. These include restless leg, sleep twitches or the sensation of falling as the sleeper drifts off to sleep.
Relax"This is a benign condition," Dr. Uskavitch reassures. While no one likes being startled out of sleep, exploding head syndrome is not a symptom of a more serious condition.
Reduce StressStress and worry affect sleep and may contribute to exploding head syndrome. While no one can get rid of all stress in life, Dr. Uskavitch encourages people to work toward a more balanced life. Separate work and daily stress from sleep by setting aside time to read, take a walk or visit with friends.
Eat A Balanced Diet"A healthy diet contributes to a healthy night's sleep," Dr. Uskavitch says. Vitamins and minerals in fresh fruit and vegetables help our bodies deal with stress during the day and set our sleep clocks at night.
Set Aside Time For SleepDr. Uskavitch warns that lack of sleep contributes to all forms of sleep-related myoclonus. Make sure that you get a minimum of six hours of sleep a night. This may mean setting aside seven or eight hours to give your body time to wind down before sleep.
Seek Professional HelpIf jerking awake becomes a problem or if it prevents you from getting at least six hours of sleep a night, seek professional help. Dr. Uskavitch says there are several prescription medications that can relieve the symptoms of exploding head syndrome and help you achieve a peaceful night's sleep.
David Uskavitch, M.D., received his medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1987. He completed his residency in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1991 and served as president of Neurologic Consultants from 1997 to 2007. He joined the Department of Neurology at Vanderbilt and moved his practice to The Vanderbilt Clinic in February of 2007. Dr. Uskavitch currently serves as director of the Division of General Neurology as well as clinical director of the Neurology Clinic, The Vanderbilt Clinic.
Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?