“All right, have it your way—you heard a seal bark!”
So, a few times in the last week I’ve been suddenly awakened from my peaceful slumber by what feels like a bomb going off in my head.
Hmm, no, that’s not entirely correct. I should say it feels more like someone whupped me upside the head with a foam swimming pool noodle. It didn’t hurt, but it sure got my attention in a hurry.
The first time it happened, I sat up and looked around, fully expecting to see some intruder in my boudoir.
The second time, I thought maybe my cat had jumped up on the bed and accidentally landed on my head. He’s quite large and has a penchant for walking around the back of my pillow while stepping on my hair.
He was snoring away at the foot of the bed and I don’t think he could be faking that. If he was, he’s pretty good at it.
It happened for a third time last night and my main reaction was “Okay, this is getting ridiculous.” A quick search on Google for “the sensation of getting hit in the head while sleeping” turned up the very scientific term: “Exploding Head Syndrome.”
Here’s a brief (very) description:
This creatively-named disorder occurs during the onset of deep sleep, when the person is suddenly startled awake by a sharp, loud noise. These noises range from cymbals crashing to explosives going off. To the person hearing them, the explosions seem to originate either from right next to the person’s head or inside the skull itself. There’s no pain involved, and no danger, either. Doctors don’t know what causes exploding head syndrome, but they do know that it isn’t associated with any serious illness.
At least we know there is no serious illness involved beyond erroneously perceiving the discharge of explosives in the vicinity of one’s auditory appendage. Can’t be anything odd or anxiety-inducing about that, now can there?
There are a lot of posts on medical and pseudo-medical websites by people who are freaked out by this condition. I found that some share some other auditory sleep occurrences that, now that I look back, I also have experienced during deep sleep or the time just before nodding off: hearing my name called, hearing the doorbell or phone ring when none of those things actually happened.
I have noticed, though, that each time it occurred I was lying on my left side with my still somewhat plugged up right ear exposed. If you recall, I’d had a galloping case of otitis media back in December, from which I’m still slowly crawling my way back to recovery.
My right ear seems to be the slacker of the two right now.
There is some thought on the Exploding Head websites that sudden changes in the middle ear might be linked to this phenomenon.
Otitis media—the gift that keeps on giving.
But why is my cat smirking?