Returning Sunday afternoon from a four-day weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a very sweet family wedding and a celebration of our elder daughter’s birthday with friends and family, I was exhausted. It was our second trip in just two weeks, and per usual, I managed all the logistics—which I enjoy doing and am good at, but there’s always a lot to track. So, it was great to get home, with no more responsibilities for anyone else, and go to bed early.
I slept for ten hours. At some point, maybe around 3:00 a.m., I suddenly woke because I thought I heard a loud musical note. Yes, I know, that sounds weird. It was. Some kind of plucking of a stringed instrument or a bell or what, I can’t recall. But it was quite distinctive. I became conscious enough to realize I’d imagined it and, thankfully, went back to sleep.
This is not the first time I’ve woken from a loud noise that wasn’t there. Occasionally I’ve roused because I’m sure the telephone rang (we still have a landline, believe it or not). Then I’ll realize it didn’t and go back to sleep.
So, after Sunday night’s weirdness, I looked online for hearing loud noises in your sleep. And, sure enough, the phenomenon is real. In fact, it has a very evocative name: Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS).
No one knows what causes EHS, but apparently it is more common among women. It doesn’t harm your health, and there is no known cure. It may be triggered by fatigue and stress. It also may be related to damage or dysfunction of the inner ear, which, in my case, seems a possibility, given that we had just flown, which affects pressure in my ears, I have occasional episodes of vertigo due to loose crystals in my inner ear, and have had tinnitus in both ears for decades.
In any case, at least now I know what’s going on. And given all the distressing craziness of our world these days, knowing that my head actually is exploding surely fits the moment.
Image: David Matos