WSU Psychology Clinic research an often overlooked sleeping disorder

PULLMAN, WA - Researchers at Washington State University are getting a lot of attention about their work with "Exploding Head Syndrome."

We visited the WSU Psychology Clinic to find out why they're calling it a largely overlooked phenomenon.

"I think the name helps," said WSU Psychology Clinic Director Dr. Brian Sharpless.

If you had to guess, you might think a condition called "Exploding Head Syndrome" has something to do with headaches, or maybe even a condition students suffer from during finals week.

"If you think about your brain like a computer, it has to follow a certain sequence when it's shutting down," said Sharpless.

But according to Doctor Brain Sharpless, the director of Washington State University's Psychology Clinic.... it's a sleeping disorder.

"So instead of your auditory neurons shutting down, they're actually getting activated," said Sharpless. "And so you get this loud burst of noise."

He said it happens when you're about to fall asleep, or when you're waking up.

"It usually sounds like an explosion or a gunshot, except it's not really happening," said Sharpless. "I had one person describe it as a piano being thrown out of a ten story building."

Sharpless said it can be caused by stress or disrupted sleep, but there's not a lot of information or data about the disorder because it's often overlooked.

"That's part of the reason people don't know about it, and patients usually don't talk about it because for fear of embarrassment, or they might be worried they have something much more serious," said Sharpless.

The name is scary, but the condition is treatable. Sharpless said some patients will only experience it a couple times in their life, but for others it's a serious issue. And he's interested in finding out why.

"You can imagine, if you're having really loud noises happening four or five times a night as you're going to sleep, it might make you a little tired in the morning," said Sharpless.

The Psychology Clinic at WSU provides low-cost psychotherapy to people of all ages.