Is this schizophrenia?
March 11, 2019 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Strange banging sounds at night, sound hypersensitivity.

This occurs about 10 - 20 times a year, starting about 5 or 8 years ago, in the middle of the night I'm woken by persistant 'banging sounds.' It sounds like someone slamming on a rectangular panic-bar/ crash-bar type door opening device without actually opening the door. Irrregular frequency, between 2s to 10s between strikes. Lasting maybe 3 or 5 strikes to 30 or more.

This only occurs at night.

This has not occurred while anyone else was with me. The intermittent nature and the timing (coming out of usually REM sleep) has prevented me from setting up some sort of recording device. I cannot remember an occurrence of it persisting once I'm fully awake, but sometimes - not always - it'll recur as I start to fall back asleep, if I can get back to sleep.

In my previous apartment, no such devices exist. In my current apartment, the crash bar sounds different than what I hear in my head (?). I originally chalked it up as weirdness with the roof (thin, wooden) mounted industrial HVAC's compressor or something.

I don't usually dream sounds, but real-life sounds sometimes intrude into my dreams.

Since moving to my current apartment 5 months ago (into a much less desirable area and massive downgrade in quality, at a higher cost), I've been objectively much more stressed and depressed, and have been essentially constantly ill with at least one respiratory infection or another.

For the past two nights I've been 'hearing' the crashing sounds. This is maybe the first occurrence at my current location. Last night, I had an episode of the sounds but also heard an aural component (a vocal song), and realized that I was still dreaming. Woke up, heard the striking sound again a couple of times, and then could not go back to sleep.

What are some possible causes, and what kind of professional should I be consulting with to try to address this intermittent phenomenon?

40 yo male, I've been formally diagnosed with dysthymia in the distant past, but I suspect it goes beyond that. No medication other than self-medication (primarily hard alcohol, cannabis).

I've always been adverse to loud noises, and persistent mechanical sounds aggravate me badly. There have been overnight construction/ foundation blowout/ malll HVAC weirdness/ early morning mall parking cleaning trucks/ neighbour bathroom ventilation noise/ water pipe squealing/ hallway ventilation fan variances in my current rental apartment.

However, I am completely fine with regular traffic noises and birdsong.
posted by porpoise to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Aren't you describing Exploding Head Syndrome?
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I thought of Exploding Head Syndrome, too.

This is a long shot, but -- are you familiar with the Valsalva Maneuver? It's the thing you do to clear your ears when the pressure changes (like when you're in an airplane that's taking off). It makes a sound kind of like what you describe, and some people can do it just by tensing certain muscles in their throat (which I suppose you might be doing without being aware of it). If you're not familiar with it, you might try it and see if it's similar to the noise you've been hearing.

You might consider talking to your GP / regular doctor about this as a first step, especially if you're genuinely concerned about schizophrenia. The fact that you're only hearing these things when you're waking up out of sleep does not sound like schizophrenia to me -- auditory oddness when waking up is apparently pretty common -- but you should certainly check with a doctor if you're concerned. A GP may be able to either put your mind at ease or direct you to a specialist that can help.
posted by ourobouros at 2:33 PM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was going to say, sounds a lot like Exploding Head. I've experienced it. It's certainly disconcerting but as far as I can tell I don't have any issues with psychosis.
posted by praemunire at 2:33 PM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I got these way back in my early 20s and also feared schizophrenia to the point that I had the number of a mental health hotline on speed dial on a phone by my bed. I quit smoking weed and they went away.
posted by merocet at 2:36 PM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thank grod metafilter AzraelBrown, ourobouros, and praemunire!!

Just finished reading the review by Sharpless in Sleep Med. Rev. (2014) - and yep, it's almost certainly just EHS.

Several researchers have noted the effectiveness of education and reassurance that EHS is a fairly benign condition[9,11,13]. Ganguly[9]reported that reassurance alone led to a remission of EHS episodes at six-month follow-up. ... A minority of patients suffer from more problematic cases of EHS[10], and either fear that a more dangerous disorder is responsible for their symptoms or are very troubled by their episodes (in fact, the author has assessed patients reporting apprehension and actual avoidance of sleep during chronic bouts of EHS).
posted by porpoise at 2:54 PM on March 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

Could it be a banging radiator?
posted by jazh at 3:21 PM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fun (free) article in J. Clin. Sleep Med. speculating that René Descartes' EHS may have been a major impetus for his delving into philosophy, culminating in his penning his Discourse on the Method.
posted by porpoise at 3:27 PM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like hypnopompia.
posted by hoodrich at 3:57 PM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

You may be awakened by your own snoring, and your brain interprets the sound to make you awaken to get breath. You might be experiencing sleep apnea.
posted by Oyéah at 7:11 PM on March 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

While I don't disagree this is EHS (or a side effect of sleep apnea, which has given me some terrifying moments,) why is it you can't try and record these noises? Sleep As Android (there's probably a similar iPhone app) actually has modes just for this. You can set an alarm clock and then turn it on as you're going to bed (or near bedtime) and it can record audio whenever it detects snoring or anything out of the ordinary. In the morning you get a replayable report of any unusual sounds.
posted by OMGTehAwsome at 7:41 PM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

re: not EHS - I don't want to be dismissive, but I have an appropriate background in cellular and molecular neurophysiology - it is amazing that MetaFilter has an active user base who - within minutes, in (legit) triplicate gave me the crucial-information/ search-term I needed to research and understand my problem.

From the reviews that I read and the case reports that I skimmed in reputable peer-reviewed journals where such research/ reporting is appropriate, this afternoon, I remain completely comfortable self-diagnosing as having episodes consistent with what has been described as EHS.

The frustrating thing is that EHS is under-recognized by practitioners (but officially in the books) and there has been no plausible molecular mechanism/ etiology proposed. This is a fascinating but really under-studied (and incredibly hard to study) subfield of a subfield. I had certaintly never heard of this condition before.

Unfortunately, unless there's a private billionaire who wants to fund this, stuff like this likely will not get a ton of research funding unless something really coincidental happens. Which won't.

Look at much more common stuff like 'restless leg syndrome' - that really needs a lot of advocacy and teaming up with the Parkinsons programs.

My plan, now that I'm fairly certain it's a condition of mis-interpreting what my brain is throwing at me, will try to draw from my experiences with psychadelics and how I know how to manage trips through my executive neurological responses and try to apply those mechanisms to this f-ing thing.
posted by porpoise at 10:12 PM on March 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Schizophrenia is a major diagnosis, and I'm just raising a red flag that you are/ were considering it. Sounds like the move, maybe other things, are really causing you distress. I linked to Prof. Sapolsky's lecture because I think you might enjoy the series. I hope things improve.
posted by theora55 at 11:03 AM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just want to say thank you for this thread because I'd never experienced this before (that I can recall) until last night and it was so weird. But I was able to tell myself, "oh, it's just exploding head syndrome. No biggie." I've had a very stressful quarter in grad school, so I'm not surprised that I had a weird thing happen after I'd spent all day writing a paper. I have no other symptoms, FYI.
posted by acidnova at 4:39 PM on March 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

What an odd and interesting coincidence! *edit: I certainly hope this thread wasn't a trigger.

What did it sound like to you?
posted by porpoise at 10:22 PM on March 18, 2019

I live in an apartment building and it kind of soundled like a downstairs neighbor slamming a door, sort of muted, but I could tell that it was not an actual external noise (I've heard plenty actual door slams here). There were also no accompanying heavy footfalls which was unusual. And the timing of it being as I was falling asleep was another difference as opposed to being suddently woken by a door slam while in deep sleep.
posted by acidnova at 10:28 PM on March 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's possible that this has happened to me before and I misattributed it. I'm hard of hearing so sometimes I've had random phantom sounds (like tinnitus but not always high pitched) in my waking hours.
posted by acidnova at 10:30 PM on March 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wowsa! Glad there's been a a little less distress in your life, too!
posted by porpoise at 10:32 PM on March 18, 2019

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