Exploding Head Syndrome

Exploding Head Syndrome

Research & Treatments

Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a disorder characterized by the perception of loud noises (e.g. a bomb explosion, gunshot or cymbal crash) when going to sleep or awakening. Contrary to the name, ENS is not associated with pain. However the noise attacks can elicit a great deal of fear, confusion and distress in sufferers. Reports of tachycardia and palpitations are also common. Despite the distressing nature of EHS, relatively little is known about the prevalence and underlying cause of the condition. Some scientists have estimated that EHS may affect 10% of the population. Females tend to be more at risk than males and the average age of onset is 50 years old.

There are various theories as to what might cause EHS. For instance, some scientists have speculated that EHS may be associated with minor temporal lobe seizures. Another theory is that EHS is caused by sudden shifts of middle ear components. Other possible causes include stress/anxiety, impairments in calcium signalling and brainstem neuronal dysfunction.

Because of the benign nature of EHS, many individuals do not require medical treatment. However if an individual is suffering from disturbed sleep or considerable distress as a consequence of EHS, then treatment may be necessary. Tricyclic antidepressants have been proven useful in some individuals. Calcium channel blockers may also be beneficial. Non-pharmacological strategies such as relaxation, improved sleep hygiene and counselling may also help to alleviate symptoms.

Reviewed 2016


Frese, A., Summ, O. & Evers, S. 2014. Exploding head syndrome: Six new cases and review of the literature, Cephalalgia, 1468-2982

Brian A.S. 2014. Exploding head syndrome, Sleep Medicine Reviews, 6: 489-493


Author: Dr. Emma Mitchell, PhD, UK – Reviewer



More on Exploding Head Syndrome (older content) :

Exploding head syndrome is a rare and relatively undocumented parasomnia event in which the subject experiences a loud bang similar to a bomb exploding, a gun going off, a clash of cymbals or any other form of loud, indecipherable noise that seems to originate from inside the head. Contrary to the name, exploding head syndrome has no elements of pain, swelling or any other physical trait associated with it. They may be perceived as having bright flashes of light accompanying them, or result in shortness of breath, though this is likely caused by the increased heart rate of the subject after experiencing it. It most often occurs just before deep sleep, and sometimes upon coming out of deep sleep.

Attacks can increase or decrease with time, and can disappear for long stretches at a time, or entirely, of their own volition. Subjects often feel fear or distress after the incident.

People over the age of 50 are most likely to experience exploding head syndrome. Women are at a higher rate of experiencing it than men. It has been reported in people as young as 10 years old.

Exploding head syndrome is thought to be highly connected with stress and extreme fatigue in most individuals. What actually causes the sensation in individuals is still unknown, though speculation of possible sources includes minor seizures affecting the temporal lobe, or sudden shifts in middle ear components.

As exploding head syndrome is not dangerous, and does not have a drastic effect on sleep, many individuals do seek help for their symptoms. It will first be necessary to consult with a doctor regarding your sleep and medical history to ensure that what the individual is experiencing is actually exploding head syndrome and not something else. Similar experiences have been known to be brought on by certain medications or drugs.

One medication that has been used to treat exploding head syndrome is clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant.

If stress is causing the episodes, it is advised to either seek to clear the problem. This could include reading, yoga, relaxing music or a hot bath before bed. These steps have also demonstrated to have positive effects in achieving quality sleep in general.

If the disturbances are the result of sleep deprivation, it is recommended to institute a more balanced routine that includes a minimum of 6 hours of sleep per night. If sleep deprivation is being caused by other sleep related disorders, these should be evaluated.

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  • Is anyone experiencing this on blood pressure meds. Just wondering as I have started to experience this

  • I've been dealing with ehs for several years now. It occurs when I'm falling asleep. Mine features only a single very loud sound: door slam, cymbal crash, my name called, etc. However I've discovered that it seems to be positional. It happens when my head and neck are not inline with my spine as when I'm on my back, and my head falls to the side. If I take care to lay on my side and make sure that my head is inline, I don't get the sound. Please try testing this hypothesis. I would love to know if it works for any one else.

  • This has happened to me, off and on, for the past year now (I’m 35 y/o female), but today was the worst. It sounded like a gun shot going off in my head. Now, I’m a OIF/OEF veteran, so that’s why today was the worst. The sounds always wake me as I’m falling asleep. I always wake right up, but today I woke up and was gasping for air. It really freaked me out. Lol. I finally googled my symptoms and found this. I’m glad this is actually a thing because when I asked my sister if she’s ever experienced anything like this, she thought I was joking. Lol

  • i have notice that since i dont do much to relax i have trouble sleeping because of all the noises that only i can hear.i will jump up from sleep an tell my husband did he hear that some one is calling or loud bang.he wuld stare at me very confuse.im 45year female.thought it was my depression causing this.i must try make time to relax if it will help.

  • I'm 21 year old woman and like everyone else, I'm absolutely freaked out whenit happened to me. It happened to me for two days now, Everytime I'm at the stage when I close my eyes and slowly drift into deep sleep all of a sudden I'm awaken by a loud explosion-like sound. It kept happening with every attempt to sleep about 4 or 5 times and I wish so much that it won't happen again. The first night it happened It sounded more like a hiccup, maybe because I have a horrible cough which occurs every few minutes and sometimes continuous for few minutes. Then when it got intense, it sounded more like an explosion. It could be brought about by stress, my hideous cough, and maybe because I started taking Multivitamins and extra Calcium & Vit D vitamins. I saw in the article that sometimes it's brought about by calcium blockers. So, I stopped both vitamins and I'm hoping tonight it will go away.

  • I've had EHS for over 3 years now.
    It comes and goes and at no certain time. It can be before sleep, during sleep, after sleep or even during the day.

  • This happens all the time ever since I was a teenager and only recently decided to research it. It's very annoying and occurs up to 3 times a night, about 3 nights a week. Just as I'm falling asleep, it's a loud sound such as a gun going off right inside my ear or a balloon popping, and it scares me half to death and jump up and everything, then when I lay back down to try to fall asleep, there is a bright light like I'll looking directly at the sun, but it only lasts for about 5-10 seconds. And then I can't get back to sleep because it gets me all worried like I just got some sort of sign that someone I know just died or something and me seeing the sun is like them going into the light. Then all day the next day, I'm worried and looking on Facebook to see if friends and family have posted anything and will call just to say "hi" to make sure everything is ok. It's very very aggravating and then causes me mental distress the next day. I'm 38 now and it's been ongoing for probably about 22 years. There is sometimes it will be months that it won't occur though.

  • i dont know wheter it is expoding head sydrome or otherthing .strange thing happen with me before fall sleep.or before wake up. my head start to do.some motion like some type of current or something flowing in a rapid speed inside my head with a sound like bike or something cracking and i feel my head is going to blast in some time and some person come near me and talk with me i hear their talk they talk rapidly i only hear their voices and cracking continous flowing sound and cant see them . and finally after lots of effort i wake up and find myself normal .

  • I'm 57 and I've had this condition for about 5 years. It scares me because I always have to make sure my gun didn't really go off or it's not really the door bell or my son's not calling my name. It happens even when I fall asleep with tv on. I now turn it off because it gets confusing. Mine actually went into remission for about 2 or 3 years it just came back a couple months ago. Good luck everyone.

  • I've had loud bangs in my head before and also sudden jumps with my body awakening me. Two days ago, I had a very loud bang in my head together with a huge white flash and my body almost like having had a defibrillator used on it. I had no pain nor am I scared although I keep seeing things when I close my eyes, pictures and faces I cannot make out. I then looked up on google to see if there was any psychic connection and there has been, so now I don't know what to think anymore. I am however going to a sleep clinic about my problems with sleeping. Ali