Exploding Head Syndrome

exploding head syndromeExploding Head Syndrome (EHS) – is a rare condition characterized by hearing of imagined loud noises like a bomb exploding, cymbal crash or gunshot) or facing explosive feelings when going to sleep or waking up. The noises usually begin suddenly and last for a short period of time.

Exploding head syndrome is identified as a parasomnia and a sleep-related dissociative disorder. Episodes of EHS can cause distress, confusion, and fear. Some patients associate the EHS with stroke. The number of attacks can vary from night to night. Also, some EHS patients experience seeing of flashlight which is followed by muscle twitch.

The actual outbreak is painless although a sudden pain in the head has been reported.

The cause of EHS is unknown but the risk is increased by fatigue and stress.

Some scientists claim that females are more at risk of getting EHS than males.

Symptoms of exploding head syndrome

  • imagining a sudden loud noise or explosion in the head before falling asleep or after waking up
  • the imagined sounds don’t cause any pain
  • the sounds and accompanying feelings wake the patient up with a sense of fear
  • distress, confusion
  • tachycardia
  • sweating
  • hallucinations

Causes and risk factors

As the causes of EHS are unknown, scientists are trying to explore this question and have reported few theories. Some of them believe that EHS might be caused by minor temporal lobe seizures. Another expert says that EHS occurs due to problems in a brain with shutting down areas of the brain responsible for preparation of sleep. Other theories include such causes:

  • sudden shifts of middle ear components
  • a sensory variant of a hypnic jerk
  • another sleep disorder
  • stress or anxiety
  • medication use
  • Impairments in the calcium signaling
  • broken sleep
  • mental disorder
  • brainstem neuronal dysfunction


The EHS can be diagnosed by a sleep specialist. You should visit this doctor if exploding head arises and disturbs your sleep. The doctor will ask you when these events began, how often they last and for how long. Also, he or she will want to know about your medical history and medicine you took. It will be useful to inform your doctor about other sleep disorders if you have some and sleep problems in any members of your family.

The other possible helpful tool is sleep diary. According to it, your doctor will be able to control the sleeping patterns and find out what causes EHS.

The one more diagnostic examination is polysomnogram. It is an overnight sleep study that checks brain waves, breathing, heartbeat, records movements of your arms and legs.


Many individuals do not need any special treatment. If you notice EHS disturbs your sleep, try to get more sleep every night. The normal duration of night sleep is 6-8 hours. But in a case of having the consequence of exploding head syndrome such as distress, disturbed sleep and stress you should consider some forms of relaxation and medicine as a treatment. The stress can be taken out by short walks, yoga, reading before bed etc. The medicine which may help in treating EHS symptoms are tricyclic antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, and particular substances as clomipramine, nifedipine, carbamazepine, flunarizine, and methylphenidate.

It is important to consult your doctor about taking any medicine because there are not many clinical trials that prove effectiveness and safeness of particular medicine in the treatment of the exploding head syndrome.