Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Exploding Head Syndrome – Overview & Facts

Exploding head syndrome is a parasomnia. A parasomnia involves undesired events that come along with sleep. Exploding head consists of a loud noise that you suddenly imagine just before you fall asleep. It can seem like a violent explosion has gone off in your head. It can also occur as you wake up in the night.

It has also been described in the following ways:
  • A painless loud bang
  • A clash of cymbals
  • A bomb exploding
At times it may seem like a less alarming sound. Episodes can cause a high level of distress and fear. Many people think that they are having a stroke. The number of attacks varies. They can happen very rarely. They can also occur many times in one night. Having many episodes can greatly disturb your sleep. Some people report having a cluster of attacks over several nights. Then a few weeks or months will pass before it occurs again. 

A flash of light may come along with the sound. A muscle twitch or jerk may also occur. The event is normally painless. A sudden stab of pain in the head has at times been reported.

The cause of exploding head is not known. It may occur more often when you are very tired or under stress. In many people the episodes occur less often over a period of years.

Exploding head syndrome can be confused with other headache syndromes. But exploding head is normally painless. Headache syndromes can cause great pain.
continue to Symptoms & Risk Factors »