Home » Sleep Disorders » Exploding Head Syndrome
November 2020 |  Reviewed by:  John Saito, MD and Rafael J. Sepulveda, MD

What is exploding head syndrome?

Exploding head syndrome is a rare parasomnia in which affected persons awaken from sleep with the sensation of a loud noise. A parasomnia involves undesired events that come along with sleep.

Exploding head syndrome has also been described in the following ways:

  • A painless loud bang
  • A clash of cymbals
  • A bomb exploding

Exploding head syndrome episodes can cause a high level of distress. 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. 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.

The cause of exploding head syndrome 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 headache syndromes. But unlike headaches, exploding head is normally a painless event without lingering pain.

What are symptoms of exploding head syndrome?

You may have exploding head syndrome if:

  • You awaken to a sudden loud noise or explosion in your head
  • These sounds are normally free of any sense of pain
  • These events wake you suddenly with a sense of fright

It is also important to know if there is something else that is causing the imagined sound. Instead of being exploding head syndrome, it may be a result of one of the following:

  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse

What are risk factors for exploding head syndrome?

It is not known how many people have exploding head syndrome. It may be more common in women than in men. It can begin