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Exploding head syndrome: Things to know

Exploding head syndrome is a sleep disorder that causes people to hear loud noises in or out of deep sleep when they are transitioning.

Although in some people hearing loud noises can cause distress, panic or fear, explosion of head syndrome is not a serious condition or life-threatening condition. It can also mess with a person’s sleep, which can lead to excessive tiredness in the daytime.

Continue reading to learn more about the causes, signs, and treatments for head explosion syndrome.

What is it?

Sleepless disorder
A person with exploding head syndrome may hear loud noises during sleep transitions.

Explosion of the syndrome of the head is a type of sleep disorder belonging to a group called parasomnias. They cause unwanted effects of physical, emotional, or behavior during changes to the sleep.

Other parasomnias include:

  • sleepwalking
  • nightmares
  • night terrors
  • sleep eating

4–67 percent of adults experience parasomnia, according to the authors of one 2018 study.

Blasting head syndrome is not a dangerous medical condition despite its name. This sleeping condition causes neither pain nor serious side effects.


The exact cause of the head syndrome that occurred remains unclear. Many hypotheses, nevertheless, suggest that it may result from minor seizures in the temporal lobe or moving parts of the middle ear during the night. The condition may also be contributing to panic, emotional stress, or anxiety.

Scientists have traditionally assumed that the outbreak of head syndrome mainly affected females over 50 years of age. Nevertheless, researchers tested 49 college students who reported having symptoms of explosive head syndrome in one study conducted in 2017.

Findings from case studies show that other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and sleep paralysis, may be associated with exploding head syndrome.

People with high stress levels and those with a history of insomnia may also be at higher risk of developing head syndrome.


People with explosive head syndrome hear loud noises that sound like explosions and crashes as they go into deep sleep or wake up in the middle of the night. Such noises can follow flashes of light and muscle spasms.

Though these noises aren’t actual, in some people they can cause distress, fear, and anxiety. Noise attacks can occur once or several times during the night but usually stop when a person is completely awake.

Between 3.89 percent and 6.54 per cent of people with explosive head syndrome have at least one episode each month, according to the results of one 2019 report.

Other signs of head explosion include:

  • rapid heart rate
  • headache
  • sweating
  • fearfulness, agitation, or anxiety
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • daytime fatigue
  • mild memory impairment


There are no specific recommendations for treating exploding head syndrome. Doctors may recommend medication or talk therapy if they are of the opinion that stress or anxiety can contribute significantly.

People with other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can experience episodes of less severe or less frequent noise after a doctor starts to treat the underlying sleep problem.

Similar drugs may also be useful in treating explosive head syndrome.

In one case study, doctors diagnosed a 39-year-old female with exploded head syndrome. She heard loud banging and scratching sounds as she fell asleep — as well as repeated jerking movements in her head, arms and legs. Such symptoms took place at night and lasted for three years.

Her doctors did a neurological examination as well as scans and other laboratory tests. All of her tests were normal, and her doctors found no evidence of seizure activity.

We decided to take topiramate, a migraine drug, to treat her illness. She stated after 2 months of treatment that the loud banging noises had reduced to a low buzzing. Though the sounds were less disturbing, she continued to experience nightly symptoms.

Other medications that may help to reduce the symptoms of explosive head syndrome are:

  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • anti-anxiety medications
  • anticonvulsants
  • calcium blockers

Some people might not need medication. A 57-year-old male recorded four separate episodes over 2 years in one case study in 2013. He described his symptoms as “explosions in[ his] brain.” Nevertheless after these episodes he denied any pain or headaches.

His doctor did not recommend medication and at a follow-up appointment, 6 months later, the male did not report any additional episodes.

When to see a doctor

A individual may want to contact a doctor or sleep specialist if they experience symptoms of explosive head syndrome, especially if those symptoms cause distress or interfere with their sleep quality.

A doctor can ask questions about the medical history of the person, their current emotional state, and their sleep habits. If a doctor believes someone may have a sleeping disorder, he or she is likely to refer them to a sleep specialist for further advice on diagnosis, testing and treatment.

Polysomnography or a sleep check may be done by a sleep specialist. Throughout sleep, this tracks different body functions such as brain waves, muscle activity, heart rate, and eye movements of a human.

Other laboratory tests may be used by physicians to diagnose underlying medical conditions that may lead to the eruption of head syndrome. MRI scans, blood testing, or an electroencephalogram may be included.


Exploding head syndrome is part of a group of sleep disturbances called parasomnias.

This allows people to hear loud noises when they pass in or out of deep sleep, such as smashing cymbals or thunderclaps. Many people often experience that they see vivid flashes of light simultaneously.

The condition does not cause pain, despite its name. Some people, however, report episodes of head syndrome bursting prior to migraine onset.

Many sleep disorders, sleep deprivation and high levels of stress or anxiety may be causes of exploded head syndrome.

If their symptoms significantly affect their quality of sleep or cause emotional distress, a person should speak with a doctor or a sleep specialist.

Practicing relaxation and meditation methods will reduce stress and help people fall asleep quicker.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.

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