Explosive Head Syndrome

Exploding head syndrome or EHS is a kind of parasomnia, which is an umbrella term for sleep disorders occurring at the transition between waking up and falling asleep, or between various stages of sleep. People suffering from this medical condition falsely perceive an alarmingly loud and sudden noise when waking up or falling asleep.Exploding Head Syndrome picture

How Does Exploding Head Syndrome Feel and Occurs?

Though EHS is regarded something as being critical, it can appear as unnerving at best or hysterical at worst. It interferes with one’s sleep on the day when any such episode occurs, but it can also lead to sleep deprivation in the future if the affected person starts to dread sleep itself as a consequence.

How common is it?

Though little is known about EHS to date, it is not as atypical as people tend to believe. Various studies estimate that ten to eighteen in every hundred people experience its symptoms at least once during their entire lifetime.

Individuals suffering from isolated sleep paralysis or ISP are twice as much to suffer from EHS, and psychiatric patients are somewhat more likely to have this disorder in comparison with the general population. Having elevated levels of physical or emotional stress are also linked with this disease.

It has typically been assumed that this syndrome is less common in men than in women. However, a recent scientific study conducted with a group of two hundred and eleven bachelor’s degree students found to dissimilarities between gender, and this seemingly logical contradiction did raise the concerns for performing more such studies in the near future.

Exploding Head Syndrome Causes

The etiological reasons that explain why dos EHS occur are quite flabbergasting. Though the precise cause is yet to be discovered by the researchers, some psychologists and physicians do believe that the following medical conditions may trigger the disorder.

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Damaged nerve cells in the human brain
  • Muscle twitch or jerk
  • A damaged temporal lobe
  • Sudden and rapid movement of the middle ear
  • Experiencing an intense stabbing pain, though extremely rare
  • Belong to the risk group, as people who are more than fifty years or less than ten years old, are more prone to develop this condition

Exploding Head Syndrome Symptoms

  • Loud noise in one’s head like an explosion, gunshot, door slamming, roar or anything similar
  • A flash of light identical to a video static effect
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Buzzing sensation
  • Panic episodes
  • Insomnia

Exploding Head Syndrome Diagnosis

  • MHE or medical history examination is conducted to collect information about how often and when does EHS happen
  • Physical examination is performed to access any physical disorders that could have triggered this condition
  • EEG or electroencephalogram is obtained to rule out epileptic seizures
  • UDSE or urine drug screening examination is also done to figure out  the likelihood of substance abuse
  • An overnight PSG or polysomnography test is run too in cases of parasomniac patients, which is essentially a multi-parametric, diagnostic tool to study the behavior of a sleeping person

Differential Diagnosis

It is true that EHS is often under-reported and is infrequently taken into account. Nonetheless, there is a considerable chance for misdiagnosis. Strictly speaking, there is no option for differential diagnosis, because of the fact that its history is so pronouncedly characteristic. Common misdiagnoses can include primary or secondary headaches like a migraine or subarachnoid hemorrhage respectively, epilepsy, and nightmare disorder.

Exploding Head Syndrome Treatment

Going to the specialist

The doctor sensitizes the patient about this condition, assures that person that EHS is not at all a harmful or dangerous disease, and also conducts appropriate diagnostic tests to reveal the underlying cause that triggered it.

Controlling one’s stress level

Living under constant stress could very well be one primary causative factor of EHS. Hence the patient is taught various kinds of relaxation techniques, such as taking hot water baths, yoga, or psychotherapy.

Maintaining a sleep journal

Keeping a sleep logbook is an excellent way to register all the experiences that one is going through, and it helps to monitor EHS.

Avoiding fatigue episodes

Many past research studies concluded that physical exhaustion leads to EHS, and one can avoid fatigue by sleeping enough and sleeping well.


Medicines like Clomipramine, which falls under the category of Tricyclic antidepressants, are also prescribed in some cases.

Being patient

Most often, this type of parasomnia cases disappears over time. While the syndrome recedes almost instantaneously, it could take the symptoms as little as a few days to as much as a few years to become completely non-existent.

Exploding Head Syndrome Prevention

  • Avoiding sleep deprivation and sleeping more often
  • Consuming a balanced and healthy diet
  • Relaxing, and auto-suggesting about not to panic, as the noises one hears are purely psychological
  • Whenever in panic, taking deep breaths, and trying to take rest as much as possible
  • De-stressing by reading one’s favorite novel, going to swimming, or engaging any other kinds of stress-busting activities


EHS patients need not worry at all, as experts consider it as entirely benign.

When to visit a doctor?

When sleep hallucinations are becoming problematic, consulting with a sleep specialist is necessary to relieve those symptoms. In a few such cases, merely comprehending the phenomena will do the trick and the mind will spontaneously return to the sleepy state once again.

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