Exploding Head Syndrome Symptoms – Hearing Loud Noises In Your Head?

Have you ever been woken up by hearing a terrifying or strangely loud noise that seems to come out of nowhere?

However, when you ask somebody else or examine your surroundings there is no proof that the noise really occured.

If this has happened to you before, it could very well be that you have experienced an episode of exploding head syndrome.

Exploding head syndrome symptoms
Kaboom!

The first account of this sleep disorder was recorded in 1920 by a scientist by the name of “Armstrong Jones”, who cataloged it as “snapping of the brain”.

When compared to the other sleep disorders, there is a limited amount of research into the causes of exploding head syndrome is. Yet, scientists are slowly beginning to understand this sleep disorder more.

In this post, you will learn more about exploding head syndrome, the symptoms, causes, treatment options and other interesting facts about this scary sounding sleep disorder.

Let us find out what makes a person hear an explosion inside of their own head.

What Is Exploding Head Syndrome?

Exploding head syndrome falls under the parainsomnia category of sleep disorders.

Despite what the title might imply, a person’s head does not physically explode.

This sleep disorder involves a person hearing a loud noise such as a bomb exploding, a crashing sound, gunshot and many other types of loud noises. These noises are heard within a person’s head when they go to sleep at night.

This video helps capture the type of noise a person will hear:

There are some that also witness a bright flash of light in addition to the loud noises that they hear.

It can be alarming to many people especially if they do not understand what just happened. This may also cause confusion and concern.

In spite of the frightening or loud noise that you hear. This sleep disorder does not cause any physical pain or have any physical symptoms.

 Frequency Of Exploding Head Syndrome

During 2014, several German researchers examined a number of cases and preceding research with some interesting discoveries such as:

  1. The most prevalant symptoms are sudden sensations of light, fear and noise.
  2. The standard occurence of attacks lies in between one time a day or one time a week.
  3. Women have reported experiencing the sleep disorder more than men do.
  4. The typical age of inception is 54.

Nonetheless, during 2015 researchers from Washington State University discovered that numerous younger people have also experienced exploding head syndrome as well.

In addition, their research has also yielded some extra results that include:

  1. 2.8% had noticable levels of diminished ability to function or anxiety.
  2. There was no variation in the frequency of how women and men have the disorder.
  3. 16.6% of those who participated in the experiment experienced the sleep disorder on a normal basis.
  4. 18% of the 211 undergraduate students the researchers interviewed had experienced exploding head syndrome at some point in their lives.

The dissimilarity in the results could be clarified by how the research was performed.

It may very well be that women experience the sleep disorder at a later time in their lives. Yet, when women and men are younger there is an equivalent number.

There Is No Physical Harm

Although the title exploding head syndrome sounds very striking. It is also at the same time very deceiving. The name alone brings up all sorts of terrifying images.

The truth is that sleep experts view this sleep disorder as harmless and is typically not affiliated with physical pain, yet can make others feel alarmed.

To know why this sleep disorder possesses a such a daunting title. We need to examine the symptoms.

Symptoms Of Exploding Head Syndrome

There are a few potential symptoms that are typically accounted for. The symptoms can either happen when a person is going to sleep or waking up.

1) Hearing an unexpected and near deafening noise that did not exist

The primary symptom of exploding head syndrome is a hallucination of a loud unexpected noise. The noise can feel as though it is coming from either outside, somewhere inside of your home, or the interior of your own head.

The majority of people recount the noise as:

  1. Sounds that are difficult to precisely explain.
  2. People yelling or screaming.
  3. An buzzing electrical sound.
  4. The sound of a door being slammed.
  5. A sonic boom.
  6. Thundering noise.
  7. Bomb explosion.
  8. The sound of a gun being fired.

2) Feelings of being terrified, unsettled or worried

The majority of people do not typically announce that they feel pain when experiencing this sleep disorder.

They will possibly recount it as painful in the beginning, yet when it the pain is released it is nothing more than a very loud noise.

Nevertheless, the other symptoms and the unexpected noise can cause concern for many. So it is not too far out there that a person would wake up feeling terrified or unsettled by the event that just occured.

3) Very Fast Heart Rate and Breathing Issues

Some individuals have accounted that they have woke up with very fast or abnormal heart rate. In addition, they have also reported that it can be difficult to breathe properly.

Heart rate diagram.

4) Observing Light That Is Not There

This sleep disorder is occassionally accompanied with the perception of a bright flashing light. As the same with hearing unexpected noises. The light that you see is not caused by an external source.

5) Present With Sleep Paralysis

Some individuals can potentially experience sleep paralysis with the sleep disorder ocassionally having the form of an “out of body experience”. The fact is some researchers have discovered that exploding head syndrome is more frequent in those who possess sleep paralysis.

During 1989, a researcher by the name of J.M Pearce coordinated a comprehensive study of 50 people who had exploding head syndrome. Pearce examined that the various types of symptoms that the people had experienced. You can learn more about Pearce’s study in this article.

Causes Of Exploding Head Syndrome

The causes of this sleep disorder are still not fully grasped. However, there are a few theories that are suggested that can help explain the causes:

  1. Diminished calcium signalling.
  2. Associated with uneasiness, tension, or terror.
  3. Unanticipated movements in the portions of the inner ear such as the tensor tympani (the muscle affiliated with minimizing noise, for example the sound that is made when you chew your food) and the tympanum (this is the name for the ear drum).
  4. Other neurlogical disorders such as small seizures that are located in the temporal lobe portion of the brain.

Scary cat hiding in a dark background.

In the study, the researcher Pearce presumed that it would be more desirable to classify exploding head syndrome alongside other biological mechanisms that happen when a person goes to sleep. An example is hypnic jerks.

During 2010, two researchers by the names of Plazzi and Thorpi wrote that they presume exploding head syndrome is a variation of hypnic jerks. The researchers announced that:

“The EHS is a benign, usually self-limited, condition that is likely a sensory variant of the hypnic jerk. No testing or medications are necessary when the history is typical.

Education and reassurance are the cornerstones of therapy. If the symptoms occur multiple times a night and cause insomnia, a hypnotic may be useful.”

Treatment Options

The treatment options for exploding head syndrome are numbered because the sleep disorder is currently viewed as physically innocuous.

Being aware of what is happening and know that you are not the only person who has this sleep disorder will help you out greatly.

With that thought in mind, this will encourage you enough to manage the sleep disorder at a later time in the future.

Nonetheless, if you feel concerned these treatment options are ones that you should consider:

1) Do not be concerned about going to sleep

It is imperative that you do not feel worried about going to sleep at night. Try your best to not feel concerned about whether something negative happening to you or the possibility that you will experience another episode of exploding head syndrome.

2) Minimize anxiety and stress

Anxiety and stress can raise the strength and frequency of certain sleep disorders. If you either endure anxiety or experience a lot of tension in the evening. The best thing to do is to discover methods to manage the issue at hand.

To help you feel calmer and more relaxed at night, I recommend that you read this article about relaxation techniques.

Person relaxing in a hammock near a mountain range.
Cozy!

3) Apply excellent sleep habits into your daily routine

Not getting a sufficient amount of sleep, excessive tiredness, and a number of other lifestyle decisions can escalate the chances of disrupted sleep. I recommened that you follow a consistent sleep schedule and apply these excellent sleep habits.

4) Medication Options

Unfortunately, there are no medications that will outright cure exploding head syndrome.

In some severe cases, your physician can potentially prescribe other medication such as calcium channel blockers or tricylic anti-depressants such as clomipramine.

5) Consult Your Physician Or A Medical Professional

Communicate with your physician or a medical professional if you are worried about your symptoms. They will examine if you for other causes such as seizures or migraine disorders.

They will most likely inform you that this sleep disorder is benign.

It will be useful to keep a record of what occured, what types of foods/drinks that you had, any activities that you participated in, and how you felt/your mood during that time.

You can relay this information to your physician and they will consider all factors accordingly.

Conclusion

Exploding Head Syndrome is one of the lesser known sleep disorders. Many times we hear of other sleep disorders such as snoring more than we hear of this sleep disorder.

Hearing a bomb or other loud noise in your head during the night is strange indeed. This was a sleep disorder that I never knew existed and one that prompted some curious research.

Have you ever heard any strange loud noises when you go to sleep at night?

Were there any interesting things that you have experienced during an episode?

Please share your experience or opinions below in the comments section.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash

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12 Comments on “Exploding Head Syndrome Symptoms – Hearing Loud Noises In Your Head?”

  1. Hello Dmassengill69,

    Anytime and I am glad that I was able to educate you about Exploding Head Syndrome. I agree and I was surprised as well to learn that this sleep disorder had a title such as this. There are cases that people can hear noises in their dreams. The loud noises that are heard from Exploding Head Syndrome can be caused by a number of different factors such as diminished calcium signaling to other neurological disorders. There are many other causes that go beyond the ones that I listed as well due to the fact that everybody is different. Yes, you make a good point. Everybody will hear a different type of noise. For some the noise can be people screaming and for others it can sound as if a bomb exploded. 

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  2. Hello Cjciganotto,

    Your welcome and this sleep disorder does affect a good number of people in the world. I agree it must be a very frightening experience to hear a loud noise in your head only to find that the noise did not really happen. Yes, most sleep experts view Exploding Head Syndrome as a sleep disorder that is for the most part harmless. I wanted to show others that there are other treatment options that one should consider before going to the medication route. 

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  3. Hello Karin,

    This is one of the lesser known sleep disorders in the parainsomnia category of sleep disorders. When I first learned about what this sleep disorder was all about. There were many things that surprised me as well. Yes, hearing loud noises, panicking and waking up as result is indeed quite scary. The noises that can be heard can range greatly and everybody will hear a different type of noise. For some it can sound like bomb exploding to a noise that is difficult to explain. That is great that you gain some relief after reading this article. Yes, you are right there are reasons that can be explained as to why this sleep disorder happens. As of right now, I have not found any current research that is taking place. However, that can always change. I have not personally known anybody who has this sleep disorder and the treatments that I have found have not yet been proven conclusive. The suggestions are an excellent place to start and these tips will help you out. If you want to learn more about this sleep disorder. This article by Livescience helps to expand on what I have covered in this post.

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  4. Hello Luke,

    That is a good thing that you have read articles about insomnia. There are also many other types of sleep disorders to learn about. Everything from breathing related sleep disorders all the way to sleep related movement disorders. Exploding Head Syndrome is a sleep disorder that is not too widely known so I wanted to share this information and educate others. Much appreciated and come back again sometime. 

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  5. Hello Solomon, 

    Your welcome and that is excellent that you the information useful. Yes I agree, therapy is a great route to take because there are many different options for treatment that are available. It is very good that that you are managing your routine. This in turns helps build consistent patterns that will lead you towards better health, which I highly support.

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  6. Hello James,

    You are right a CPAP machine is indeed one of the most effective treatments for sleep apnea. A choking sound is a sign of sleep apnea. This can happen due to the airway being obstructed. Being woken up by hearing a loud noise is a common occurrence with exploding head syndrome. I agree and was surprised as well to learn that this sleep disorder had such a fitting title to match. That is interesting that when you use your CPAP machine you do not experience the episodes of exploding head syndrome. There could be a connection between the two. If you want to know more about sleep apnea. I have written an article that goes into more depth on that topic.

    Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Causes and Treatment – Trouble Breathing at Night?

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  7. Thank you, I learned a lot from this post on Exploding Head Syndrome. I did not know it had a name or that it was not just part of a dream. It does cause me problems getting back to sleep because I cannot find the cause of the noise. 

    Depending on the type of noise it may not always seem like it came from a dream (loud slapping, popping, or crashing). This was very informative and will help me personally a great deal. Now that I know what is going on.

    The clip for the sound was not anything like what happens to me, but someone else may hear it like that.

  8. Hello Kenny,

    The truth is that I did not know that this sleep disorder exists in some people, especially women. When this syndrome occurs when a person sleeps. I can not imagine how terrifying it can become to suffer. I am glad to know that the people who suffer from this sleep disorder do not have their health affected in anyway. I also find it great that you explained a series of tips to avoid the frequency with which these episodes occur. Thanks for sharing. 

    Regards,
    Claudio

  9. Seriously! I did not know this disorder existed, but I am so glad I learned about it! I have had this for years. Usually it is the sound of an explosion and it wakes me up! I panic and wake others in the household up to see if they heard the sound too. Of course, no one ever has heard it. I thought maybe I was losing my mind! What a relief to discover that there is a reason for this and what a relief to know that I do not have to wake everyone up anymore! I have imagined it being the furnace exploding or a bomb going off in my neighbor’s house. I have heard loud shouting among other loud noises that are not there. Kinda scary! I often just assumed it was part of whatever dream I was having! Do you know if there is any current research taking place? Do you know people who have this disorder and if anything helped them? I will be starting to use some of the suggestions you have listed! Thank you!

  10. Hi Kenny,

    I read a lot of articles of sleeping disorders, but usually it was just about insomnia, I heard for the first time for Exploding head syndrome. You describe this very precisely, so I think your article will be very helpful for people who deal with this sleeping disorder or just want to learn something new in this topic. I like your article and I will probably visit your website again!

  11. I started researching sleep disorders a lot when Exploding Head Syndrome happened to me for the first time. I found almost everything you just mentioned in this article great. Although, I am in therapy now and I manage my routine very carefully. I am sure this article would help others just like me and I am glad to have stumbled upon this. Thank you!

  12. I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I have used a CPAP machine for years and it does help. I stop breathing in my sleep and wake up suddenly.  I do not snore per se, but experience more of a choking sound. 

    I have had episode of exploding head syndrome. It kind of comes and goes. I will just start to drift off. Then I hear a loud pop noise and wake up all of a sudden. I know that there is no real noise because my wife was beside me fully awake. When I ask her if she heard that loud noise, she will say there was no noise.

    I did not really think that it had a name, but exploding head syndrome sure fits the bill. When I use my CPAP machine, it does not happen.

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