Decoding Exploding Head Syndrome: From Diagnosis to Management

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, feeling like there was a loud explosion inside your head? Perhaps you heard a loud bang, clashing cymbals, or a sudden blast of noise? If yes, then you may have experienced exploding head syndrome. This is a rare but harmless sleep disorder that is sometimes referred to as ‘episodic cranial sensory shock.’ In this blog post, we’ll explore more about EHS, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Exploding Head Syndrome?

Exploding Head Syndrome is a sleep disorder that is characterized by ‘perception of loud noise, either within the head or immediately proximal to it during an abrupt awakening from sleep’ (American Association of Sleep Medicine, 2014). The loud noise is usually like an explosion, gunshot, thunderstorm, or cymbals being clashed. Most people describe the noise as being brief, sudden, and sharp. EHS is a type of parasomnia, which is a group of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, perceptions, or emotions that occur during sleep.

What Causes EHS?

The causes of EHS are not yet known, but experts believe that it may be due to the brain’s inability to properly adjust to changes in the sleep-wake cycle. This might cause an abnormal increase in the levels of noradrenaline, a hormone that plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, EHS has been associated with conditions such as migraines, panic attacks, and stress.

What are the Symptoms of EHS?

The most common symptom of EHS is hearing loud noises in the head or just before sleep. Other associated symptoms may include anxiety, palpitations, fear, sweating, and tremors. Most people report that EHS is one of the scariest experiences they’ve ever had. The severity of the symptoms can range from mild to severe and can occur occasionally or several times a night.

How is EHS Diagnosed?

Diagnosing EHS is not straightforward. Since it is a rare condition, most people are not aware of its existence, and diagnosis is mostly based on symptoms and medical history. If you suspect that you have EHS, your doctor may ask you a series of questions about your sleeping habits, any other sleep disorders you may have, and your medical history. In some cases, your doctor may recommend further tests to rule out any underlying medical or sleep disorder that may be causing the symptoms.

How is EHS Treated?

Since there is no known cause of EHS, there is no specific cure for it. However, treatment options may involve self-help techniques such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep hygiene, and adopting a regular sleep-wake cycle. In more severe cases, medication such as tricyclic antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms. In addition, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be useful in addressing anxiety-related symptoms associated with EHS.


In conclusion, Exploding Head Syndrome is a sleep disorder that is often frightening and confusing for those who experience it. Although there is no known cure for EHS, there are several treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve sleep quality. If you suspect that you have EHS, it is essential to speak to your doctor, who can help diagnose and recommend the best treatment plan for your individual needs. Remember, the key is to reduce stress and anxiety and maintain good sleep hygiene to help improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.