Exploding head syndrome (EHS) sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it’s a real medical condition (though your head is unlikely to actually explode). EHS is a sleep condition known as a parasomnia. Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements (like sleepwalking), behaviors, emotions, perceptions and dreams. They can occur while falling asleep, between sleep stages or during arousal from sleep. With EHS, it can seem like a violent explosion has gone off in your head.

How does it feel?

Sufferers of the condition describe EHS sounding like fireworks, a bomb exploding, a door slamming or a loud crash. Some people have described it as a gunshot, cymbals crashing, or a lightning strike. Others describe seeing a blinding light.

The sight or sound startles the sleeper, causing them to wake up suddenly with a pounding heart. Some describe thinking they are in the midst of a heart attack or a stroke. These episodes can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, but no physical pain.

People of all ages can be affected by this condition, including children. Women are more likely to experience it than men. The cause of EHS is currently unknown. Scientists have some theories, stating that the condition could be caused by:

  • Minor seizures in the temporal lobe of the brain
  • Sudden shifts in the parts of the middle ear
  • Stress or anxiety

What can you do?

If you think you have EHS, it’s best to consult a sleep medicine specialist. They may ask you to recall when the sounds first occurred, how often they happen and how long they last. There is no known cure for this condition, but it might be triggered by another sleep disorder. It’s worth speaking to you doctor to see if you can get to the root of the matter.

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