What is exploding head syndrome?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Sep 18, 2017
Quick Bites

  • The explosion feels to be real, but it's only inside the head.
  • It never causes pain or any other physical symptom.
  • The explosion often occurs right before or after deep sleep.

Ever heard a boom as if a bomb just exploded right inside your head? If you have, you may have a rare and undocumented condition called exploding head syndrome. A recent study has suggested that between 10 and 20 percent of people experience this condition. During the study, people were jolted awake by an abrupt loud noise, which turns out to be inside the head. This bizarre experience often strikes when a person drifts off to sleep.

The condition has no physical trait such as pain or swelling associated with it. The experience of something exploding inside the head is usually perceived with bright flashes of light without physical pain. It may also trigger shortness of breath caused by an increased heart rate after the bang.

The bang or explosion inside the head usually occurs just before deep sleep, or at times, while coming out of deep sleep. The condition may prevent people from sleeping and causes psychological problems that make them believe that they are having a seizure or are being attacked.

Before the mentioned study, it was believed that this rare condition only occurs in people who are above the age of 50 years, but the research suggests that it is also common in young people. 

During the study, researchers interviewed 211 undergraduate students and found that every fifth student had experienced exploding head syndrome at least once. Previous study shows that one in ten people will experience this condition at least once in their lifetime with women twice as likely to suffer as men.

According to experts, our brain goes to sleep in a similar manner as a computer system shutting down with motor, sound and visual brain cells turning off in stages. Instead of shutting down properly, the brain cells responsible for sound are believed to fire all at once, causing a blast of energy, which is interpreted as a loud bang.

Researches also found that more than a third of students who had experienced exploding head syndrome had also experienced isolated sleep paralysis, a condition in which one cannot move or speak when waking up.  The attacks can increase or decrease with time, disappear for long periods of time, or go away completely on their own.

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