Exploding Head Syndrome – it’s real

I recently wrote a piece for the UK’s Woman magazine on what your body noises mean. Sadly, my favourite ‘noise’ got dropped for space (in my world that’s often editor speak for ‘you’re indulging your love of the strange again aren’t you’). It’s a problem called exploding head syndrome.

Characterised by hearing a scary, loud bang in your head just as you fall asleep, it affects mostly women – terrifying the beehayzus out of each and every one of them I’d guess.

Well first let’s reassure you if it’s happening to you, you’re not going mad, nor have you had a stroke, or have a brain tumour as, while it might strange and a bit disturbing, Exploding Head Syndrome is not a sign of anything dangerous. ‘Exploding head Syndrome is part of a set of strange behaviours during sleep we called parasomnias,’ says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley – who probably regretted picking the phone up that day. ’Why it occurs we have no idea, but going to sleep is not like turning off a light switch, it’s more like shutting down a computer and sometimes glitches occur.’ It has been shown to be more likely if people are stressed. And, while it can happen at any age it’s most likely to start in the over-50s

One thing the noise shouldn’t come with is pain – exploding head syndrome doesn’t hurt, it’s just a bit strange. If you’re getting pain, see a doctor. It does sometimes also come with flashing lights and a feeling that you need to make a conscious effort to breathe. Again, this aren’t anything to worry about so long as they come accompanied with the loud bang as you’re trying to get to sleep.

The good news is, the problem does pass – you may get 2-4 affected nights on a trot or even a few attacks in one night and then it’ll disappear, so don’t worry about it and, if you are under attack don’t stress about whether it’s going to happen. ‘That can start making sleep a problem and trigger insomnia,’ says Dr Stanley. And that is a problem.

The main point to remember about EHS is that it’s not dangerous. It might be a bit scary, but it’s harmless – nor is there anything you can do about it, except reduce your stress level in your day to day life. I’ve only had it once and it did wake me up with a violent start – thankfully I knew what it was. In fact, I was quite excited that now I actually knew what I was writing about.

If you want to read more science on Exploding Head Syndrome, you can fall into a pit of it on Pub Med – starting with this piece   warning, don’t try this late at night – you might not get to bed for hours!



As I said, there’s no products that can stop exploding head syndrome, but as I said, it can be more likely to be triggered if you’re stressed out. Stress is an enemy to sleep as it will make the wind whirr at the very point it’s supposed to be chilling out. This where you can use things to help.  I’m generally a very good sleeper, but if I do have the odd night when insomnia does strike, my go to product is Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath and Shower oil. It will knock me out rapidly. As I live in a hot country, I sleep with a fan on as I find it blocks out noises from the street that tend to grab my attention – a white noise app can do the same thing. I also tend to use the advice I was given by Dr Guy Meadows whose revolutionary approach to insomnia treatment is to stop fighting your symptoms and learn to accept them. It’s hard to explain in a few sentences so I’d say to check out his book instead (below). I also absolutely love the tip The Boyfriend uses which I’ve written about on this blog – it involves giraffes. Finally, while I haven’t needed to use any of his tips yet myself, one of my favourite new sleep books is The Sleep Solutions by W. Chris Winter. It’s written in a really simple to understand style, is very practical – and actually made me laugh out loud now and again. Click the pictures below to go to the Amazon Pages for the products to find out more to buy them.
*NYNHB is a member of Amazon Associates so I get a small (much appreciated) commission if you click on any amazon links and buy anything.



1 Comment

  1. Sally Brown

    V illuminating – I thought this only happened to me! Although it’s usually a loud voice shouting my name rather than a bump or noise. Now I can tell my husband there’s a name for it – ‘parasomnia’ rather than just me ‘being wierd’! Sally


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