Exploding Head Syndrome – Harmless But Disturbing

exploding head syndrome

Do you ever hear a sudden loud noise just as you’re falling asleep or waking up, maybe accompanied by a flash of light?

But then when you check your house or ask someone else, you find no possible source of the noise?

If so, it could be that you’ve experienced exploding head syndrome (EHS). The good news is that although it can be quite scary, it’s not believed to be physically harmful.

This sleep disturbance was first documented in 1920 by the scientist Armstrong-Jones, who described it as a ‘snapping of the brain’.

Compared to some other sleep disorders, there hasn’t been so much funding for research into EHS in the years since then. But scientists are slowly starting to understand it better.


How common is exploding head syndrome and who experiences it?

In 2014, researchers in Germany reviewed multiple cases and previous research, with some interesting findings:

  • They found that the average age of onset was 54.
  • More women reported having EHS than men.
  • The average frequency of attacks was between once a day and once a week.
  • The most common symptoms were noise, fear and sudden sensations of light.

Research shows that many young people experience it

In contrast to the research in Germany, researchers at Washington State University in 2015 discovered that many young people also experience EHS. And they didn’t find that women had it more often than men either.

Some of the main points arising from their research include:

  • 18% of the 211 undergraduates they interviewed had experienced it in their lifetime.
  • 16.60% had experienced it more than once.
  • They didn’t find that women had it more often.
  • It was found in 36.89% of people who had a diagnosis of isolated sleep paralysis.
  • 2.8% had clinically significant levels of distress or reduced ability to function.

2019 research finds even higher prevalence rates

In 2019, a team of researchers again looked at how common EHS is, finding much higher prevalence rates than the previous two pieces of research:

  • Out of 199 female undergraduates, 37.19% had experienced it in their lifetime. 6.54% had it at least once a month.
  • Out of 1683 male and female adult participants in a separate study, they found a lifetime prevalence of 29.59%. And 3.89% had monthly episodes.

The team also found associations with other sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, sleep paralysis and nightmares.

2020 research sheds more light

In 2020, a fascinating study into EHS was conducted in a collaboration between the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and psychologists in the United States and the United Kingdom.

In a survey of 6686 adults, 3286 reported that they had experienced EHS during their lives. 2954 said they had never had EHS.

Interestingly, 446 additional people reported having it, but were excluded due to the likelihood it was a different medical condition or because they reported significant pain during their episodes, which is not typically a diagnostic symptom of EHS.

Of the people who said they did have EHS, 5% said they had it several times a week. 35% had it several times a year, and 40% several times in their lifetime.

And in line with the German study, they also found that women were marginally more likely to have it than men.

It doesn’t cause physical harm

The name exploding head syndrome itself sounds very dramatic, provoking all kinds of violent images in the mind when wondering what the consequences of an episode might be!

The reality is that EHS is seen by organizations such as the American Sleep Association as benign and not associated with pain. However, it can cause a great deal of fear, anxiety and confusion, along with physical symptoms like increased heart rate.


Exploding head syndrome symptoms

There are several possible symptoms commonly reported. They can occur either when falling asleep or waking up:

1. Hearing a sudden and loud noise that isn’t real

The main symptom of EHS is hearing or feeling a loud and sudden sound. It can feel like it’s coming from inside your head, somewhere in your house, or even outside.

The type of sound varies between people, and might include:

  • The sound of an exploding bomb
  • The sound of a gunshot
  • A loud clash of cymbals
  • The sound of a door slamming
  • A rushing sound
  • People screaming or shouting
  • An electrical buzzing sound
  • Any other loud sound which can’t be described exactly

2. Seeing a flash of light

EHS is sometimes accompanied by a sensation of a flashing light. Like the noise though, there’s no actual light source causing it.

flash of light

3. Fear and distress

Most people don’t usually report feeling pain with EHS. They may describe it as painful initially, but then reveal it’s just extremely loud.

However, the sudden noise and other symptoms can be very disturbing. So it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling scared or upset by what just happened.

In the BBC collaboration study in 2020, for example, 44.4% of participants reported feeling significant fear during episodes. Interestingly, a smaller number of 25% reported clinically significant distress.

4. Elevated heart rate and breathing

Brian Sharpless Ph.D., who has published several papers on EHS, described in his 2018 research the most common symptoms as:

  • Tachycardia
  • Fear
  • Muscle twitches
  • Respiration difficulty

Interestingly, he also found that visual phenomenon were reported by 27% of people with EHS – a figure he described as “more common than expected”.

5. Accompanying sleep paralysis

As the research at Washington State University found, EHS is sometimes accompanied by sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis itself can also be very frightening, so it’s unsurprising that a combination of the two sleep disturbances can cause distress.

6. Worse sleep?

The 2020 study also found interesting effects on people’s sleep in general.

They found people with EHS typically took longer to fall asleep, had shorter sleep duration and worse sleep efficiency.

However, they do note that the differences were not clinically meaningful. I’ve added it here under the symptoms as I think it was interesting that it came up in the study, but it’s not listed as a symptom in sleep disorder guidelines.

Reader EHS poll

I ran a poll of readers for three months to see how often they felt they experienced EHS.

Out of 7,752 readers who voted, a combined total of 53.5% said they experience it at least once a month. 41.9% said they experience it very rarely.

These numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt though, as I only polled readers of this article. So rather than a random sample, it’s people who were probably inspired by their experiences to look it up online.

chart showing the results of a poll about how often readers experience exploding head syndrome

Causes of exploding head syndrome

The causes of exploding head syndrome still aren’t properly understood. But several theories have been proposed:

  • A neurological condition, such as minor seizures in the temporal lobe.
  • A sudden movement in inner ear parts, such as the tympanum (the eardrum), or the tensor tympani (the muscle involved in reducing sound – e.g. the sound of chewing food).
  • Related to fear, stress or anxiety.
  • Calcium signaling impairment.

In 2010, the researchers Thorpy and Plazzi suggsted that EHS might be a form of hypnic jerks, saying:

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.

Going back to the 2020 BBC study again, they asked the participants what they believed caused their EHS. Here are the main causes reported and the percentage of people that endorsed them:

  • Something in the brain – 60.6%
  • Stress – 34.7%
  • Medication side effects – 7.2%
  • Something supernatural – 2.8%
  • Electronic equipment – 2.3%

Treatment

The treatment options for EHS are limited due to the fact that it’s seen as physically harmless, and still not fully understood.

Knowing that it has a name, that you’re not alone in experiencing it, and that it’s not dangerous might be reassuring enough for many people.

However, you might like to consider the following options if you remain concerned:

1. Talk to your primary care provider

Speak to your doctor or physician if you’re concerned by your symptoms and they are causing you distress or loss of sleep.

They might check for other causes, such as headache disorders or seizures. But they can also help reassure you that it’s harmless.

2. Medication

There’s isn’t a cure as such. But one medication which has been used with some success is clomipramine.

3. Reduce stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can increase the frequency and intensity of some sleep disorders. If you’re under a lot of stress and/or suffer from anxiety at night, it’s a good idea to find ways to tackle it. This could include exercise, walking, yoga, tai-chi, meditation, mindfulness or simple breathing exercises in bed.

4. Practice good sleep habits

Sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and many lifestyle choices can increase the likelihood of disturbed sleep. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule, and practice good sleep hygiene.

5. Try not to worry about your sleep

It’s important not to become anxious about falling asleep. Try not to worry that you’ll experience another episode or that something bad will happen to you.

That might be easier said than done, but some positive self-suggestion at night can be helpful.

Prevention strategies reported by people with EHS

One final look at the results of the 2020 study reveals some interesting possible techniques to cope with EHS.

The study participants were asked what prevention strategies work for them, and how effective they thought they were.

Here are the top methods that people say helped them:

  • Using or refraining from substances, such as drinking alcohol before bed or taking sleep aids like Ambien. It’s not clear in the published study whether more people had success taking or stopping taking substances. It looks to me like drinking alcohol has a positive effect on reducing EHS, but I can’t be sure from the way the data was published!
  • Don’t lie on your back.
  • Got to bed earlier and get enough sleep.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques/relaxation exercises.
  • Get up for a bit if it happens.
  • Try to wake yourself up during an episode.

Your thoughts

Have you experienced EHS? What symptoms did you have, and how did it make you feel?

Feel free to share your story and thoughts in the comments below.

1,879 thoughts on “Exploding Head Syndrome – Harmless But Disturbing”

  1. I just wake up to the sound of a slamming door and started searching the net I didn’t even know there is a name for it. It happens to me when I am tired and stressed and when my stay past my sleeping time. I am on antidepressant medication and am wondering if it has an effect on it?

  2. I have only recently started to experience this. It happens about once a week at least. I am woken by a loud crash as if a shelf has fallen or a window is being smashed. My heart races and I have sometimes flipped over into Atrial Fibrillation. It is so real and very loud. I don’t even get up to check the house now as I know nothing has really happened. I just wish my heart would not be so affected.

  3. Last night couldnt sleep around 3. I have severe restless body. I suddenly had like a truck or car racing sound very louud in my head then i thought i woke up with goose bumps and chills. I thought i went back to sleep couple times remembering screaming my husband usualy hears if i have nightmares he remembers nothing. I ended going to sleep in the front room. Very scared from it. First time it happened

  4. I’ve had EHS for most of my adult life. For me, it’s an extremely loud and terrifying static zap, similar to turning on or off an old tv or speaker, and it seems to come from the center of my head.

    I once had nearly 20 EHS episodes all in one night because I stayed up past 4am. Every time I tried to doze off it would jolt me awake, scaring the living crap out of me. It was torture! I paced around my house, terrified, for hours before I finally was able to properly go back to bed and fall asleep.

    I had a similar experience when I pulled an all-nighter to watch the roses parade the following morning (don’t ask).

    Since then I had discovered that if I stayed up past 4am, regardless of whether I felt sleepy or not, I had a very high chance to experience EHS. Somehow my body knew how late it was and felt tired, though my mind seemed wide awake. And so now, I always make sure to never stay up past 2am.

    It turns out, much like sleep paralysis, if your body falls asleep before your brain does, you have a higher chance of having an episode.

    The following has helped me tremendously:
    1. Go to bed at a reasonable time, avoid staying up late
    2. Avoid caffeine and sugar right before bed.
    3. Ensure I get a good half hour to hour of darkness before going to bed by avoiding digital screens, bright artificial lights.
    4. Make sure to keep moving or perform physical activities throughout the day to encourage sleepiness at night.
    5. Lower stress – I can’t stress enough about this one. Write down anything that’s bothering you, including tasks that need to be done, so you can keep it off your mind until you read it in the morning.
    6. Last ditch effort: gently move feet or hands around in bed to keep the body awake until the brain falls asleep. This actually saved me a few times after having an episode.

    I used to have episodes a few times every night. Now only have about 1 episode every couple of months. Since the cause is still unknown, this may only help a handful of people who have the type of EHS that I have.

    1. Hi Alicia
      I don’t usually reply to comments on this article any more because of time constraints, but still read them. And I just wanted to say a quick thanks for sharing such useful tips. I’m sure other readers will appreciate you taking the time to write them out.
      Regards
      Ethan

    2. I experienced this weird and scary feeling (EHS) today and i had to research it because it feels too real, im glad im not the only one as im typing this im trying to calm down,the one i experienced was the rushing one i believe , i heard big footsteps rushing at me like a giant or amplified footsteps, i was barely conscious trying to make sense of this when im guessing the footsteps reached me and exploded,

      I tried applying the experience online before another EHS experience i had but no luck mostly nightmare related, i still can’t believe it has a name and everything, its more common than i thought.

  5. Just woke up to this for what I’m assuming is the first time. My right ear was hurting before I went to sleep. I usually get strange and vivid dreams, but this one was bizarre since mine are usually grounded in reality as if to trick me into thinking I’m just having an ordinary day. As it follows I’m on a distant planet made of cream, looking at another (74th or 54th leftest to us) which had 3 towers that were “humming” a message. The next thing I know I hear what those towers were saying and get blasted in the right ear with a terribly awful sound/feeling. It was like my hearing focused in too far and distorted into a very loud crunching. I felt that sound ripple through me and only remember yelling “STFU” in anger as I awoke. But who was I yelling that too?

    1. Forgot to mention the sound was more of a crunch and a shock, like I’d been zapped, though it was only heard and felt through my right ear down to my very core

  6. For me, I experience horrific screaming, it stops not even a second after it wakes me up- it’s scary for sure. It’s happened periodically throughout my life. I’ve always felt a real presence- and if you heard the scream I do- it’s very demonic and indescribable.

    1. Had to go he same thing happen to me last night. It was a very loud scary scream in my right ear. Now I’m afraid to go to sleep.

    2. Yes I have. And it scared me half to death. I thought I was loosing my mind. First time that’s ever happened to me.

  7. As i was falling asleep i heard a male screaming. I believe the voice was my dad. This keeps me from from falling asleep because once a day every month I try to fall asleep but this keeps me from it. Anyone else recognize the screams?

    1. Yes I’ve been suffering hearing screaming in my ear or growling , it’s related to having a case of Catathrenia … It causes exploding head disorder while sleeping, some people start experiencing it later on in life… it can start happening especially when you hit your 40s, getting a sleep apnoea machine CPAC may help.

    2. I was having an afternoon nap, when I was just about to fall asleep, a man like roar happened, I live by myself and got so freaked out! (Still am) I actually thought it was demonic! It’s so very scary and so very real! I don’t want to experience that again ever!

  8. I woke up with a loud fluttering/vibration sound in my ear/head.. It happens only one time and i was really stressed out.. This is exploding head or some form of tinnitus?

  9. I was dozing of but heard a woman screaming followed by a gun shot ….I woke up filled with fear screaming and calling out to my neighbor buy they heard nothing… but heard it …it wasn’t a dream

  10. I was just awoken by the noise of someone pulling at my bedroom door trying to get inside, I keep my door locked and everyone else inside my house has the decency to knock every time so i stepped out into my hallway and asked my room mate who was just watching TV if anyones tried to open my door, he replies no i’ve been here the entire night. i’m restless at 1:22 AM and i can’t sleep because of this

  11. To me it’s almost like a thousand bugs flying by my ear all at once, or like it says, a sudden electrical buzzing. It’s accompanied by a sudden rush of fear and almost like my heart clenches for a second. Freaks me out every time and it takes me a while to fall back asleep. Usually happens once every one or two months.

    1. This happens to me, too, and I’m relieved to find someone who has explained what I experience quite perfectly. Much luck to you.

  12. I thought I was going crazy hearing loud thuds, knocking and bells in my sleep. I hate waking up startled. Nice to know it’s not my sanity. Not kidding.

  13. When I typed in three knocks at my door dreaming moods, I had no idea how to explain my question but I thought this was a crazy question of all time. But I found the problem thanks to this page. I believe when I’m vulnerable in my sleep, is because I have been thinking negatively and fearful and stressed and have anxiety problems with something going wrong. I would wake up in a shock and actually walk outside and call out ‘who’s there? It’s 2 am or 5 am in the morning and yes this has happened more than once, but I’m thinking to myself – I’m going crazy.
    Now I know what to do. Think positive, practice breathing in slowly and exhaling all those negative thoughts.

    1. Vicky I also thought that I was going crazy and I’m so relieved to have found this site… I Googled “someone playing cymbals in my head” which is the type of sound I’m experiencing about once a month… I find that listening to soft sleep music on YouTube helps, I also have sleep apnea and combined with insomnia it’s no joke tossing and turning wearing a CPAP mask. I’m going to take your advice of thinking positively and breathing exercises… So thanks!

  14. I was awoken at 2:45 am by a tapping sound coming from the ground below my bed. exactly different locations were taking turns making the tapping and it was fast almost like a heartbeat. When I checked under my bed, nothing. When I laid back down it started again. There’s no way vibrations from my bed can make a tapping noise that wakes me up. And it’s not EHS.

    1. Hi Jordan

      Just a suggestion, but is there any way it could be animals – rodents perhaps – that would stop making noise when they hear you get up?

      Ethan

    2. i do not know what made me remember this, but in 1980 I was 17, I was vertically parking my car in front of the then PALMER FRUIT STAND on main street in palmer mass. all of a sudden I heard this loud crashing sound and of breaking glass, heart racing I got out of my car looking for what had happened and there was nothing there, the owner of the store was outside and I asked him about it, and he said nothing had happened, for some reason nearly 40 years later I remembered, very strange I know.

  15. Tyler Stowers

    I suffer from sleep paralysis frequently and this is always how i know an episode is going to happen. kinda like a warning signal.

  16. The first time I experienced a loud gunshot seemingly exploding in my head was about 4 years ago. I have had this or other sensations nightly since then. Sometimes it feels like pressure in my head and behind my eyes and I can hardly stand the feeling that goes with it. I also have adrenaline surges over normal noises (my husband closing a drawer)as I am falling asleep. During the day I am sensitive to light and see sparkling lights when there is a change from one light situation to another(going outside for instance). I also experience tingling all over my body after getting up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Anyone else have neurological symptoms like tingling, numbness or bugs crawling?

    1. Did u ever find the cause I experience the same plus symptoms and I’m terrified of doctors hospitals etc…is this serious?

  17. Thanks to this site. Lucky I found it. For the last three years, I wake suddenly holding my head. Frequency is about two or three times a week now. Today it was the sound of a trumpet or car horn in my ear. I hold my head and my brain seems to become liquid for three seconds then I am okay. Thought it was a stroke. Yes, I have tinnitus too.

  18. I will usually wake up to the sound of someone screaming. I’m also a very stressed person so this makes sense. I didn’t even think to google my symptoms at first but I’m glad I’m not the only one who experiences these things, I’m glad I have a better understanding. Thank you.

  19. I have had a ton of experiences like this. Not consistently but it has occurred more times than I can remember. Very often its been a voice, usually female, saying, ‘Wake up!’, or yelling my name. Other times I have been woken up by a really bright flash of light. It actually has hurt my eyes. It’s like when a sunbeam reflects off of something and goes right in your eyes. It usually follows a very strange, intense or disturbingly frightening dream. One time the dream was so intense and long (and I mean really long. Literally felt like years) and elaborate that I was in absolute disbelief that it was all a dream and that I had just woken up in my bed. Practically felt like I had gone back in time because to my senses, I just woke up in my life several years previous. I laid there frozen, staring at the ceiling for about 20 minutes just in shock. I don’t know if that could have been a form of sleep paralysis possibly? My chest is always pounding when this happens. This time was especially bad. I was having a really frightening dream, too weird to even explain. Woke up to the voice and was just confused and filled with dread, practically felt like I was having a heart attack and until I fell back asleep about 10 minutes later I seemed to be having some kind of hallucination. Not sure how to explain this. It was as if the light in the room was just subtly brightening and dimming with sort of a pulse. Seemed like it was going along with my own pulse which I was quite aware of, in that moment. Is there any further information about the link between this and neurological disorders?

  20. I was woken up by a woman screaming, but no one was home. It caused rapid heartbeat, but went back to sleep. Was woken up again, felt like someone shaking my bed. 1st time it ever happened and I do not live in a house with history nor have I played with anything stupid like Oujia boards. And that goes for the few family members that live in my house. So it has gotten my attention, maybe its “exploding head syndrome.” But I get a distinct feeling “gut feeling,” this isn’t in my head, but a message, and that has me bothered.

    1. Agreed. I too believe this is more then the explanation medical science has to offer.

      Don’t let it bother you though Josh. Many of us believe it’s possible that the state between being awake and asleep can turn your brain into kind of an antenna. Seeing and hearing things that are always there, just normally not known to us.

    2. This is the feeling I have also. Feeling uneasy and bothered when I wake from this. I often get woken by a shouting ( can’t decipher if it’s male or female sometimes) sometimes it’s my name being shouted or a voice saying WAKE UP! I feel shaky and scared when this happens. Most recently, it’s happened when my husband is on night shift so I don’t know if I’m just feeling worried about being alone with my little ones in the house? My youngest also tends to wake shortly after this happens to me.

  21. I woke up to a loud crashing sound like something heavy falling down. Looked everywhere and found nothing – quite alarming at 4 am. Trying to go back to sleep, have another look in the daylight!

    1. I’ve had that one. Was woken up recently by what I thought was a tree limb falling on our house. Looked all over the next day and nothing. Was awoken this morning by what sounded like a loud knocking at the door. Again nothing. Sometimes it’s my name being yelled. About 20 years ago I heard a tremendous boom and saw a flash of light. A few seconds later the phone rang. It was the editor of the paper I worked for saying there had been an explosion at a building downtown and was on fire. I think it’s somewhere between physical and spiritual.

  22. This happens to me most nights about 40 minutes after going to bed. Just as I’ve entered a deeper sleep there is an extremely loud snapping noise. The only way I can describe it is like a very strong elastic band snapping very quickly like a whipcrack. It feels like my brain is snapping right inside my head at the back, but then it’s gone. I used to be frightened but it seems unrelated to danger.

    I do however have extremely loud tinnitus that sounds like 30+ televisions all squealing at once. I think I am hearing everyone’s mobile phone signals. This becomes more pronounced in the silence of night. No idea if these two things are related.

    1. Patsy Johnson

      I am a 54 year old woman and for the first time, I experienced something like this when I woke up at almost 2am, this morning, went back to sleep and experienced it much stronger as I woke up this morning. It sounded just like and reminded me of like rifles in a battlefield going off. It would start with pow pow pow pow pow, then pow pow, repeatedly but all n my head while on the toilet.

      1. I have just experienced a strange noise which woke me up like a buzzing alarm, I got up and followed the noise to my sitting room door, it stopped when I touched it. Slightly freaked out by this am trying to go back to sleep with the bathroom light on but found myself googling and came across this page. Not sure if what I have experienced is EHS though. I do some times see flashes of light and have done from a young age so thinking it could be EHS but I don’t know. I’m not particularly stressed or suffering from anxiety at the min, I’m just puzzled to what this noise was.

      2. Dean Edward Gane

        I herd a loud sound like a gun going off,
        It’s scared the hell outta me,
        But when I woke 1 second after it I didn’t know if it was real or not,
        And when I try to go to sleep my body jolts like an electric shock,
        I don’t know what to do…
        Can you help me??😢

      3. Now that’s more what I am experiencing- I’m not always in bed, it’s not waking me up – more like it’s happening on the very edge of sleep. I believe it’s in my head, I hear loud & persistent banging at the door, with extreme anxiety and a sense of fear. I used to believe this was a real pounding at my door, so I would look at the dog to check if it was real or not after the first few times. Usually happens in bed for me but not always and it’s not one loud sound like an explosion or anything. Its more like having police at the door (same feeling too!) I am in my 3rd residence of the year and I don’t believe in ghosts

    2. I have exactly the same symptoms. It sounds like a TV turning off. Like static/ elastic band snapping. I also suffer from tinnitus. Get it every night. Usually when I first fall asleep.

  23. Hi. I came across this site because I was trying to make sense of what happened to me last night. I’ve had my fair share of sleep paralysis that I can swear physically happens to me, until I fully wake up and process what horror I felt was all too well. Last night, I believe this happened when I was falling asleep. I felt my entire body jerk from this loud gunshot, which sounded like it was right next to my ears. Also, I experienced this bright white and yellow explosion of the sorts. I immediately woke up and felt like quite possibly I was shot. It was a mix of terror and confusion. I had to walk that one off. There was no way I could sleep after the anxiety it caused.

  24. Valerie Patmore

    I have experienced this several times, although thankfully it’s not a regular occurrence.
    I will wake up suddenly after hearing a tap, tap, tap on the front door. At the time it seems very real.
    I now know that I am not going mad and it’s reassuring to know that others have had this experience.

    1. Same here – I hear tapping on the window! If I’m falling asleep or waking up, whatever room I’m in, I hear tapping on the window! It seems very real too!

      1. I hear rocks at my window, or like someone knocked once, I t feels so real, but then nothing there and it’s always the same time of night… Weird.

      2. I was jolted awake by a loud sound, maybe sounded like someone beating on a drum, my dog is asleep next to me, & other 2 dogs make no noise from other room, so I assume it was in my head as he didn’t move to the noise.

        1. I’ve had this going on now for months. I have epilepsy and mine is a flash of light and a loud sound like a gunshot and I wake up gasping for air. I truly believe after reading this that I not crazy!!! I think it’s mini seizures that are occurring in the front love like the post said. But man it’s so loud and I can’t get my breathe. It’s scary to say the least!

    2. Twice now I’ve had it, and both times it’s been a loud knocking sound right next to me, most recently being 10 mins ago. Hence looking into it, I’m glad I read that yours was “tap tap tap” because the main description doesn’t mention knocking. Now wide awake and having a cigarette, every hair is stood on end.

      1. Yes mine was like from the ceiling and it was a “knock knock knock “ but heavy loud last night. There have been times where it feels & sounds as if someone punched my head board like felt the vibrations and heard the thud. Of course, when I looked up three knocks there were post about “the mocking of the holy trinity “ so that made things much worse.

  25. Hi
    I have experienced loud noises in my sleep for about 5-6 years. Initially, it started with a loud trumpet sound. I used to get up and look outside and i was baffled. It stopped for a while but on and off for the past 6 months i hear knocking between 3-5 times. Usually it seems like its the front door. Last night i thought it was the bedroom door. I don’t snore by the way or drink! I do smoke cigarettes, females and not sleeping too well at the moment because of stress. Although this takes about the exploding head syndrome, i suspect it is related to an inner ear issue?

  26. I wish people would stop promoting this ridiculous, useless name, clearly coined by someone with no personal experience – or good verbal skills, for that matter. The “syndrome” part itself is just a fancy-sounding translation of “here’s a mixed bag of symptoms, some possible unrelated among them, but we have no idea what they could mean”.)
    What could be a better name? Almost anything, I daresay. I would suggest something including “auditory hallucinations” – although the term “hallucinations” is in itself more unreliable and scientifically lax than it may seem.
    I came across it when I was researching curious occurrences of sudden loud noises in my ear. It was as if a bug – a fly, a cricket – were suddenly caught in my ear, making frantic crackling noises. The first time it happened I was actually walking down the street (and no, there was no real bug in my ear). then it happened several times when I was in bed (but not sleeping). The later occurrences did coincide with a very stressful time in my life, but the first time did not.

    Thank you for this website. It is very valuable.

  27. I am 39 and for a long time now, i have been hearing noises, loud noises that i find no explanation for. My husband said that i might have hypersensitivity of my ears. And it sounded about right since i never found the source of such loud noises. I also suffer from migraines and body aching that has not been connected to any diagnosis. This morning at about 230 am i was woken up by this very loud scream on my right ear. It was very scary, i had a niece and a nephew staying at my house. And my son and nephew were just across the hall from me, while my daughter and niece were staying in the basement bedroom. I sat up in my bed and started asking “are you guys ok,” my husband woke up and asked what was going on. I was confused and asked him about the loud scream but he said he did not hear anything. I went and check on everyone but they were sleeping no signs of trouble at all. I guess this site explains what has been going on with me for years now.

  28. I’m usually a great sleeper. I get 7.5-8 hours usually per night. I’m 28 years old. I’m glad I came across this site as it happened to me last week where I thought one of my smart plugs that turn on my lights popped and made this very loud noise. My dog looked at me like I was crazy as he didn’t hear anything. This was around when I program my lights to turn on around 7:15 am.

    I just woke up tonight (around 5:26 am) after having a nightmare and being very stressed out in my dreams to a super loud lightbulb popping noise along with a flash of light. Scared me too much so now I can’t fall back asleep being the hypochondriac that I am.

    1. I’m 58 and it just started with me a few months back. I hear like a choir singing almost every night, I have tinnitus, with ringing in the ears, and now strange loud noises, and screaming in my ear. It happens when I’m a sleep and I wake up in horror, it scares me. I’m glad others are doing this, and I’m not going crazy! It started when I went up to 50 MG of Amytriptiline for my fibromyalgia. It’s almost like I’m in another time zone with the hallucinations also. Maybe I need to change my meds and see if it goes away.

  29. I guess mine seems so different but this is the only thing that seems to explain it. I woke because I thought I hit my head on something. It hurt! But then I realized that it hurt on the inside. I felt like a sledgehammer hit my head but only on the inside. It was loud and painful. Hmm. I guess everyone’s is different.

  30. I have been dealing with this for a while now and a few minutes ago it happened again. I have always heard the slamming of a car door outside and it happened again just now. Being my paranoid self I couldn’t help but look it up. I’m so glad to have found this I have been reading all of the stories and I am terrified. While laying in bed I am currently hearing a repeated noise of a gurgling stomach mixed with a growling sound. I can not sleep and I am afraid to. Also only last night I was laying in bed after experiencing a paranormal episode of seeing things that weren’t there, I heard a crackled voice that I made out to whisper my name and hold on the ‘e’. My name is sophie so it sounded something like “sophiiieee” if you can imagine that. It sounded almost teasingly like whatever was speaking knew I was scared already. Again I’m not sure if I’m just paranoid but I honestly don’t believe any of this is normal. I’m afraid this is going to leave me traumatized.

    1. It happens to me too. I’m starting to get use to it. But could be meds, so don’t count that out. It feels so real thou. I have a voice telling me” it’s just you and me now “. Also just screaming are choir singing, are loud banging. It’s crazy.

    2. Hey Sophie,

      This can go one of two ways. It can leave you traumatized, or it could empower you.

      Next time it happens just close your eyes and completely ignore any sounds you might hear. Just focus on your breathing, and fall back to sleep. Whatever this actually is, you have power over it.

      1. Thank you for your post. Instead of searching for answers I may never receive, I am going to take your advice and take a minute to close my eyes and calm myself down. I usually get out of and start asking other people in the house who may or may not be awake at the time if they have heard a very loud banging. More than not the answer in no.

  31. I am so happy to have found this. I’ve been experiencing symptoms of this for around 3 years. I see a single flash of light, as the sound of an explosion occurs, and then I hear a single “goodbye” and I jump awake in complete panic and terror. It almost feels like I’m being electrocuted… I was wearing a Fitbit last time it happened and it showed my heart rate go from 58BPM to 120BPM in a matter of seconds, the first time it happened was around 2016 and I thought I was having a heart attack it was so intense. It is definitely an interesting phenomenon, and I look forward to more research on it!

    1. Ever since I have been taking Seroquel 30 years ago, I experience it at least twice a week. Clangs, loud music, screams, screeching metal sounds, someone calling my name, are just a few of the different sounds I experience. It is always accompanied by a bright light sensation, pain, feels like someone tapping on my head, and my heartbeat is very fast.

  32. I think this is happening to me. I sometimes get a big rush in my head and I jerk awake. I heard a noise, it seemed to be amplified and it felt like it was directly to my ear, but it was actually far away. Like a woman laughing or a car driving through the ice which sounded like applause.

  33. Hi, I’m so happy to have found this side although not that I recognize myself completely in these stories. Some similarities and otherwise so different. I know my triggers … stress, anxiety, stimulants as coffee and/or alcohol. I also know my best chances to avoid it … lifestyle changes…such as no coffee or alcohol after lunch hour, no exercise after midday, keeping physical and mental stress at bay. These rules have helped me over the last 30 years, but nevertheless 9 years ago, due to extreme family stress, the known symptoms came over me like a storm … no sleeping due to Hypnic jerks through my body until the early morning hours when I finally would fall asleep. Sleep deprivation went on for weeks and I was put on a medicine Rivotril (a benzodiazepine) to kill the beast. This medication is given for epileptic seizures (which I don’t have) but as well for muscle relaxation. It has helped me but since I’m on this medication for 9 years my body is so used to the dose that its effect is gone and the next episode of stress will bring on all the symptoms. (I refuse to take more than 0,5 mg). Where I don’t recognize myself with what I read is the exploding head noise, mine goes with little noise, such as a crack of the door, the click of noise my partner makes by switching off the light …gives me an uncontrollable injection of adrenaline?/ cortisol? release through my body which causes the body jerk, being fully awake until dozing off till the next jerk, heart palpitations, sweating. It will take about a week to 10 days to find the rhythm of falling asleep without this anxiety. Is anyone out there that would have these symptoms and what you would advise me? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

    1. Hi. I had a similar experience. Same sound of a door closing – sounds very close by yet I wake and nobody there. Sometimes at the same time of day. Definitely in a time of stress right now so I’m thinking maybe I am dreaming it.

      1. I have been experiencing the same thing alone with spiritual sensitivity lately it really freaks me out and I want it to stop but it wont

  34. Last night I awoke to the sound of a man’s scream. I felt something bad was happening but realized it was nothing as this has happened to me before. It took me about 15 minutes to go back to sleep. It’s usually a women’s voice like my mother or my sister desperately shouting my name like something terrible is happening and they need me. Those kind are more disturbing. I’ve had these throughout my adult life but not often. When I was a child and young adult I would often dream I would stumble or trip and wake up startled trying to avoid the fall. Those would always happen when I would first start to fall asleep.

    1. I have recently been experiencing the man voice making a growling or grumbling angry noise in my head right as I wake up. Usually in the middle of the night. Palpitations accompany it and it confuses me. I never had this before. I have had the jerking body symptoms at certain times. It’s flippin me out. I thought I was crazy recently.

  35. I’ve experienced the noise of a gun or loud knock for several years. I’m 75 now and it’s very unsettling. I do fall asleep shortly after when I realize nothing real caused it.

  36. It is 6:02 AZ time. At 5:30am there was a flash of light with flash bang right in my face it just woke me up. It scared the heck out me. It is the first time it has happened but I am under a huge amount of stress and my younger brother recently passed. I don’t sleep much anyway. Not painful just scary. I am 57 it’s never happened before I hope it’s a one time occurrence. Thank you for this site. I know I am not crazy.

  37. I experience this when just falling asleep it’s a really loud explosion like a bomb going off &it lights up the Bedroom I then get headache & it takes me a while to get back to sleep because I am scared it will happen again.I am suffering with an ear infection so that could have caused it but this is not the first time.It is reassuring to know I am not the only one who experience this …

  38. I was just falling asleep, when I heard someone call my name very loudly in my ear. I was so convinced I had heard it I called my husband who was still up watching TV, he said no, he hadn’t heard anything. Left me feeling shaken.

  39. Hi. I have been having this EHS for years.
    I did not know what it was. This morning I was half sleep half woke ( drifting to sleep I guess) . It seemed as though i say a line of thin lights falling from the ceiling and as they fell ,they fell on me and i felt in my body a jerk. Then woke up.

    There was a time i was sleep some years ago i saw someone point a gun at me and i heard it shoot. I jumped in my dream to dodge the bullet. I was sleep mind you but my body I fell off the bed into the floor for real. That was so weird. But I dodged the bullet in my dream but in my women state I feel off the bed like I was dodging a bullet.

    I hear pops, or gunshots a lit in my head and it wakes me .

    I happened to come across this article this morning.

    It was very helpful. Thank you.

    And I do see that many people have this too.
    Blessings to everyone in Jesus name.

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