Do you suffer from Exploding Head Syndrome?

Originally published at:


Females were slightly more likely than males to endorse EHS

I cannot imagine anyone ever endorsing this; it sounds horrible.


I experienced it once, more than a decade ago. Was deeply unsettling.


Neat. I sometimes experience a phantom loud voice calling my name, or another shocking loud sound as I’m dozing off, sometimes incorporated into the early stages of REM sleep as I fall into a dream. I wonder if there’s any relationship.


Every time I read about some new trump malefaction my head explodes.


For me, not an explosion, it’s a loud tone.

Try this: When you are lying down to go to sleep, put in some ear plugs. When I use ear plugs I can hear that high-pitched tone that you usually hear only in a really quiet room. Focus on that tone. I find that it’s really made up of many different tones. The highest is pretty constant, but there are lower ones in there too. As I focus on these lower ones they become more present, and as I get closer to falling asleep, they start to go kind of woooooWOOOOooooo - suddenly louder as I fall a bit asleep, then softer again, over and over - as I drift off, then become aware of the tone, and wake up more again, wooooWOOOOOwoooooWOOOOwoooooWOOOOOwoooooWOOOOO, etc. I’m not sure, but I think I’m hearing a sound that relates somehow to brainwaves. I can’t hear this all the time, sometimes I try and just fall asleep before I hear anything. You gotta be in the halfway state.

The first time I heard this was in high school after staying up much later than usual, maybe 3 or 4 in the morning. I was really tired, and as I just started drifting off to sleep, there was that falling asleep tone, but extremely loud, and it did startle me quite a bit. Seems the more tired I am before going to sleep, the more prevalent (and louder) the tone.

Now that I think about it, it seems like maybe not a brainwave thing, but some kind of feedback loop gone crazy. Speaking of feedback loops gone crazy, check out my feedback fractal device: (how’s that for a plug?)


Anyone who finds this interesting might also enjoy Oliver Sacks’ “Hallucinations” book:

I listened to the audio book last year and it’s fascinating, with a whole chapter about sleep-related phenomena. It includes visual, tactile, auditory and olfactory hallucinations. Can’t remember if taste is mentioned.

Well I am advised to be gullible for $35 to want to read the first one and am going to roll with it as far as calling that the brass tax. The second one lets me read it (BBC Science Focus! Is it related to Naked Scientists? Could be.) but it doesn’t say the 50% effective solutions are packing pillows with retrocomputer fandom stuff (Amiga scanners, wide-format plotters, you know) and sneaking root veg. as evening snacks, so I just don’t get the gist. Loved the bass drop; when meme.


For me it’s like getting punched in the head. Nowhere specific, just a punch I feel everywhere in my head. I have no trouble falling asleep afterwards - but it is unsettling.

I think this is genetic. Our family had a vacation that was ruined because my dad was absolutely certain that early in the morning I (a 14 year old constantly at odds with him) had gotten up and punched him in the head, then went and laid back down. (We were sleeping on opposite sides of a large common room). He was mad and yelling at me - and I was astonished as well as derisive, which didn’t help. “Why on earth would I do that!!!” I was not going to admit to it, and he was not going to stop insisting that I had. It went on and on, my mom and siblings got involved and tried to convince him to no avail, and I finally “admitted” to it just to make the argument stop. Of course that didn’t end it…

Adolescence - good times man.


LONG READ: but its a weird mystery!

had epilepsy for the first 4 years of my life but outgrew it - still have muscle twitches often though. I have had excessive mucus levels since birth, also prone to allergies and other reasons to increase sinus stuffiness. I also have a small hole in one ear that I can blow bubbles out of, but if I do that under water I get an ear infection. in early middle age I started getting a ringing in my ears off and on. when Trump got elected it sent me on a spiralling dive into massive stress attacks. somehow at that point I had developed nightmares that would be returning and episodic in nature which never happened to me previously but separate from those I also had for about a week, a loud banging noise happen in my head after being up for way too long.


I am stuck trying to figure out the source of the bangs that thankfully didn’t last long. was it the nerves in my brain related to hearing? was it the mucus levels effecting the hairs that conduct hearing? was it a combo of both? was it psychological beyond any connection to the nerves related to hearing? a sign of nerve damage still existing in my brain? perhaps an ear infection of a certain type and thats how everyone gets it but it never lasts forever?

bah, the mysteries of existing. meat space sucks.


I’d never heard this usage of “endorse” before, but apparently its common in some fields.
This short letter on the matter can be summed up well by the quote “We could not find any rationale in the medical literature for using ‘endorse’ as a synonym for ‘report’ or ‘describe.’”

Should the use of ‘endorse’ be endorsed in writing in psychiatry? (205.5 KB)


I used to experience this frequently as a teen. If I was dropping off to sleep in an awkward place, like in a car or a plane, I’d often feel an explosion right in front of my forehead. I once asked my dad about it, and he said it was normal, so I figured everyone experienced it, but in retrospect maybe that just means he experienced it.

He told me it relates to the feeling of “falling” as you’re falling asleep, which I accepted because I know that that is common, and because it did feel superficially similar.

As an anecdotal datapoint, I also frequently experienced sleep-paralysis (and occasional sleep-paralysis hallucinations) as a teen, particularly when falling asleep in new locations or awkward positions (and my dad did too).

I haven’t experienced either sleep paralysis or head explosions much since being a teen.


I have experienced this a number of times, as well as other hallucinations as I fall asleep, and sleep paralysis as I wake up. Not often, but occasionally. Normally I fall asleep very easily and quickly, so it’s not related to that. For me it seems to depend mainly on my positioning. It’s more likely if I’m on my back than my side, especially if my pillows cause my neck to be bent/elevated and/or if I’m even a tiny bit congested (I snore, airway constriction/alignment is a big deal when I sleep).

1 Like

I thought the news was just getting me riled up, but maybe it’s actually putting me to sleep!


You know, I think I have had that happened to me. I assumed it was a weird dream. It hasn’t been a chronic issue.

1 Like

I learned I suffer from this after hearing a Stuff You Should Know episode on EHS, which made up for that episode of This American Life when I learned I don’t have ASMR.


The THX sound?


I get this.

It’s more of a hallucination of the pressure sense in your head than a noise.

Sort of a rushing “woosh” sensation packing into the space at the center of your head. It builds up and then POP, head explodes.

Sort of like a massive, phantom version of popping your ears.

This sounds more like tinitus. Or alternatively pressure on your ears, including ear plugs, can cause you to hear your own blood flow and heart beat. And that can trigger tinnitus, auditory hallucinations, and exploding head if it happens while you drift off to sleep.

I get all these different things. Fairly chronically in the past. And they’re all sort of associated with each other (and sleep paralysis/parasomnias) and pretty distinct.


I have had this before, but it seems not for the last few years.