Startled Awake by a Loud Sound? You May Have 'Exploding Head Syndrome'

nightmare exploding head syndrome
I may have "Exploding Head Syndrome." While that sounds very gruesome, have no fear of bits of my brain splattering all over your kitchen walls. Exploding Head Syndrome may sound like something out of the movie Scanners, but it's harmless -- just annoying. And far more of us have it than you'd think.


People with Exploding Head Syndrome are awakened out of sleep by loud noises that aren't there. The American Sleep Association says the loud noise can sound like anything from a bomb going off, to cymbals clashing, to a gun firing. It usually occurs just before a deep sleep.

This has been happening to me for many years, probably a couple of times a year.

As for the sound? Sometimes it sounds like a huge group of people quickly yelling and being cut off. Other times, something crashing. Sometimes just a loud, deep-timbered pop. Sometimes I can't even describe what it sounds like, I just know it is loud and it wakes me up, heart thumping.

When it first started happening, I'd think something really had crashed into the house or through the ceiling or someone was really yelling outside of my window. After awhile, you learn that nothing is happening, it's something inside of your brain, and you just kind of mentally shrug and go back to sleep. Since it happened so infrequently, it never occurred to me to see a doctor about it.

When it would happen to me, it would make me think of people with schizophrenia -- how they would hear voices that were only inside of their heads. I was hearing sounds that were only inside of my head, and yet they sounded just the same as sounds outside of my head that others could hear. It made me feel really bad for schizophrenics, because you DO hear it. It's just that no one else does.

It seemed so weird, I never bothered to ask anyone else if they'd experienced it. But apparently I need not feel so weird. A survey of 200 college students showed that one in five experienced this strange clashing cymbal brain thing.

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There is no cure for the syndrome, but there is a drug that can help "turn down the volume."

Reducing stress and fatigue can also help.

I don't consider myself any more stressed than anyone else -- in fact, I'm probably less so given that I exercise, do yoga, and meditate regularly. So I think I'm stuck with my exploding head. But it's not so bad. At least I know what it is now! KA-BOOM!

Have you ever experienced this?

Image © Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock 


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