National Sleep Foundation

Chapter 6: Parasomnias

Exploding Head Syndrome

Exploding head syndrome is characterized by a sudden loud (imagined) noise or sense of violent explosion in the head, occurring while falling asleep or awakening during the night.1-2 The event is often associated with intense fright (patients often think they are having a stroke) but is painless. It is distinguished from sudden-onset headaches by a lack of significant pain complaint.


  1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The international classification of sleep disorders: diagnostic and coding manual. 2nd ed. Westchester, Ill: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2005.
  2. Evans RW, Pearce JM. Exploding head syndrome. Headache. 2001;41:602-603.