What is exploding head syndrome?

Have just been surprised by an item on the Guardian newspaper website. Although probably off-topic, the number of weird-and-wonderful symptoms reported is huge. I can't honestly remember either of these being mentioned - but I could easily have missed them. And how awful if there were a thyroid connection and no-one here noticed and joined in?

I hope anyone who has odd sleep and sleep-related experiences at least reads the article and decides whether or not to respond.

What is exploding head syndrome?

Comparatively little is known about exploding head syndrome and sleep paralysis, so we’re launching the first large-scale survey into both disorders


66 Replies

Don’t know about exploding head syndrome but I used to get sleep paralysis if I was having a lie in during my holidays, that is seriously weird. I would be stuck in this horrible half sleep, I could open my eyes and see but I wasn’t able to move or speak and I would be convinced that an intruder was coming upstairs and into my room.

It’s odd how you can’t move or speak yet you can be scared to death. Fortunately it hasn’t happened for years - saying that, I no longer sleep in so I’m no longer in the situation where sleep paralysis used to happen.

Strangely I had similar experiences as you when younger. Thankfully didn't last long but with an immobile body and active mind it is/was a horrible experience. I think I would use 'locked in'.

I wonder if it was the very beginning of hypo.

I've definatly had exploding head syndrome. Probably only about 2 or 3 times. I've woken up with a terrible fright hearing my doorbell, but really loud. On awakening my two dogs have been fast asleep still which would be impossible if doorbell had rung.

The other time I remember was waking up again with a terrible fright after hearing a really loud bang. Very frightening. Again dogs fast asleep! Anyway both times I had to get up and investigate. Obviously nothing found.

Thanks for posting this Helvella. It puts my mind at rest knowing it's benign.

Oh my god i had this last night, i woke up scared to death with a loud bell sound it really shook me up and ive had knocking sounds. Ha. Its common then.😨

I didn't realise EHS was the name for what happens to me, or that I even had another syndrome. :-O Yes, this happens to me frequently. It can sound like someone shouting, knocking at the door, phone ringing, cat yowling, banging noises, etc.

Fortunately, I've only had a few experiences of sleep paralysis, but it was very frightening.

I used to get exploding head syndrome a lot as a child and young adult. It happened in one of two ways :

1) A gunshot going off, apparently inside my head.

2) Hearing my name spoken (and no other words) really, REALLY urgently, apparently from about 2 - 4 feet away. The speaker always sounded like my father until I got old enough to move away from home, then the speaker varied a little bit. I remember my brother's voice and also, just once, a friend of mine - the only time I remember the voice being female.

This unwanted noise would occur just as I was falling asleep, and it would jolt me awake with a sudden fright. If I then dropped off to sleep quite quickly it could happen again. But often, once I'd been woken up, I couldn't get back to sleep again for hours.

Edited to add : Episodes of EHS stopped a few years after I moved in with my husband. I also had episodes of night terrors and sleep-walking until I'd been with hubby for a few years, but they stopped eventually as well. I wasn't aware of my night terrors until my husband told me about them, although I knew I sleep-walked very occasionally.

I wonder if these all stopped because I was happier being with my husband and felt more secure?

That raises a question for me : how do you know if you sleep walk, if you live alone? I've had a few weird experiences of things being moved around, and I find them in a different place in the morning. I was telling a friend about this and she said, oh, you must sleep walk. But, when I've lived with other people, there's never been any mention of it. Could you sleep walk without ever knowing about it?


How about a camera trap or trailcam?




Ummmm... Hmmm... No, I don't somehow fancy that. It would be running all night, with my dog wandering round! He likes to change beds every half hour or so, as the temperature is different in every room. lol I think that would freak me out. I'll just live with searching for my toothbrush ever morning and finding my hairbrush in the waste bin, I think. :D

greygoose is it the sonambulance or the hound 😊 mine are forever moving my hairbrush and have devoured a denman D4 including the hair ball!

My present dog doesn't have the imagination to do things like that. Having spent the first seven years of his life in a cage, he doesn't know how to dog.

Not to mention that the latest thing to 'disappear' is a painting on a metre square, 5 cm thick piece of wood that weighs a ton! It's difficult for me to lift, and really not the sort of thing a dog could run off with and hide, even if he had the inclination.

Poor lamb!

Glad you’ve given him a happy home!

My old rescue greyhound didn’t wag for a year, & it took much longer to get him to be even slightly doggy. He was always excellent at being a robber dog as he’d been starved.

Poor thing. We've now got over the stealing food phase, I think he's now confident that he's going to get two square meals a day, but he doesn't know how to play, or do doggy things like jumping up at me or licking my hand - and it would never occur to him to jump on a sofa or bed, because these things have never been an option. And I don't think he'll ever learn to trust a man, he will only accept women and children in the house.

That's a good start to trust you enough to feed him, & at least he doesn't bite! Rusty, & my friend's rescue GH never stopped stealing food. Her dog was terrified of men. Another friend's dog is still nervous of sticks after 10 years. It's wicked that they've been treated like that.

Well, actually, he does bite, until he gets to know you. :(

Just what you want from a good guard dog! ;)

Another friend's rescue still bites them. Fortunately, he has no teeth!


greygoose oh dear that poor mite - how can people be so cruel good on you for rescuing him and giving him a decent life at last. Perhaps when sleepwalking one has greater strength? That is pretty disconcerting or it would be to me. I have a hyper sister who did a lot of night wandering in her sleep when we were kids and I have a mild phobia about the condition as far as I know I only do sleep talking and complete garbled nonsense at that. Give your doggie a pet from me I would never put any of mine in a cage not even for a few seconds

Yes, that is a pretty disconcerting idea! I agree. Because, if I am sleep walking, I appear to do some pretty stupid things!

One morning I got up and found that the saucepan I'd left to soak had been emptied of the soapy water, and various items of crockery precariously piled up inside it, with a large bottle of washing-up liquid perched on top. Pretty pointless thing to do! lol Maybe I revert to childhood in my sleep and just have fun! :D

I'll be sure to give Davro that pat from you. :)

trailcam for night goose... nice

I only discovered that I sleep-walked when I found things moved in the morning. Nobody had ever told me I did it. I first became aware of the problem in the first place I lived in alone, so perhaps it hadn't happened before then.

But it is difficult to be sure about anything that happens in the dead of night when I'm asleep! :D

Yes... Let's not go there, eh? lol

greygoose indeed you can sleepwalk but have no recollection of it. I had a friend who used to get up, come downstairs in her pyjamas open the front door go to the end of the path look both ways up and down the street then wander back to bed it was witnessed by a brother on more than one occasion when he tried to speak to her she did not answer but seemed vacant and was clearly asleep. She had no recollection of any of it

Yes, I know I wouldn't remember it, that's not what I meant. I meant that, being 72, surely someone else must have noticed by now, and told me. Basically, now, I live alone, but still have people to stay, and stay in other peoples houses, how come no-one has ever noticed in all this time? I know I talk in my sleep, people have told me that. If I sleep walk, how come I only do it when no-one else is around?

Spooky stuff greygoose👻👻👻

Indeed! But, I'm happy to say that Halloween passed without any untoward events. :)

Not that I've noticed, anyway...

Sleep is different in a strange environment. Perhaps you don't sleep deeply enough to go wandering if your mind's on alert. However, I've done some odd things when sharing a hotel room. Some are VERY embarassing!

Most of the odd things I do - if not all - are in my own home. :)

I wish that were the case for me, rather than have an audience!

Oh dear! :(

I'm sure I have read about exploding head in lists of symptoms.

At one point I thought it might describe a symptoms I had, which was a feeling of great pressure in the head after a little exertion.

I get that too

I'm glad I'm not the only one :)

I've had 2 or 3 EHS events and they have always been when I'm absolutely exhausted due to long work hours and stress.

Most memorable was on a rather tricky tour of Germany. The shows were demanding and all travel was on a sleeper tour bus which is not too conducive to good quality sleep even though you are exhausted with working around 18 hour days and fall into your bunk hoping that Hypnos will visit you.

One day off a week was the norm and we pitched up at our hotel at 8am in Leipzig to sleep in a real bed for once! I went straight to bed to catch up on some much needed zzzzzz's and instantly fell into a deep sleep. Next thing was the most enormous and deafening explosion. I shot out of bed and looked out of the window which had a rather nice view of rooftops and the Monument to the Battle of the Nations expecting to see a scene of devastation or at least plumes of smoke....nothing, just the good people of Leipzig going about their daily business. I was completely befuddled, heart pounding and sheepishly phoned reception to ask if everything was OK. Of course it was and I learnt from fellow crew that it happened to them occasionally.

Haven't had them since I retired...thank goodness. Not pleasant.

You never know, though. I was once woken by an explosion in the night, and it turned out to be the bomb squad defusing car bombs under my bedroom window! That was a bit worrying, too!

Last time I heard an explosion at night, it was Buncefield oil depot exploding. 🔥💥

That must have been pretty loud! And pretty scary, I imagine. Did you live very close?

Many miles away! Still heard it.

I'm not surprised. It must have exploded ear drums in the immediate vicinity!

helvella I woke up once in an earth quake (8 on Richter scale so a serious one) The bed seemed to be running around the room and it went on for ages I thought it was a war (it was in Africa) at first. Then I was mystified. Amazingly no one died in it - all the houses in the rural area were single story and many were grass thatched mud huts - obviously resilient to such Rift Valley events.

All very frightening isnt it, a few years back a woke up to the wardrobe shaking and the bed shaking, door swinging- i thought my god the rooms posessed!! It was a earth tremor. Ha😲😲😲

@Rmichelle I thought it was the end of the world and it took a while for me to wake up it seemed to go on for 10-15 mins but not sure if it really was that long makes you appreciate the power of Mother Earth 🌏

Helvella, Fruitandnutcase, shaws, amala57, Rmichelle, Hillwoman, humanbean, greygoose, SilverAvocado & spongecat

Exploding head syndrome and sleep paralysis will be discussed in tonight's "All in the mind" on R4 bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09byv6m

Thanks fo letting us know. :-)

Thanks Clutter will listen to that!

Thanks Clutter that looks really interesting - especially as I woke up the other morning thinking I heard my husband banging for me - he’s (still!!! ) sleeping downstairs while waiting for an operation.

It was very weird, I actually got up and called down to check that he was ok. Total silence so I figured the banging noise must have been in my head.

Im going to watch that on bbc iplayer lunchtime. Thankyou.

Listen - that is Radio 4. 😀😀

Lol- i wouldnt get very far would i on bbc iplayer!! My daughter who is 12 and poorly today as said" mum thats embarrassing"😆😆

I wasn't able to watch as I was out.


It's on the radio 4 iPlayer.

I have had that exploding head syndrome a few times I also get the falling sensation as I “drop off“ to sleep...never thought about the literal meaning of the phrase before and that can be accompanied by alarming sounds. But far more so the sleep paralysis. It became really chronic when I was overtly hypothyroid. I could wake up completely paralysed, or the legs and have to move them with my hands to get them going again, and mostly just my arms which were like lead weights or two Swiss rolls across my chest and it took all my will power to get them to slowly come back to life, often with a phase of horrible pins and needles. I could not speak and would whimper or try and scream with terror but no noise would come out. I did not get the hallucinations - thank goodness for small mercies! Turned out all my immediate female relatives suffered from it (all hypothyroid bar one hyperthyroid) in fact I must have had it happen for a long time because I actually assumed it was normal and that everyone got it once in a while! I later understood it was caused by vit B deficiency. Whatever, it was at its most rampant when I was at my most overtly hypothyroid and it lessened with treatment. I rarely if ever get it now, so I am lucky.

Does anyone know what causes it if you are hypothyroid is it just vit deficiencies or could other things going haywire due to inadequate thyroid hormones be to blame?

Sounds like you are an excellent example to get in touch with the researchers. Perhaps they will actually identify a thyroid component?

helvella Already completed their survey 😉👍🏽

Interesting that a cousin seems to have narcolepsy too on the female thyroid side of the family

This is very interesting. In all the time I was ill and thyroid undiagnosed, or on T4 that didn't work well, I had awful noise hallutionations. The noises were not as loud as described, but every morning I had periods of hearing knocking at the door, my door buzzer, someone bashing about in the house etc when I was alone and trying to continue sleeping. I woke up repeatedly every morning anxious and stressed wondering why there was door knocking and no one there etc. I had not had this before being ill. And of course if I managed to go back to sleep finally I was often woken by the real postwoman banging on the door.

.....me too, I'm wondering if this grand label is no more than irrational fear symptom with anxiety, - your sub conscious doesn't switch off completely and when in a sleep state or part sleep state anything can be experienced 😳 thensleepy subconscious justs sends stuff through to a sleepy conscious mind after all!!

Or am I barking completely up the wrong tree and barking 😊

......yes i know someone GG who put their coat in over their PJs and took the dog for a walk in the early hours and only knew when neighbours told him they had seen him out and about ! 😱 😊

@Jeepy did you see the article about the woman who sleep drove her schnauzer for a walk in the dead of the night? She hadn’t taken it out in 3 days and felt guilty I just hope it had a garden they are high octane dogs. She was done for it although if she was asleep how could she be held responsible for her actions?

If you want to add in a member you have to press the @sign and as soon as you add in a few letters a list appears below of suggestions and you pick the one you want and the 'appearance' changes, i.e. TSH110 otherwise they wont be notified. :)

shaws for some reason @ does not work in the app not even a list given or the person highlighted but it does on the internet 🙄 which I am editing response on now

Have reported it let’s hope it gets fixed

They got back to me and said @ facility is not supported in the app ☹️ It might be provided in the future. At least I was not missing a clever trick to make it work. Had better stick to internet access.

i can remember when I tried antidepressants I got this loud. P p h u t t z noise and jolt , scary at the time but no real explanation, like a firework rocket sensation!!!

I believe after struggling with anxiety symptoms for some years now, trying to make sense of these things isn't really helpful, it's just another thing to increase sensitisation of nervous system which in turn brings more anx if you buy into it - Its so hard not to hook into anxiety symptoms!

I try and do the Freedom from Fear Group teaching, that is to FAFL

Face it

Accept it

Float your mind away from it (imaginary or whatever works for you )

And let time pass, it's helped many overcome irrational anxiety simply because then when practicing this. you aren't increasing sensitisation and the thought has literally nowhere to go therefore it fades away - the opposite of this is, if you do hook into it, it builds up anxiety and irrational fear and your system becomes more and more sensitised and stuck in the loop

......if helps one person worth trying to write this it was worth it haha 😁but apologies to the rest if sounds so gobbledegook haha

After all. Fear equals

F False

E Evidence

A Appearing

R Real

Back to the real day 😜😁

......no I didn't see that, yeah that IS a bit mean in anyone's book

The worlds gone mad 😜


There is so much truth in that it's all in the mind,,,,,,,

Before I knew I am officially hypo be it only at tsh Five I actually felt better and enjoyed life more on a daily basis, than I do now, as the anxiety factor and feelings of let down have kind of ramped up my symptoms

I’ve had the sleep paralysis. Woke in the night and couldn’t move or speak or cry out. Felt like there was a presence in the room that was pressing down on my chest really heavily and I was struggling to breathe. Seemed to go on for ages. I was on a very stressful course at the time and trying, unsuccessfully, to get diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It would be another six years before I was finally given treatment, and still not fully medicated.

I did the survey and they ask what medication you’re on, so maybe they will identify a link with hypothyroidism

This is quite a common phenomenon when withdrawing from SSRIs.

Yep! I get this frequently it is weird! it wakes me with a jolt! but somehow I know it is coming from my head and not outside of me if that makes sense :0/

I remember waking up a few years ago, I could open my eyes but couldn't move or speak.. I had some creature trying to pull me off the bed, I tried to scream and call for my son but nothing would come out.. I was terrified, so pleased it hasn't happened since..

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