Exploding head syndrome

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Exploding head syndrome

Question

I've been awakened several times in the last few months by a loud noise that sounds like a gunshot in my head. What could cause this?

Cathie
Illinois

Answer

The symptoms you describe are similar to those of an uncommon disorder that doctors refer to as exploding head syndrome. Although anxiety-provoking, exploding head syndrome is harmless. Attacks most commonly occur in the twilight stage as the individual is falling asleep — less commonly on awakening. People with this condition describe a terrifyingly loud noise — often described as a bang — that lasts only a moment and doesn't occur with headache or other pain.

Exploding head syndrome occurs most often in adults older than age 50. The cause isn't clear. But it may be due to a delay in the "switching off" of some of the brain-alerting pathways, which normally occurs as sleep begins. Attacks may occur only once or with varying frequency for weeks or months and then stop, sometimes permanently.

Exploding head syndrome isn't an indication of a serious condition. However, if you're concerned about your symptoms, consult your doctor.

Last Updated: 10/13/2006
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