E-Pearl of the Week: The exploding head syndrome

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February 22, 2013

The exploding head syndrome is a curious phenomenon in which patients describe a frightening loud noise which they experience as they are falling asleep or less frequently the noise awakens them from sleep.  Patients describe the noise as loud violent bang, a bomb explosion, shotgun, thunderclap, enormous roar or crack of lightning and so on.  These phenomena are followed by fear, terror and palpitations or a forceful heartbeat. They may recur several times each night or may be more occasional. Although extremely disturbing to the patient, the exploding head syndrome is usually a benign condition.


  1. Pearce, JMS.  Clinical features of the exploding head syndrome.  JNNP 1989; 52:  907-910.

Submitted by: John McKinley MRCP (UK), Fellow in Movement Disorders, Dublin, Ireland

Disclosure: Dr. McKinley reports no disclosures.

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