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Exploding head syndrome, chronotype, parasomnias and mental health in young adults



Although inadequate sleep among young people is well documented in the literature, anomalous sleep experiences, such as the parasomnia termed exploding head syndrome (EHS), have received little empirical attention. The current study examined the association of sleep quality, symptoms of psychological distress and other unusual sleep experiences with EHS in a sample of young adults (n = 135, age M = 21.77, SD = 2.08). We also aimed to account for the possible effect of participant chronotype on sleep experiences. The lifetime prevalence of EHS among participants was 20.0%. Three‐quarters (75.6%) of participants reported poor quality sleep according to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Univariate analysis showed that participants with a lifetime prevalence of EHS experienced more symptoms of anxiety and poorer sleep quality; age, gender and symptoms of depression were not significantly related to EHS. Parasomnias (OR [95% CI] = 1.62 [1.02–2.57], p = .040) and action‐related sleep disorders (OR [95% CI] = 1.87 [1.09–3.20], p = .023) were associated with lifetime experience of EHS in a logistic regression analysis. Chronotype did not significantly impact mood, sleep quality or presence of EHS. Results suggest that EHS is more common in young people than previously considered and ought to be examined in conjunction with the presence of other unusual sleep disorders. This study provides valuable insight into young peoples' sleep experiences and key factors associated with EHS.
J Sleep Res. 2020;00:e13044.  
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© 2020 European Sleep Research Society
Inadequate sleep may have strong adverse consequences for psy-
chosocial health and everyday functioning (Shochat, Cohen-Zion, &
Tzischinsky, 2014), with young people being especially vulnerable to
such consequences (Schwarz et al., 2019). Young people with poorer
quality of sleep report significantly more psychological health prob-
lems than those with good-quality sleep (Gregory et al., 2011; Lund,
Reider, Whiting, & Prichard, 2010; Sin et al., 2017). Symptoms of psy-
chological distress co-occur with unusual sleep experiences; 29.0%
of patients with a parasomnia reported some form of depression
(Vandeputte & de Weerd, 2003), and recent research suggests that a
person diagnosed with a sleep disorder is at 2.3 times greater risk of
developing depression (Byrne, Timmermann, Wray, & Agerbo, 2019).
Sleep disorders may be underdiagnosed and are relatively com-
mon complaints among young adults. In one large national study of
over 50,000 students, rates of insomnia increased from 2011, with
34% of women and 22% of men reporting insomnia (Sivertsen et al.,
2019). A large study from the USA suggested that 36% of students
reported symptoms and were at risk of developing at least one sleep
disorder (Petrov, Lichstein, & Baldwin, 2014). One such potential
parasomnia that has been significantly under-researched, especially
Received:2Januar y2020 
  Revised:2 5February2020 
DOI : 10.1111 /js r.130 44
Exploding head syndrome, chronotype, parasomnias and
mental health in young adults
Emma Kirwan | Donal G. Fortune
Department of Psychology, University of
Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Psychology, University of Limerick,
Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland.
Although inadequate sleep among young people is well documented in the literature,
anomalous sleep experiences, such as the parasomnia termed exploding head syn-
drome (EHS), have received little empirical attention. The current study examined
the association of sleep quality, symptoms of psychological distress and other unu-
sual sleep experiences with EHS in a sample of young adults (n = 135, age M = 21.77,
type on sleep experiences. The lifetime prevalence of EHS among participants was
20.0%. Three-quarters (75.6%) of participants reported poor quality sleep according
to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Univariate analysis showed that partici-
pants with a lifetime prevalence of EHS experienced more symptoms of anxiety and
poorer sleep quality; age, gender and symptoms of depression were not significantly
related to EHS. Parasomnias (OR [95% CI] = 1.62 [1.02–2.57], p = .040) and action-
relatedsleepdisorders (OR [95%CI]=1.87[1.09–3.20],p = .023) were associated
with lifetime experience of EHS in a logistic regression analysis. Chronotype did not
significantly impact mood, sleep quality or presence of EHS. Results suggest that
EHS is more common in young people than previously considered and ought to be
examined in conjunction with the presence of other unusual sleep disorders. This
study provides valuable insight into young peoples' sleep experiences and key factors
associated with EHS.
chronotype, distress, exploding head syndrome, parasomnia, sleep disorder
2 of 10 
in young adults, is exploding head syndrome (EHS). EHS is a sensor y
parasomnia characterized by sudden sensations of an explosive loud
2014). Although painless, the episodes have an awakening, usually
jarring, effect on the suf ferer and may induce a great deal of distress
(Sharpless, 2014).
Exploding head syndrome is likely to be under-reported and may
be more common than previously thought (Denis, Poerio, Derveeuw,
Badini, & Gregory, 2019; Sharpless, 2015). It is possible that the ap-
parent rarity of EHS is attributable to its unusual symptoms, which
patients might be reluctant to present to healthcare professionals
people (n = 304) reported EHS to medical professionals (Sharpless,
2018).The reporting of EHS mayalso beinfluenced by its benign
nature; reassurance regarding the harmlessness of the experience
appears to be more appropriate than medical treatment (Frese,
Summ, & Evers,2014).Fulda et al.(2008)reported 10.8% lifetime
prevalence of EHS among healthy participants (n=180).Morere-
cently, a much higher prevalence of 29.6% was reported (n = 1673)
(age, mean [M] = 34.17 years, standard deviation [SD] = 13.62) (Denis
et al., 2019).
Research suggest s a greater prevalence of EHS among females
(Rozen, 2004; Sharpless, 2014), although no significant difference
has also been reported (Denis et al., 2019; Sharpless, 2015). EHS
was thought to occur primarily in individuals over 50 years of age
common(18.0%)amongyoungadults(n = 211) (age, M = 19.7 years,
SD = 1.77) (Sharpless, 2015). Given that individuals have reported
experiencing EHS as frequently as seven episodes a night (Sachs &
Svanborg, 1991) or as little as a single episode in a lifetime (Pearce,
alence of EHS.
Exploding head syndrome can demonstrate comorbidity with
other parasomnias, in particular sleep paralysis, with some 36.9% of
patients with sleep paralysis also reporting EHS (Sharpless, 2015).
Psychological factors such as unease and emotional tension may
increase the likelihood of an EHS episode (Sharpless, 2014). Little
systematic research has examined the associations of EHS, other ad-
verse sleep experiences and psychological distress par ameters; how-
ever, Denis et al. (2019) reported that neither anxiety, depression nor
stress predicted EHS in multiple logistic regression models among
two samples. Investigations of sleep must also include awareness
that individuals synchronize (entrain) differently depending on ex-
ternal factors such as light exposure and internal factors such as cir-
cadian responses that produce different chronotypes (Roenneberg,
Pilz, Zerbini, & Winneback, 2019). Chronotype can be considered on
a spectrum ranging from an ex treme early-type ‘morning chrono-
type’ to an extreme late-type ‘evening chronotype’: the remainder
of the population would fall into a category of ‘intermediate chro-
notype’. There is compelling research showing that the late chrono-
type and circadian misalignment (sleep jetlag) are associated with a
range of psychobiological challenges and may represent a transdi-
agnosticrisk factorforsuchchallenges(Taylor&Hasler,2018).We
hypothesize that this may include the experience of EHS for some
individuals. In other disorders, such as migraine for example, there is
nowevidenceforbothearly (Van Oosterhout etal.,2018)andlate
chronotype effects ( Viticchi et al., 2019). In EHS, there are no data
on possible chronotype effects as the role of chronotype in EHS re-
mains to be examined.
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship be-
tween exploding head syndrome, sleep qualit y, symptoms of psy-
chological distress and other unusual sleep experiences. Considering
that peak sleep schedule ‘lateness’ is reached in young adulthood
(Roenneberg et al., 2004), we also aimed to examine participants'
preference for particular sleep behaviour times or chronot ype,
which may affect reported sleep experiences.
H1. Individuals who indicate a lifetime prevalence of EHS will have
significantly higher anxiety and depression scores than those who
do not have such a prevalence.
• H2. Late chronotype will show an association with EHS, distress
and poor sleep quality.
H3. Participants who have poor sleep quality will also have higher
anxiety and depression scores when compared to students with
good quality sleep.
H4. There will be a significant difference in the sleep-quality
scores between participants who have experienced EHS and
those who have not.
• H5.Finally,weexpectthatlatechronotype,sleepquality,symp-
toms of depression and frequency of other adverse sleep expe-
riences will be associated with lifetime prevalence of EHS in a
logistic regression model.
2.1 | Participants and procedure
Approval for the study was obtained from the Education and Health
Sciences Ethics Committee at the University of Limerick.
We aimed to collect data for this study in the months following
students' examinations so as to reduce the potential impact of tran-
sient stress on measures of our key variables.
Students were recruited through a post on the University's
Department of Psychology social media page. The post detailed
that the researchers were seeking par ticipants for an “online sur-
vey about sleep qualit y, mood, sleep schedule and sleep issues”.
Participation was voluntary and those who provided informed
consent completed an online survey using the Unipark Questback
website (https://ww2.unipa Participants generally com-
pleted the survey within 11 min.
A total of 149 participants took part in this cross-sectional
study. Nine participants were omitted from the final dataset as
data checks suggested that they may not meet the inclusion cri-
teria, which required participants to be (a) over 18 years of age
and (b) an undergraduate or postgraduate student. A further five
 3 of 10
participants were excluded from the final dataset as they re-
ported experiencing ‘severe pain’ during EHS episodes. According
to ICSD-3 diagnostic criteria for EHS (American Academy of
Sleep Medicine, 2014), the experience is not associated with
significant pain complaints. The final sample (n = 135) (age,
M = 21.77 ± SD=2.08years;91.9%undergraduate)included81
females (60.0%) and 54 males (40.0%).
2.2 | Materials
The online survey consisted of scales related to sleep quality, mood,
chronotype and sleep disorders: (a) the Pittsburgh Sleep Qualit y
Index (PSQI), (b) the Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4), (c)
theMunichChronotypeQuestionnaire (MCTQ)and(d)theMunich
Parasomnia Screening. Participants who indicated ongoing or pre-
vious experience(s) of EHS were filtered to a page containing five
items from the EHS Inter view (EHSI) (Sharpless, 2015). The survey
began with four items to address participant demographics, includ-
ing age, student type, gender, and an open-ended item to allow dis-
closure of chronic illness.
2.2.1| Sleep Quality
Berman , & Kupfer, 1989) assessed pa rticipants' sleep quality and
regular sleep habit s over the past month with 19 self-rated items
(total score 0–21, scoring above 5 indicates poorer quality of sleep).
The measure has been well validated in a student sample (Carney,
ity of 86.5%and sensitivityof89.6%in categorizing sleeperswith
sleep quality score has shown good internal consistency across
its seven subscales, as well as good test–retest reliability (r = .85)
(Brown, Buboltz, & Soper, 2002). The measure showed strong reli-
ability in this study (α = .94).
2.2.2 | Psychological distress symptoms
The Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) (Kroenke, Spitzer,
Williams, & Löwe, 2009) measured symptoms of anxiety and de-
pression over the past 2 weeks. The four-item measure consists
of a two-item anxiety scale (GAD-2) with the essential criteria for
generalized anxiety disorder (score range, 0–6), combined with
a two-item depression scale (PHQ-2) that measured the core di-
agnostic criteria for depressive disorders (score range, 0–6).
Research has suppor ted the validity and reliability of the PHQ-4 as
a brief measure of symptoms of anxiety and depression in young
adults (Khubchandani, Brey, Kotecki, Kleinfelder, & Anderson,
2016). The PHQ-4 had good internal consistency in the current
study (α=.84).
2.2.3 | Chronotype
et al., 2019) and focuses on participants' typical sleep schedule over
the past 4 weeks considering work days and work-free days sepa-
rately. “College” was added after the word “work ”, such that the
questionnaire read “work/college” to avoid any confusion, given that
many students work while studying. Chronotype has been defined
as the midpoint between sleep onset and waking up on free days
(mid sleep on free days [MSF]) and was corrected for potential ex-
cessive free-day sleep time resulting from sleep deprivation during
work days (MSFsc; for correction algorithm, see supplement to the
study by Roennebergetal.,2004).Ahigher scoreonthe MSF indi-
cates a later chronotype (evening type) and a lower score indicates
an earlier chronotype (morning type). Participants were grouped into
distinc t categories of chronotype (Antypa et al., 2017) according to
their MSFs c score (early typ es: MSFsc ≤ 3.99; interme diate types:
work/college and free days served as a measure of “social jetlag”. It
wascomputedbysubtracting theMSW(midpointofsleep on work
2.2.4 | Sleep disorder symptoms
Sleep disorder symptoms were measured using the Munich
ing measure that assessed the lifetime prevalence and current fre-
quency of various nocturnal behaviours and sleep issues. Responses
ranged from (1), “no, never”, to (7), “very frequently - every or nearly
every night”, and also included a response that assessed lifetime
prevalence, (2), “previously observed years ago, but not now”. The
of sleep disorder symptoms: sensitivity of the measure was above
90% for all but two of the items, where the answers given by pa-
tients inthe MUPSreflected responses in adetailedclinicalinter-
view. Specif icity was ab ove 80% for all item s (Fulda et al., 20 08).
The MUPS showed good internal consistencyin the current study
2.2.5 | Exploding head syndrome
and was worded as follows: When falling asleep or waking, perceiv-
ing a loud bang, a sound similar to a bang (e.g., door bang), or having
the sensation of an “explosion in the head”. This item has been previ-
EHS episode (i.e., from (2) “was observed many years ago, but not
now” to (7) “very frequently - every or nearly every night ”) were
4 of 10 
directed to a subscale comprising five items from the EHS Interview
(EHSI), with the aim of facilitating further understanding of the ex-
perience. Participants were asked: Using this scale how would you
rate these sounds/sensations? Responses ranged from (0) “not at all”
to (9) “very severe”. The items enquired about how loud, how fright-
ening, how painful and how distressing the experience(s) is/are, as
well as how severely it disrupts the participants’ sleep. The subscale
had good internal consistency in this study (α=.89).
2.3 | Statistical analyses
The distribution of data was examined by the use of Q-Q plots and
histograms fitted to a normal curve. Examination of the plots sug-
gested th at independent variables , except depression score (PHQ-4),
approximated a normal distribution. Given the dat a for the depres-
sion variable showed evidence of a positive skew, a log transforma-
tion was undertaken to normalize the data and render it suitable for
use in parametric analyses.
The EHS variable was dichotomized into EHS absent and pres-
ent, due to its non-normal distribution, with EHS present indicating
that the participant had experienced one or more episode(s) in their
lifetime. Participants who selec ted (2) “behaviour was observed
years ago but not anymore” to (7) “very frequently - every or almost
every night)” were categorized as having lifetime prevalence of EHS.
Subsequently, this variable ser ved as the outcome variable in the bi-
nary logistic regression analysis.
In order to assess if lifetime prevalence and current frequency
of unusual sleep experiences were associated with a lifetime prev-
were factor analysed with the primar y aim of uncovering the under-
lying constructs upon which the questionnaire items were based in
our sample, such that any derived higher-order constructs might be
examined in the analysis. Thus, factor analysis was used to examine
mension of experience or whether there were empirically different
experiences of MUPS thatmayhave importanceforunderstanding
Relationships between EHS and sleep quality, social jetlag, and
symptoms of anxiety and depression were examined by an inde-
pendent samples t-test. Relationships among predictor variables
were examined by Pearson's correlation. Consequently, a logis-
tic regression analysis predicting prevalence of EHS from sleep
quality, symptoms of anxiety and unusual sleep experiences was
3.1 | Sleep quality
Over two-thirds (67.4%) of participant s rated their own sleep qual-
ity as “fairly good”, 9.6% rated their sleep as “very good” and 23.0%
of participants rated their own sleep as “fairly bad”. No participants
rated their own sleep quality as “very bad”. However, three-quarters
(75.6%, n = 102) of participants qualified as having poor quality of
sleep according to their scores on the PSQI, suggesting poor aware-
ness of sleep norms.
The mean sleep-quality score for the sample was 6.83
(SD = 2.07); higher PSQI scores are indicative of poorer quality
of sleep. The sleep-quality score was related to anxiety (r = .4 9,
p < .001) and depression (r = .37, p < .001), as well as the overall
distress score (r = .50, p < .0 01). Participants with a score >5 on the
PSQI were classified as poor-quality sleepers in accordance with the
cut-off scores provided by the developers of the measure (Buysse
cut-off score (good sleep quality). Participants classified as having
poor sleep quality (M = 2.39, SD=1.68)significantlydifferedinanx-
iety scores (PHQ-4) when compared to participants with good sleep
quality (M = 1.00, SD = 1.00), t(92.87)=−5.78,p < .0 01, d=−1.20.
Results also confirmed a significant difference in depression scores
(PHQ-4), where participants with poor sleep quality (M = 1.50,
SD = 1.43) had higher scores for symptoms of depression than stu-
dents with good sleep quality (M = 0.70, SD=0.85),t(133)=−3.05,
p = .003, d=−0.53.
TABLE 1 Lifetime prevalence of sleep disorders in the sample
(N = 135)
Sleep disorder Present , n (%) Absent, n (%)
Hypnic jerks 109(80.7%) 2 6 ( 19. 3% )
Nightmares 113(83.7%) 22 (16.3 %)
Sleep talking 97 (71.9 %) 38(28.1%)
Nocturnal leg cramps 73 (54 .1%) 62 (45.9%)
Rhythmic feet movements 59 (43.7%) 76 (56. 3% )
Hypnagogic hallucinations 63 (46.7%) 72 (53.3%)
Sleep terrors 53 (39.3%) 82(60.7%)
Nocturnal eating 53 (39.3%) 82(60.7%)
Sleep-related bruxism 48(35.6%) 87(64.4%)
Confusional arousals 47(34.8%) 88(65.2%)
Periodic leg movements 46 (34.1%) 89(65.9%)
Sleep-related groaning 41 (30.4%) 94 ( 69. 6% )
Sleep walking 33 (24.4%) 102 (75 .6%)
Rhythmic movement disorder 32 (23.7%) 103 (76. 3% )
REMsleepbehaviourdisorder 32 (23.7%) 103 (76. 3% )
Sleep paralysis 31 (23.0%) 10 4 (77. 0%)
Exploding head syndrome 27 (20.0%) 108(80.0%)
Violent behaviour 23 (17.0%) 112(83.0%)
Sleep enuresis 23 (17.0%) 113(83.0%)
Sleep-related abnormal
18(13.3%) 117(86.7%)
Sleep-related eating 3 (2.2%) 132(97.8%)
Note: Present indicates a lifetime prevalence of the sleep disorder
 5 of 10
3.2 | Chronotype
ship (r=.87,p<.001).TheMSFscsuggestedthatthemajorityofpar-
ticipantsalignedwith an intermediatechronotype (57.8%, n = 78),
whereas 20% (n = 27) had an early chronotype and 22.2% (n = 30)
were of a late chronotyp e. Although late types were more likely to be
younger (F(2, 132) = 3.55, p = .031), they were not significantly more
likely to report EHS (χ2(1) = 0.312, p=.859).Furthermore,therewas
no significant effect of chronotype on gender (χ2(1)=2.98,p = .225).
Late types were also not significantly more anxious (F(2,132)=2.78,
p = .065) or depressed (F(2, 132) = 1.15, p = .317), did not report
greater frequency of sleep disorder symptoms (F(2, 132) = 1.54,
p = .165) and did not rate their sleep significantly more poorly on
the PSQI than early or intermediate types (F(2, 132) = 2.27, p = .107).
Similarly, presence of EHS was not significantly related to social jet-
lag (t(133)=−1.55,p = .121).
3.3 | Prevalence of sleep disorders
Almost all (99.3%) participants reported lifetime prevalence of one
ormoresleepdisordersmeasured intheMUPS; 47.4%ofthesam-
ple indicated lifetime prevalence of seven or more sleep disorders.
Lifetime prevalence rates for all sleep disorders measured in the
high prevalence rate of sleep disorders may have been due to the
inclusion of participants who reported previous, non-current life-
time prevalence. Thus, a second analysis was conducted examining
only current or recent frequency of sleep disorders. This resulted in
least one current or recent sleep disorder symptom, whereas 27.6%
of participants indicated seven or more current sleep disorder symp-
toms (Table S1).
3.4 | Factor analysis of sleep disorders
The MUPS questionnaire was factor analysed in order to firstly
examine the underlying constructs upon which the questionnaire
items are based in this student sample, and secondly to see if it
was possible to reduce the variables to a smaller number of key as-
sessment dimensions that may be more meaningfully used in fur-
ther analysis. Given that correlation was expected among factors, a
Direct Oblimin rotation was performed. Bar tlett's' test of sphericity
confirmed the significance of all the correlations (χ2(190) = 643.03,
p<.0 01)andtheKaiser-Meyer-Olkinmeasureofs amplingadequacy
indicated adequate strength of the relationships among the vari-
ables (KM O = 0.74). Initiall y, the analysi s yielded six fac tors with
an eigenvalue greater than one. However, the eigenvalue one rule
(Kaiser's criterion) often overestimates the number of factors due to
well-recognised sampling effects (Cliff, 1988). This wasconfirmed
bya screeplot(FigureS1).Aseriesof factoranalysesresultedina
three-factor solution, which explained 39.6% of the variance. Two
items, “wetting oneself during sleep” and “sleep walking”, were elimi-
nated because they did not contribute to the factor structure. The
obtained pattern matrix is displayed in Table 2.
The first factor, labelled parasomnias, had an eigenvalue of 4.47
and accounted for 22.4% of the variance in the data. The second fac-
tor, labelled sleep-related movement disorders, had an eigenvalue
of 1.95 and accounted for a further 9.7% of the variance and factor
three, action-related sleep disorders, had an eigenvalue of 1. 50 and
accounted for a further 7.5% of the total variance.
3.5 | Frequency and qualitative aspects of EHS
One-fifth (20%, n = 27) of participants reported experiencing at least
one episode of EHS in their lifetime, whereas 15.6% of participants
bution of prevalence rates of EHS.
Participants generally reported that their EHS experiences were
mildly to moderately loud (M = 4.56, SD = 2.10), moderately fright-
ening (M = 5.15, SD = 2.66), not at all painful (M = 1.96, SD = 1.29),
mildly to moderately distressing (M = 4.56, SD = 2.4 4) and mildly
disruptive to sleep (M=3.89,SD = 2.17). Relationships bet ween the
TABLE 2 PatternmatrixofvariablesfromtheMunich
ParasomniaScreening(MUPS)(N = 135)
Scale items
1 2 3
Hypnagogic hallucinations 0.739
Sleep paralysis 0.646
Sleep-related abnormal
Nightmares 0.478
Violent behaviour 0.429
REMsleepbehaviourdisorder 0.415
Sleep terrors 0.378
Periodic leg movements −0.721
Rhythmic feet movements −0.711
Hypnic jerks −0.571
Sleep-related bruxism −0.524
Rhythmic movement disorder −0.496
Nocturnal leg cramps −0.387
Sleep-related groaning 0.767
Sleep-related eating 0.642
Sleep talking 0.594
Confusional arousals 0.562
Nocturnal eating 0.528
Note: Factor1waslabelled‘‘parasomnias’’,Factor2waslabelled‘‘sleep-
6 of 10 
predictor variables and the qualitative aspec ts of EHS were exam-
ined using Spearman's rank-order correlations. Only anxiety was sig-
nificantly related to severit y of sleep disruption, indicating a weak
positive relationship (rs = .40, p = .038). (See Appendix S1 forthe
figures showing the distribution of responses for qualitative aspec ts
of EHS.)
3.6 | Univariate analysis of EHS associations
Gender (χ2(1)=0.008,p = .930), age (t(30.24)=−1.61,p=.118)and
depression score (t(133) = −1.94, p = .055) were not significantly
related to EHS. Six participants detailed ongoing illness, includ-
ing migraine, asthma, endometriosis and eczema; this was also not
significantly related to the presence of EHS (χ2(1)=0.68, p = .411).
types were not significantly more likely to report EHS (χ2(1)=0.83,
p = .659) than early or intermediate types.
Participants who reported experiencing EHS differed signifi-
cantly in anxiety score (t(133) = −3.03, p = .003, d = − 0.53) and
sleep-quality score (t(133)=−3.42,p = .001, d=−0.59)tothosewho
did not. The means and standard deviations for the key variables in
the study are shown in Table 3.
3.7 | Logistic regression analysis predicting lifetime
prevalence of EHS
A logistic regression analysis was conducted to predict lifetime prev-
alence of EHS using the variables that were significantly associated
with this experience in the univariate analyses above, as well as three
sleep disorder dimensions resulting from the factor analysis. Given
that anxi ety was related to seve rity of sleep disr uption associated w ith
EHS (EHS subscale) and that the sample had particularly poor-quality
sleep according to the PSQI, these variables were entered into the
first block of the regression model. Sleep disorders were entered into
the second block and binary coded EHS was the dependent variable.
The results indicated that the model reliably distinguished be-
tween EHS present and absent (chi-squared = 24.67, p < .001 with
df = 5) and explained 26.4% (Nagelkerke's R2) of the variance in EHS.
Predictionsuccess overallwas83.0% (97.2%for absentand25.9%
for present). The Wald criterion demonstrated that both parasom-
nias (OR [95% CI] = 1.62 [1.02–2.57], p = .040) and action-related
sleep disorders (OR[95%CI] = 1.87[1.09–3.20],p = .023) made a
significant contribution to prediction of EHS. Sleep-related move-
ment disorders, sleep quality and symptoms of anxiety were not
significant predictors for lifetime prevalence of EHS in the final
model (Table 4). The Exp(B) value indicated that as parasomnias are
raised by one unit (frequency of experience increases) the odds ratio
suggests that individuals are 1.62 times more likely to experience
EHS at least once in a lifetime. Similarly, results suggest that as the
frequency of experiences of action-related sleep disorders is raised
prevalence of EHS.
This study found that two key dimensions of sleep disorder symp-
toms, labelled ‘parasomnias’ and ‘action-related sleep disorders’, were
related to the lifetime prevalence of EHS in a sample of young adults.
We believe this research to be among the first systematic studies on
associations of EHS, and at the time of writing it is the first to assess
the possible influence of chronotype on EHS in young adults.
The prevalence of EHS in our study is almost double that re-
ported involving healthy participants (10.8%) using the same
measure (Fulda et al., 2008), and higher than a previous esti-
mate among young adults (18.0%) (Sharpless, 2015). Contrary
to suggestions that EHS occurs primarily in older adults (Pearce,
1989;Rozen, 2004), 20.0%of our sample of young people (age,
FIGURE 1 Histogram showing the
distribution of frequency of exploding
head syndrome in the student sample
108 (80%)
6(4.4%)13 (9.6%)
by me or
years ago
but not
Seldom SometimesFrequentlyVery
Response frequency
Frequency of exploding head syndrome
 7 of 10
M = 21.77, SD=2.08years)reportedtheexperience.Wereport
no significant difference in the prevalence of EHS among males
Echoing previous work, sleep quality was associated with symp-
toms of both anxiety and depression. Par ticipants with poorer
sleep quality had significantly higher anxiety and depression scores
Variable Possible range
Overall EHS present EHS absent
Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Age (years) 18–34± 21.77 2.08 22.56 3.06 21.57 1.72
Sleep quality
0–2 1 6.83 2.07 8.00 2.06 6.54 1.97
Anxiety (GAD-2) 0–6 2.05 1.65 2.89 1.67 1.84 1.59
0–6 1.30 1.36 1.74 1.56 1 .19 1.29
Social jetlag
0–4:35± 1:14 0:53 1:28 1:02 1:10 0:50
Hypnic jerks 1–7 3.87 1.71 3.96 1.51 3.84 1.77
Rhythmic feet
1–7 2.42 1.90 2.22 1.60 2 .47 1.99
1–7 1.63 1.29 1.60 1 .15 1.64 1.33
1–7 2.33 1.64 3. 26 1.89 2.09 1.49
Periodic leg
1–7 2.07 1 .74 2.48 1.82 1.97 1.71
Nocturnal leg
1–7 2.37 1.49 2.41 1.50 2.36 1.49
1–7 2.17 1.87 2.63 2.34 2.06 1.73
Sleep talking 1–7 2.90 1. 57 3.44 1 .74 2 .76 1.50
1–7 1.37 1.09 1.56 1.16 1.32 1.08
1–7 1.87 1.50 2.48 1. 76 1.71 1.40
Sleep enuresis 1–7 1 .19 0.47 1.26 0.45 1.18 0. 47
Nightmares 1–7 3.67 1.63 4.56 1.40 3.44 1.61
Sleep terrors 1–7 2.00 1.45 2.89 1.87 1.78 1 .24
Nocturnal eating 1–7 2.04 1.48 2.33 1.4 4 1.96 1.49
1–7 1.04 0.32 1 .19 0.68 1.01 0.10
1–7 1.89 1.41 2.85 1.85 1.65 1.17
Sleep paralysis 1–7 1.53 1.12 1.96 1.43 1.42 1.00
Sleepwalking 1–7 1.36 0.73 1.49 0.58 1.33 0.76
1–7 1.46 0.92 1.85 1.26 1.36 0.79
1–7 1.34 0.85 1.85 1.26 1.30 0.79
Note.: ±: actual r ange. Values represent hr:min.
Abbreviations: EHS, exploding head syndrome; GAD-2, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-2 (a higher
Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (a higher score indicates more symptoms of depression); PSQI,
Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (a higher score indicates poorer quality of sleep).
TABLE 3 Descriptive statistics for all
variables included in the study
8 of 10 
compared to those with good sleep quality. Previous work has also
linked sleep quality with experiences of nocturnal disorders (Veldi,
Aluoja, & Vasar, 2005).In line with this well-est ablished finding, our
univariate analysis confirmed that participants who have experi-
enced EHS specifically have significantly poorer sleep quality com-
pared to those who have not experienced EHS. Recent research
(Denis et al., 2019) reported that insomnia symptoms were associ-
ated with EHS in a multiple predictor model; however, in our logistic
regression model poor sleep quality did not signif icantly predic t EHS.
It is worth noting this may be due to the use of different measures;
Denis et al. (2019) aimed to measure insomnia specifically, whereas
we obtained a measure of overall sleep quality.
We anticipated that the late chronotype might have an important
relationship with EHS, mood and sleep quality. However, chronotype
was not significantly associated with these key variab les in our study.
It has previously been demonstrated that a late chronotype is asso-
ciated with poor sleep and meta-analytic data show a small effect
size in relation to mood disorders (Au & Reece, 2017). It is difficult
to reconcile this particular finding with the absence of a relation-
ship between chronotype, self-reported sleep quality or distress in
our study. However, we have shown that participants showed poor
awareness of their poor sleep quality, which may account for the
absence of a significant relationship between the chronotype data
and self-reported sleep qualit y. It may also be the case that current
students' distress may be subsyndromal and as such may present
differently to formal mood disorders, with a likely effect on any po-
tential relationships between mood and chronotype.
We found that symptoms of anxiety were related to EHS in uni-
variate analyses. A lthough links between sleep disturbance and symp-
toms of psychological distress are strong (sleep disturbances have
been shown to be both risk factors for and a symptom of psycho-
logical distress) (Byrneetal.,2019;Nutt,Wilson,&Paterson,2008;
Perlis, Giles, Buysse, Tu, & Kupfer, 1997), we did not find a significant
relationship between symptoms of depression and EHS in our sample.
A logistic regression model showed that two dimensions of sleep
disorders labelled ‘‘parasomnias’’ and ‘‘action-related sleep disor-
ders’’, were significantly associated with the lifetime prevalence of
EHS among our sample. Our results are similar to those of Denis
et al. (2019), who reported sleep paralysis, nightmares and other
potentially distressing sleep experiences were associated with
the presence of EHS. Despite being significantly related to EHS in
univariate analyses, symptoms of anxiety were not significantly re-
lated to EHS in a logistic regression model. It remains a possibility
that both symptoms of anxiety and sleep quality have an indirec t
relationship to EHS. We considered that chronotype, particularly the
late chronotype, may impact the relationship; however, we did not
studies using longitudinal designs should examine this possibility
further in order to understand the associations of EHS.
4.1 | Implications of the research
Our findings suggest that EHS is related to and ought to be con-
sidered in conjunction with the presence of other anomalous sleep
experiences such as sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations and
nightmares. Effective treatment options for EHS are few, with reas-
surance and education deemed sufficient in most cases (Ganguly,
Mridha, Khan, &Rison,2013). In order to facilitate more targeted
interventions, we suggest it is necessary for EHS to be more fre-
quently included in clinical assessments alongside anomalous sleep
An impor tant observation from this study is that students ap-
pear to be largely unaware of their poor sleep habits; the frequency
of poor-quality sleepers (75.6%) exceeds previous estimates (Becker
et al., 2018; Lund et al., 2010), suggesting that inad equate sleep
is present at high levels in our current sample. However, less than
one-quarter (23.0%) of students recognized their own sleep as being
inadequate. It may be helpful for universities and similar institutions
to acknowledge that students' sleep habits are a significant issue
that may warrant inter vention or at the very least, education.
There are some limitations of our study. The prevalence of sleep
disorder symptoms in our study was high. The study was adver-
tised to students through a brief social media post with a link to
the survey; although limited information was provided in the adver-
tisement, it contained the phrases “sleep quality”, “sleep schedule”
and “sleep issues”. Thus, we cannot rule out that the sample may
have had higher propor tions of young people with unusual sleep
experiences or poorer quality of sleep than the general student
The use of self-report dat a must be cautiously interpreted.
However, substantial evidence supports the use of self-report esti-
may benefit from the use of adjunctive clinical inter views for a more
comprehensive measure.
Due to the cross-sectional design of this study, it remains un-
clear whether factors such as other adverse sleep experiences are
the cause of EHS, or conversely, that sleep disruption as a result of
EHS may influence other sleep disorders. Although our research is of
TABLE 4 Predictors of lifetime prevalence of exploding head
Independent variable
interval (95%)
Sleep-related movement
1.31 0.81–2 .11 .266
Parasomnias 1.62 1.0 2–2 . 57 .040
Action-related sleep disorders 1.87 1.09–3.20 .023
Sleep quality 1.29 0. 9 3–1.69 .068
Anxiety 1.1 2 0.80–1.57 . 515
 9 of 10
a similar size to a number of published studies in this area, the sample
size could be considered limited and therefore replication in a larger
international sample would be helpful.
In sum, our f indings suggest the following. (a) EHS may be more prev-
alent than previously thought in younger people. (b) Chronotype is
not significantly associated with EHS. (c) Poor sleep quality is pre-
sent among a large number of young people, is poorly recognized
by young people and is associated with symptoms of anxiet y and
depression. (d) Symptoms of sleep disorder are common in college
students. (e) Participant s with a lifetime prevalence of EHS have
significantly poorer quality of sleep than those who do not. (f) Two
dimensions of unusual sleep experiences, parasomnias and action-
related sleep disorders, are significantly associated with the experi-
ence of EHS.
No conflicts of interest declared.
Emma Kirwan
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Additional suppor ting information may be found online in the
Supporting Information section.
How to cite this article:KirwanE,FortuneDG.Exploding
head syndrome, chronotype, parasomnias and mental health
in young adults. J Sleep Res. 2020;00:e13044. h t tp s : //d o i.
org /10.1111/j sr.13 044
... However, the same group reported that insomnia symptoms were associated with EHS in a multiple predictor model [12]. Nevertheless, a more recent study reported that poor sleep quality did not significantly predict EHS [13]. ...
... Two recent reports demonstrated that sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, actionrelated sleep disorders (sleep-related groaning, sleep-related eating, sleep talking, confusional arousals, and nocturnal eating), and nightmares were associated with the presence of EHS [12,13]. Therefore, EHS is probably related to some parasomnias and should be entertained in the differential diagnosis, in case of the existence of other abnormal sleep events or disorders, such as sleep paralysis, nightmares, insomnia, and hypnagogic hallucinations. ...
Full-text available
Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is an under-recognized parasomnia characterized by a complaint of sudden loud noise or a sense of explosion in the head that usually occurs at sleep onset. This is a report of six patients diagnosed with EHS through a structured clinical interview and video-polysomnography (vPSG) recordings. We also reviewed the available literature that addressed the presentation and clinical and PSG characteristics of EHS. The case series included four men and two women of a mean age of 44.2 years (between 13 and 77 years). Their episodes were variable in expression, between a sudden firecracker-like explosion to a gun-shot sound, mostly as if happening inside the head. It is always associated with distress but never pain. Five out of six patients had other sleep-related problems with a close relationship of EHS symptoms to comorbid sleep disorder manifestations and exacerbations. The vPSG of five patients were unremarkable. An attack was documented in one patient arising in stage N2. Three patients responded well to reassurance and treatment for the comorbid sleep disorder. The other three patients responded well to amitriptyline (10-50 mg). EHS is a well-characterized under-recognized hypnic parasomnia with a benign course. Amitriptyline seems to be effective in persistent cases.
Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is characterized by a sudden loud noise in the head upon waking up at night or during the wake-sleep transition without associated pain of unknown etiology. Although the prevalence is not certain, surveys have found EHS to be common in the general population and among young adults. Sleep paralysis, insomnia, stress, anxiety, and migraine have been associated. The diagnosis is made by the clinical history without testing. A variety of medications have been reported as effective in case reports. The prognosis is generally good.
Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a paroxysmal sensory parasomnia characterized by the sensation of a loud noise or «explosion in the head» during the wake-sleep/sleep-wake cycle. The most popular explanation for this condition is the decrease of reticular formation activity during the transition between wakefulness and sleep. The authors present a review of literature on the diagnosis and treatment of EHS and clinical observations of patients with classical signs.
Zusammenfassung Einleitung Im auditorischen System ist subjektiver Tinnitus als Phantomwahrnehmung bekannt. Menschen berichten auch über illusionäre Fehlwahrnehmungen von realen Höreindrücken und über komplexe szenenhafte akustische Phantasmen ohne externen Hörreiz. Die genauen pathophysiologischen Zusammenhänge der auditiven Phänomene sind noch ungeklärt. Wichtige Komorbiditäten sind Schwerhörigkeit, Hirnerkrankungen und psychische Störungen. Methode In einer Literaturrecherche in der Datenbank PubMed wurden Publikationen bis März 2021 zu den Suchbegriffen Tinnitus, Palinakusis, Pareidolie, Synästhesie, Aura und akustische Halluzination im Hinblick auf Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede zum subjektiven Tinnitus ausgewertet. Ergebnisse Subjektiver Tinnitus kann gemeinsam mit anderen auditiven Phänomenen in einem Individuum auftreten. Diagnostisch wichtig ist der Zusammenhang zwischen Hörverlust und Tinnitus sowie zwischen Tinnitus und Hörminderung im entsprechenden Frequenzbereich. Bei Schwerhörigkeit können weitere auditive Phänomene auftreten. Schlussfolgerung Das Auftreten verschiedener auditiver Phänomene gleichzeitig bei einer Person lässt ein auditorisches Wahrnehmungskontinuum mit gemeinsamen physiologischen Verarbeitungsstrukturen annehmen. Personen mit Schwerhörigkeit sollten nach den verschiedenen auditiven Phänomenen gefragt werden. Bei allen auditiven Phänomenen sollte die audiometrische Untersuchung zum diagnostischen Standard gehören.
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The Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ) has now been available for more than 15 years and its original publication has been cited 1240 times (Google Scholar, May 2019). Additionally, its online version, which was available until July 2017, produced almost 300,000 entries from all over the world (MCTQ database). The MCTQ has gone through several versions, has been translated into 13 languages, and has been validated against other more objective measures of daily timing in several independent studies. Besides being used as a method to correlate circadian features of human biology with other factors—ranging from health issues to geographical factors—the MCTQ gave rise to the quantification of old wisdoms, like “teenagers are late”, and has produced new concepts, like social jetlag. Some like the MCTQ’s simplicity and some view it critically. Therefore, it is time to present a self-critical view on the MCTQ, to address some misunderstandings, and give some definitions of the MCTQ-derived chronotype and the concept of social jetlag.
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We sought to investigate the risk of incident major depressive disorder (MDD) attributable to a range of sleep disorders in the Danish population. Data were obtained by linking longitudinal Danish population-based registers. A total of 65,739 individuals who had first onset of depression between 1995 and 2013 were selected as cases. For each case, a set of 20 controls of the same sex, birth month and year and who had not had depression by the date that the case was diagnosed were selected at random form the population ( N = 1,307,580 in total). We examined whether there was an increased rate of prior sleep disorders in MDD cases compared to controls using conditional logistic regression. An increased risk of incident depression in cases was found for all sleep disorders analyzed. Highest incidence rate ratios (IRRs) were found for circadian rhythm disorders (IRR = 7.06 [2.78–17.91]) and insomnia of inorganic origin (IRR = 6.76 [4.37–10.46]). The lowest estimated IRR was for narcolepsy (IRR = 2.00 [1.26–3.17]). Those diagnosed with a sleep disorder in the last 6 months were at highest risk of developing depression compared to those with at least 1 year since diagnosis (3.10 vs. 2.36). Our results suggest that having any sleep disorder is a risk factor for incident depression. Depression screening should be considered for patients with sleep disorders, and where possible, long-term follow-up for mental health problems is advisable.
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Sleep deprivation commonly impairs affective regulation and causes worse mood. However, the majority of previous research concerns young adults. Because susceptibility to sleep deprivation and emotion regulation change distinctively across adult age, we tested here the hypothesis that the effect of sleep deprivation on mood is stronger in young than in older adults. In an experimental design, young (18–30 years) and older adults (60–72 years) participated in either a sleep control (young, n = 63; older, n = 47) or a total sleep deprivation condition (young, n = 61; older, n = 47). Sleepiness, mood and common symptoms of sleep deprivation were measured using established questionnaires and ratings. Sleep‐deprived participants felt more sleepy, stressed and cold, and reported lower vigour and positive affect, regardless of age. All the other outcome measures (negative affect, depression, confusion, tension, anger, fatigue, total mood disturbance, hunger, cognitive attenuation, irritability) showed a weaker response to sleep deprivation in the older group, as indicated by age*sleep deprivation interactions (ps < 0.05). The results show that older adults are emotionally less affected by sleep deprivation than young adults. This tolerance was mainly related to an attenuated increase in negative mood. This could possibly be related to the well‐known positivity effect, which suggests that older adults prioritize regulating their emotions to optimize well‐being. The results also highlight that caution is warranted when generalizing results from sleep deprivation studies across the adult lifespan.
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Purpose of review: Evening chronotype is increasingly recognized as a correlate of, and perhaps a contributor to, mental illness. The current review evaluates recent evidence for the association between chronotype and mental illness and putative mechanisms underlying the association, while highlighting methodological advances and areas of research that are relatively under-examined in the literature. Recent findings: While evening chronotype is most consistently associated with severity of mood disorder symptoms, emerging evidence implicates evening chronotype as a transdiagnostic correlate of substance use severity, anxiety symptoms, attentional difficulties, and maladaptive behaviors such as aggression. Longitudinal studies point to the possibility that evening chronotype precedes problematic substance use, depression, and anxiety. Neural processes related to reward and affective regulation may underlie associations between evening chronotype and illness. The literature on chronotype and mental illness has evolved to (1) include associations with a broader range of psychiatric symptom profiles; (2) explore underlying mechanisms; and (3) expand on earlier research using objective measures and more sophisticated study designs. In addition to further mechanistic research, additional work is needed to examine the stability and key subcomponents of the chronotype construct, as well as more attention to pediatric and special populations. This research is needed to clarify the chronotype-mental health relationship, and to identify how, when, and what aspects of chronotype can be targeted via therapeutic interventions.
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Objectives To (1) describe sleep problems in a large, multi-university sample of college students; (2) evaluate sex differences; and (3) examine the unique associations of mental health symptoms (i.e., anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder inattention [ADHD-IN], ADHD hyperactivity-impulsivity [ADHD-HI]) in relation to sleep problems. Methods 7,626 students (70% female; 81% White) ages 18-29 years (M=19.14, SD=1.42) from six universities completed measures assessing mental health symptoms and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Results A substantial minority of students endorsed sleep problems across specific sleep components. Specifically, 27% described their sleep quality as poor, 36% reported obtaining less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 43% reported that it takes >30 minutes to fall asleep at least once per week. 62% of participants met cut-off criteria for poor sleep, though rates differed between females (64%) and males (57%). In structural regression models, both anxiety and depression symptoms were uniquely associated with disruptions in most PSQI sleep component domains. However, anxiety (but not depression) symptoms were uniquely associated with more sleep disturbances and sleep medication use, whereas depression (but not anxiety) symptoms were uniquely associated with increased daytime dysfunction. ADHD-IN symptoms were uniquely associated with poorer sleep quality and increased daytime dysfunction, whereas ADHD-HI symptoms were uniquely associated with more sleep disturbances and less daytime dysfunction. Lastly, ADHD-IN, anxiety, and depression symptoms were each independently associated with poor sleep status. Conclusions This study documents a high prevalence of poor sleep among college students, some sex differences, and distinct patterns of mental health symptoms in relation to sleep problems.
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Chronotypes have been associated with psychopathology. The eveningness chronotype has been consistently linked with depressed states or depressive disorder, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Prior studies have shown associations between chronotype and personality traits that are linked to depression (e.g. neuroticism), but other psychological vulnerability factors have not been previously investigated in relation to chronotypes. The aim of this study was to examine the association between chronotypes, depression and psychological risk factors of depression (namely, cognitive reactivity and worry), in a large cohort of depressed patients and healthy individuals. We used data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (n = 1654), which includes 1227 clinically diagnosed individuals with a lifetime diagnosis of depression and 427 healthy controls. We assessed cognitive reactivity (Leiden Index of Depression Sensitivity-Revised) and trait worry (Penn State Worry Questionnaire). We controlled for sociodemographic factors as well as for insomnia and neuroticism. We found that the evening type is associated with higher cognitive reactivity scores, especially with increased rumination. Cognitive reactivity also mediated the relationship between chronotype and depression status, even when controlling for neuroticism and insomnia. Trait worry was not associated with chronotype. Our findings show that depressogenic cognitions are more prevalent in evening types and perhaps mediate the association between chronotype and depression. Further prospective research is needed to determine the timeline of the association. Nevertheless, results imply that targeting depressogenic cognitive processes, perhaps in combination with chronotherapeutic treatments, may be particularly useful in evening types.
Background The aim of this study was to investigate chronotype in migraine patients and possible influences on the clinical expression of the disease. Methods During a one-year period, all consecutive patients admitted to two third-level headache centres with a new diagnosis of migraine were enrolled in a cross-sectional study. All subjects were submitted to the Morningness–Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ-SA) and then classified in five different categories, from late to early-rising chronotype. Differences and trends among MEQ-SA categories and years from migraine onset, attacks’ intensity and frequency were analysed first with analysis of variance, then with a multivariate/generalized linear model. Results One hundred seventy one migraine patients were included. Early-rising patients showed a lower migraine attacks frequency and longer disease duration with respect to late-rising patients. The categorical variable containing the five circadian types was able to identify a significantly different trend both for the monthly attacks frequency and for the disease duration (p < 0.0001 and p < 0.0001, respectively, analysis of variance). The results were also confirmed after correction for main influencing variables (multivariate/generalized linear model). The intensity of migraine attacks was not influenced by chronotype. Conclusions According to the results of the present study, chronotype seems to influence number and duration of migraine attacks. Although sleep–wake cycle is a well-recognized factor able to influence thalamic–cortical synchronization, it usually does not receive appropriate consideration during migraine patients’ assessment.
Exploding head syndrome is a sensory parasomnia characterized by the perception of loud noises and/or a sense of explosion in the head that occurs when transitioning to or from sleep. Despite receiving little attention from both researchers and clinicians, studies suggest that approximately 10%-15% of individuals have episodes, with significant levels of fear occurring in a subset of cases. Using two independent samples, we examine sleep and well-being variables associated with exploding head syndrome. We focused on insomnia symptoms, life stress, anxiety and depression symptoms, and sleep experiences such as sleep paralysis as potential factors associated with exploding head syndrome. Study 1 consisted of 199 female undergraduate students. We found a lifetime prevalence of 37.19%, with 6.54% experiencing at least one episode a month. All variables were associated with exploding head syndrome in univariate analyses, but only insomnia symptoms and sleep paralysis frequency were significantly associated with exploding head syndrome in multiple logistic regression models. Study 2 was an international sample of 1683 participants (age range 18-82, 53.00% female). Lifetime prevalence was 29.59%, with monthly episodes occurring in 3.89% of participants. The same set of variables was investigated as in Study 1, with dissociative experiences during wakefulness and a larger range of sleep experiences also included. Study 2 replicated the results of Study 1. In addition, dissociative experiences during wakefulness and other sleep experiences such as nightmares were associated with exploding head syndrome in multiple logistic regression models. These studies provide valuable first insights into variables associated with exploding head syndrome. Clinical trial information: Study 1 constitutes a planned exploratory outcome of a pilot feasibility study conducted to provide information useful for designing a clinical trial: Name: STOP-pilot. URL:, Registration: NCT03062891 Statement of Significance Exploding head syndrome, the perception of loud bangs at sleep-wake transitions, has received little attention from researchers and is unknown to the majority of clinicians. In spite of this, it has been found to be relatively common and can lead to significant levels of distress in some cases. Here, two independent datasets were utilized to investigate whether insomnia symptoms, well-being, and other sleep experiences are associated with exploding head syndrome. Insomnia symptoms, dissociative experiences, and unusual sleep experiences such as sleep paralysis predicted the presence of exploding head syndrome in multiple regression models. These results provide some initial information about multiple factors that may contribute to exploding head syndrome, which will be useful in designing future interventions.
The aim of this study was to describe sleep patterns and rate of insomnia according to diagnostic criteria in college and university students, as well as to examine potential changes in sleep problems from 2010 to 2018. Data stemmed from a national student health survey from 2018 for higher education in Norway (the SHoT study), which invited all 162,512 fulltime students in Norway. A total of 50,054 students (69.1% women) aged 18–35 years were included, yielding a response rate of 30.8%. Sleep parameters, reported separately for weekdays and weekends, included calculations of bedtime, rise time, sleep duration, sleep‐onset latency, wake after sleep onset, sleep need and sleep deficit. Insomnia was defined according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edn) criteria. For the trend analysis, we used one item measuring difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep, over three time points (2010, 2014 and 2018). The results from 2018 showed large weekday–weekend differences across most sleep parameters. Both male and female students obtained a mean sleep duration in the lower end of the normal range on weekdays (7:24 hr), but met their own sleep need and sleep recommendations at weekends (8:25 hr). The overall prevalence of insomnia was 34.2% in women and 22.2% in men. There was a substantial increase in sleep problems from 2010 (22.6%) to 2018 (30.5%), which was especially pronounced in women. We conclude that sleep problems are both prevalent and increasing among students. This warrants attention as a public health problem in this population.