Catathrenia Sleep Disorder – Do You Make Groaning Sounds While Asleep?

What is catathrenia sleep disorder?

This scenario is a prelude to this sleep disorder.

At the point that you were just about go to sleep, your partner or roommate wakes you up and this type of conversation happens.

“Do you know that you are making those unusual noises again when you are asleep”

“I did not know that I was making strange sounds while I am sleeping”

“You are making these terrible groaning noises that seem to go on forever. It makes it hard to go sleep with all of that noise”

Catathrenia sleep disorder.

If you had an event like this play out before, then there is a chance that you have a sleep disorder known as catathrenia.

In this post, you will discover more about catathrenia and why people make groaning noises at night.

What is Catathrenia Defined As?

Catathrenia or “nocturnal groaning” is a rare sleep disorder which is categorized under sleep-related breathing disorders.

All the way up until 2013, this sleep disorder was classified under the parainsomnia category rather than the sleep-related breathing disorders category.

Yet, catathrenia was shifted over to the sleep-related breathing disorders category in the latest version of the International Classification Of Sleep Disorders Manual (The ICSD-3) in 2014.

The people who have this sleep disorder will normally breathe deeply while they sleep. The next thing that happens is that they will hold their breath for a short period of time.

When they exhale, they can make a shrieking, moaning, or groaning type of noise.

The noise has a duration of a few seconds to a full minute. At the end of each groan, they can make second snorting like sound or they can possibly wake up.

This noise can be very loud and can sound provocative which can be very disturbing or disruptive for the other people who live with the person who has this sleep disorder.

This is also mortifying to the person who makes the noise.

Catathrenia normally happens during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. Yet, this sleep disorder can happen in the any of the other stages of sleep.

The majority of people have reported that this happens in the later part of the night. This is due to the fact that there is more REM sleep during the later parts of a sleep cycle.

Those with this sleep disorder will normally experience it for several years and in this duration they will typically experience it for most nights. Unless your roommate or partner is a heavy sleeper, this can be an ongoing source of irritation for all the parties involved.

Some researchers suggest that there could be sub types of catathrenia, an example would be that the noise made on each exhale is either long or short.

What Catathrenia Is Not Defined As?

Catathrenia is often mixed up for other sleep disorders or health problems. The following list will help rule out what this sleep disorder is not:

  1. Suffering in the mind or any dream state.
  2. Related to other breathing disorders.
  3. Moaning that happens in the duration of epileptic seizures.
  4. Sleep talking. Regardless of the fact that some people produce a very unusual sound while asleep, this is not the same as sleep talking.
  5. Is not related to stridor, which is possibly a dangerous condition where a person makes a high-pitched sound because of constricted airways.
  6. Is not related to sleep apnea. Despite the fact that both sleep disorders have a pause in the person’s breathing, there is a distinct difference between the two. Catathrenia has a pause that occurs after a person inhales. Sleep Apnea has a pause that occurs after a person exhales.
  7. Corresponds to snoring. The simple way to differentiate catathrenia from snoring is that snoring happens during a person’s inhale phase and catathrenia happens during a person’s exhale phase.
  8. Corresponds to exhalatory snoring (which seems like an oxymoron that contradicts the statement above). The noise that is heard during this type of snoring is made on the exhale phase. The distinction here is that with cathathrenia only, a person will hold their breath after the inhale phase.

When a diagnosis of cathathrenia is underway, a medical professional will attempt to eliminate any other possible sleep disorders such as stridor, epilepsy, or sleep apnea.

Causes Of Cathathrenia

The same rule applies to catathrenia as it does to so many other sleep disorders in that precise cause of catathrenia is still up for debate among the medical and scientific community. The following theories have been placed forward such as:

  1. Connections to high levels of stress.
  2. Damage that has been inflicted to areas of the brain that control breathing.
  3. In the REM stage of sleep, the vocal chords are moderately closed off. Then a forced-out breath pushes it way through this narrow opening and opens up the portion of the vocal chords that was moderately closed off.
  4. A limited or obstructed upper airway. Regrettably, there are not many studies that have been completed in order to pinpoint the exact cause of catathrenia. This is because catathrenia is more of a social issue rather than a sleep disorder that is medically harmful. Sleep experts and researchers concentrate more on sleep disorders that are potentially more harmful.

Stress sign.

Regrettably, there are not many studies that have been completed in order to pinpoint the exact cause of catathrenia. This is because catathrenia is more of a social issue rather than a sleep disorder that is medically harmful.

Sleep experts and researchers concentrate more on sleep disorders that are potentially more harmful.

In spite of the lack of agreement to an exact cause. The majority of researchers suspect that an obstructed or a limited airway is the cause of catathrenia.


The majority of people are not aware that they have cathathrenia until their partner or roommate informs them of the noise that they are making. The first course of action to take is to recognize that this is not a different sleep disorder.

Consulting a medical professional or participating in a sleep study are the foremost methods to ensure that cathathrenia is pinpointed accurately.

Your reported symptoms and history are two factors that can be used in the diagnosis. In another case, a doctor might ask you to participate in a “polysomnogram” which is also known as an overnight sleep study.

After the diagnosis, there are two methods to looking at the treatment:

  • Has the person who is suffering from the disorder discovered ways to state the problem?
  • Has the person who is being disrupted discovered ways to block out the sound?

As for the actual treatment for the person who has the sleep disorder. A CPAP machine or other oral device are the primary options. However, surgery is also an option that one can consider.

In 2008, Stanford conducted a study and discovered that seven people who had cathathrenia used a CPAP machine to fix the nocturnal groaning sounds they were making.

The purpose of a CPAP machine is to gently deliver air to the nose to keep the air passageways open. This machine is commonly used by those who have sleep apena.

In that same study by Stanford, five out of the seven individuals chose to participate for surgery later in the future. Out of the four individuals who went back to the researchers, three of those individuals required an additional oral device.

Although, it seems like quite the hassle for those that participated in the study. Fortunately, all four individuals in the end were cured of cathathrenia.

In 2012, the researchers provided a cpap machine to four out of the ten people in their group who had catathrenia. They discovered that those who had a cpap machine had noticeably less moaning.

Ways To Block Out The Noise

It would appear that using a cpap machine is the most effective treatment that is avaliable, but most people are not comfortable with the idea of using one for years.

There is one alternative for those who are disrupted by the noise and that is to take action to block out the noise.

Wearing noise cancelling devices such as earphones can help in some cases. However, they are not as effective if the groaning noise that your roommate or partner is making is very loud.

Headphones glowing in neon light.

There is an option to use a white noise machine to help cover the sound. However, this will not be as effective if you share a bed or room with the person who has the sleep disorder. This can help if you are hearing the noise from another room in your home.

If you or your partner are unsuccessful in discovering ways to help manage the disorder and if you are concerned that you could potentially have another sleep disorder. Then I recommened that you seek medical advice.

Final Thoughts

Catathrenia is a sleep disorder that is not heard of much at all. There are suggestions that I have read from others that being sleep deprived and stressed out only aggravate this sleep disorder. I recommend that you take measures to manage your stress levels.

In addition, you should try to obtain a proper amount of sleep each night. Taking these steps will help you out in the long run.

What was your experience with this sleep disorder?

Do you know of any methods that can help out your fellow readers?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash




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4 Comments on “Catathrenia Sleep Disorder – Do You Make Groaning Sounds While Asleep?”

  1. Hello Steve,

    Catathrenia is normally not a serious issue and in most cases it is not harmful to the person who makes the noise. They can have usually sleep just fine and wake up feeling rested. This sleep disorder normally does not affect the health of the sleeper rather it affects the health of their partner or roommate more. 

    The loud groaning noise the sleeper makes at night can cause their partner or roommate to be sleep deprived. It is at that point that their partner or roommate can have health problems both temporarily and in the long run if the issue is not dealt with. 

    Most people are not aware of the symptoms and if they are making the groaning noise or not. The first thing she should do is have her partner or somebody she lives with record any noises she makes while she sleeps. This will help determine if she is indeed making the groaning noise.  

    Yes, you have the right idea. Sleep apnea can affect the health of the sufferer. If your friend starts to feel sleep deprived or if she wakes up in the middle of the night feeling out of breath. The best course of action for her to take is to go seek out a medical professional. They will provide a proper diagnosis and treatment.

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  2. Hello Chrissie,

    I am glad that you found the post informative. Catathrenia is one of the lesser known type of sleep breathing disorders. This is one sleep disorder that many people are not too familiar with. Yes, I do believe that earplugs can help greatly reduce the noise of the person who has catathrenia. There are earplugs in the market that help minimize noise from loud sources such as concerts and construction zones. If the earplugs work for that application, then I believe they can indeed help block out the noise of a person who groans at night. 

    Best regards,
    Kenny Tang

  3. Interesting article! Just asking for a friend. Does catathrenia affect the sleeper? Does she know she is doing this or Is she oblivious to it? I am under the impression that sleep apnea does affect the health of the sufferer and I understand that catathrenia is not related to sleep apnea. However, does catathrenia affect the health of the sufferer?  I know someone who has gotten used to the noise that I suspect could be from catathrenia, but I want to make sure it does not affect the health of the sufferer. Thanks for a great article!


  4. You give a very detailed and clear description of what Catathrenia is, although I must confess that I have not heard of it before now.

    I am very happy to say that I am not aware of anyone who suffers from this. From what you say, I am quite sure that I would know about it if I did!!

    It is unfortunate that there is no effective cure for this sleep disorder, Although, your tips to avoid it are very helpful.

    Do you think that earplugs would be sufficient to drown out the noise of cathathrenia?

    Many thanks for your extremely informative post.

    Chrissie 🙂

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