Experts classify catathrenia as a rare chronic respiratory disorder.

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The disorder often develops during adolescence or early adulthood. Catathrenia is exceedingly rare and likely underreported. People may mistake the sounds for obstructive sleep apnea, sleep talking, snoring, or other sleep-related breathing disorder.

Catathrenia is generally harmless but can be pretty startling, especially if you are unaware someone is experiencing it.


Groaning while sleeping is the hallmark sign of catathrenia.

The sounds differ from snoring because people make them exclusively while exhaling. For example, groaning makes a distinct sound, like something is blocking air from escaping the throat.

Normal breathing may intersperse groaning. Other times, groaning happens continuously. The noises can be loud, between 40 decibels (a cricket) and 120 decibels (a chainsaw).Still, people with catathrenia are often entirely oblivious to the sounds. Instead, they generally learn about their noisemaking when a bed partner, family member, or friend mentions it. People with catathrenia tend to wake up from groaning after being made aware of their noisemaking.

Other catathrenia symptoms may include daytime sleepiness and fatigue. In a review published in 2017, researchers found that nearly 45% of people felt sleepy during the day.People often fear distressing their bed partners. Groaning or moaning while sleeping may cause social embarrassment and negatively affect relationships and sex lives.

 Causes ?

Catathrenia is so rare that experts are not sure what causes it. Still, some evidence suggests that the groaning originates in the larynx, which houses the vocal cords.

Catathrenia is so rare that experts are not sure what causes it. Still, some evidence suggests that the groaning originates in the larynx, which houses the vocal cords.

Whenever you make a sound, it’s because of a vibration of the structures an ear, nose, and throat . In snoring, what’s vibrating is the back of the throat, but in catathrenia, it’s the vocal cords that are vibrating, so the sound is coming from the voice box.People with catathrenia will usually take a deep breath in before making a long groaning or moaning sound when they breathe out.

Catathrenia usually occurs during REM sleep, or the period of sleep in which you consolidate memories and dreams. Although rare, catathrenia may occur during other sleep periods.

Risk Factors:

Generally, risk factors for parasomnias, which includes nocturnal groaning, include:

  • A family history of parasomnias
  • Other sleep disorders (e.g., obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome)
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Use of sedatives

How Is Catathrenia Diagnosed?

Healthcare providers may diagnose catathrenia based on your symptoms. A polysomnography, or sleep study, can rule out other respiratory issues or sleep disorders.

A sleep study measures several body functions while you are sleeping, such as:

  • Airflow
  • Blood oxygen levels
  • Body position
  • Brain waves (EEG)
  • Breathing
  • Electrical activity of your muscles
  • Eye movement
  • Heart rate

Catathrenia is harmless, and most people with the disorder sleep just fine. Though, groaning and moaning sounds may irritate people who share a bed with people with catathrenia. You can take some steps if catathrenia impacts the sleep quality of you or your bed partner.

Research has found CPAP machine help treat catathrenia. Typically, CPAP machines treat sleep-related breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP machines keep your breathing airways open by using mild air pressure.

A case study published in 2020 found that a CPAP machine helped control the number of times catathrenia occurred. The machine was even effective at low-pressure settings.Try asking your bed partners to wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to block noises. You might consider sleeping in a separate room from others so you can wake up eager to greet your partner feeling refreshed.

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