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How to Stop Moaning in Sleep

Updated on April 23, 2015

What is Catathrenia?

If you're constantly moaning in your sleep and keeping your partner awake, then it's extremely likely you have a condition known as Catathrenia. The condition is a form of parasomnia (a posh word for sleep disorder) and is thought to be a form of sleep apnea; however unlike obstructive sleep apnea, this condition isn't considered to be dangerous to your health.

The condition often occurs during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, when the brain is normally less open to receiving stimuli, as this is when you're sleeping most deeply and dreaming most.

If you're suffering from this condition, your breathing during the night will be extremely vocal as you'll inhale deeply, hold your breath for as long as you can, then exhale very slowly and loudly. So the groaning noise you make occurs during exhalation of breath – unlike snoring wherein the noise occurs during inhalation. The actual process of exhalation can last up to 50 seconds and can occur frequently throughout the night which can make sleeping next to you very difficult for your partner. Conversely, many people have been known to wake up because of the noise they themselves make when they exhale.

The reason the condition isn't considered dangerous to your health is because medical researchers consider the decision to hold your breath to be a conscious decision made by the brain, whereas obstructive sleep apnea sufferers subconsciously stop breathing during the night and as such are in greater danger.

Obstruction During Sleep

Why do you moan in your sleep
Why do you moan in your sleep

What Causes the Condition?

Drinking too much alcohol is thought to be a cause of the condition because the effects of the alcohol prevent your throat muscles from relaxing properly during the night, meaning they have to work harder to force the air out. Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can help you to prevent the condition, as well as other sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep paralysis, from occurring. Ideally, you should avoid drinking alcohol for up to 4 hours before you go to bed so that your body can overcome the effects of the substance.

A lot of people who suffer from this condition generally report lying on their backs whilst they're asleep, but lying in this position can actually be a primary cause of the condition. Lying on your back (known as the supine position) can lead to breathing difficulties as the back of your tongue can actually come to rest on the back of your throat, blocking the airway and making it difficult for air to squeeze through.

Obviously, if the air has to squeeze through a small opening it will make a gurgling noise which can sound like you're groaning in your sleep, so sleeping on your side is a good way to reduce the likelihood of the condition occurring. Interestingly, studies have shown that many people who suffer from this sleep disorder actually play or have played a sport which required them to hold their breath (such as swimming) or to breathe more irregularly (such as running) and it's thought that their subconscious is merely adopting this breathing pattern when they're asleep.

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Overcome Sleep Disorders

How to Prevent Moaning in Sleep

A Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) machine can help to treat the condition as it pumps pressurized air into the room so that your airways don’t get blocked up. Alternatively, you can wear a face mask and have the machine pump the pressurized air directly into your throat which basically eliminates all possibility of you moaning in your sleep. The machine can be expensive but is highly effective, so much so that it’s used to treat obstructive sleep apnoea, and it will definitely help both you and your partner enjoy a good nights sleep.

Furthermore, if you have a hot bath or shower before bed, the steam will help clear your nasal passages which ensure your airways remain clear throughout the night and that you breathe both easily and quietly. It’s also worth noting that hot drinks, such as tea or hot chocolate, (coffee should be avoided before bed as the caffeine can keep you awake) help to break up mucus which can block your nasal passage, so keeping yourself warm and hydrated is a good way to improve the quality of your sleep and reduce the chances of a restless night.

As smoking can affect your breathing and have a negative impact on your health and on your lungs, avoiding cigarettes can help you to overcome the condition as you'll breathe more freely and more clearly. Smoking can cause build up and congestion in your airways which can lead to trouble breathing at night because your body is having to work harder to push the air out and this is when the groaning noise can occur.

Finally, if your partner is the one suffering from the condition and their noise is keeping you awake at night, I recommend either wearing ear plugs or using white noise. White noise will help you drift off as it doesn't stimulate your brain (unlike a television or music does) and will drown out the sound of your partner moaning in sleep.

The Affects of Sleep Deprivation

The condition can cause sleep deprivation, which can then lead to the above complications
The condition can cause sleep deprivation, which can then lead to the above complications

Facts about Catathrenia

  • The condition often begins when a person is a teenager but it can last throughout their entire life
  • It is more prevalent in males
  • People will hold their breath until the blood oxygen level is low, only then will they exhale
  • The condition is not thought to be linked to dreaming or any mental health issues

How does the Condition Affect Your Life?

As I've mentioned, Catathrenia isn't considered to be dangerous to your health, however it can have a huge impact on your life in other ways. Depending on how frequently the condition occurs, it can place a large strain on a relationship whilst also taking it's toll on your own mental and physical health.

Firstly, it can obviously be extremely difficult to sleep next to somebody who is suffering from this condition as their groaning can keep people awake. This can cause serious problems in a relationship and lead to arguments and/or break-ups - which can in turn lead to anxiety issues and low self-esteem due to the somewhat uncontrollable nature of the sleeping disorder as sufferers begin to question whether anybody can sleep next to them at all.

Secondly, many people who become aware of their condition soon find that the sound of their breathing actually wakes them up during the night as well - myself included. My partner highlighted my condition and I soon found myself being roused by the groaning noises too, which then led to a lack of sleep. If you wake up several times during the night because of this condition, you will suffer from sleep deprivation which can cause you to feel more stressed during the day and can lead to other sleep disorders.

To Conclude

Now that you understand that you're only moaning in your sleep because you suffer from Catathrenia, I recommend that you implement some of the techniques highlighted in the article to help you to sleep quietly. It's an interesting condition because there isn't too much research conducted into it - simply because it's not considered dangerous to your health - but as we've discussed, it can lead to complications in your personal life. So, it's important to try to overcome the condition so both you and your partner can enjoy a good nights sleep.

Because We All Need A Good Rest


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    • profile image

      Mel2727a 23 months ago

      I have this condition, it started as a teenager and has continued since. Im 35 now and still do this nightly. I often wake myself up when falling asleep and throughout the night. Im a restless sleeper and constantly tring 2 reposition. I believe this causes me 2 not sleep restful even though it sounds like I am. Im an extremely light sleeper who gets hot while sleeping and barely ever dreams, or atleast i dont remember them. Im wondering if other people w this condition dream, or can remember dreaming. And do u wake up in the mornings super tired. I use 2 be a morning person but as the years progressed iv became more cranky & harder harder to shake it off. I need anywhere from an hr to 2 before i have any energy and stop wanting 2 choke evey1 I see.. I never new tell recently that i also moan/humm in the mornings if i dose back off after getting out of bed & coming downstairs 2 try 2 start the waking up proses.. I dont mind that i make the noise. I find it quite humorous listening 2others try 2 describe the noise i make. However i believe this causes me CONTINUOUS RESTLESS nights evey night!

    • GizSleep profile image

      David 2 years ago from UK

      That's fantastic advice, I'll implement that and I'm looking forward to reading your comment. Thank you very much, I appreciate any help offered and I think yours could be invaluable!

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi Gizsleep,

      The upper right area is best reserved for advertising. If I might suggest either removing the amazon capsule or moving it lower in your hub.

      You put allot of great information in this hub.

      I just found you out on the forum and gave you a couple of suggestions but the heat map of where people click is paramount to advertisers and the location of that low ranking capsule might be hurting your hard work. Something to try.

    • GizSleep profile image

      David 2 years ago from UK

      Yeah my partner hates it when I lie there making a strange gurgling-moaning sound! Thank you for the wonderful feedback.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Thanks for educating me about catathrenia. Had never heard of this condition. My husband definitely doesn't have it. He sleeps like the dead. I doubt I would bother him if I had it- so who knows maybe I do! This was a joy to read, very informative and beautifully written. Voted up.