How to Stop Moaning in Sleep
Because We All Need a Good Sleep
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 sensitive to external stimuli as this is when you're sleeping most deeply and dreaming the 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—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 themselves up because of the noise they make.
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.
What Causes the Condition?
Drinking too much alcohol is thought to be a cause of the condition because the alcohol prevents your throat muscles from relaxing properly during the night, meaning they to work too hard, forcing 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 four 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 the main cause of the condition. Lying on your back (supine position) can lead to breathing difficulties as the back of your tongue can actually come to rest at 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. 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 these breathing patterns when they're asleep.
How to Prevent Moaning in Sleep
A continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) machine can help to treat the condition. As the name suggests, it continuously pumps air into your nose to pressurize the airways, preventing them from getting blocked up. The machine can be expensive but is highly effective—so much so that it’s used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, 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 that 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. Smoking can cause build up and congestion in your airways which can lead to trouble breathing at night because your body has to work harder to push the air out. 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 earplugs or playing 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's moaning.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
How Does the Condition Affect Your Life?
As I've mentioned, catathrenia isn't considered to be dangerous to your health. However, it can greatly impact 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 in turn, can lead to anxiety issues and low self-esteem. Due to the somewhat uncontrollable nature of the sleeping disorder, 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 noticed my condition, and soon after, I 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.
Now that you understand that you're probably 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 on 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 that both you and your partner can enjoy a good nights sleep.