Does your partner complain about your groaning in sleep? Do you avoid having sleepovers or even relationships because you are afraid you might embarrass yourself if you do? Are you tired of having to plug in the early morning, while your partner groans mid-sleep and never even accepts it?
If your answer is yes to the question above, everything you need to know about the origin, history, nature, treatment and coping with these groans called Catathrenia is right below.
This under one-minute groan that sounds disturbing, odd and morose is called the nocturnal groaning type of strange noises in sleep or Catathrenia.
What is Catathrenia?
Nocturnal groaning/ cacophony or merely making odd noises are some of the most common names for this awkward parasomnia. What really happens is that while in the last stage of sleep REM, the patient inhales deep, then holds the breath for 2-20 seconds and releases it in a groan while expiring. The parasomnia should not be confused with sleep apnea as the former occurs when the sleeper is inhaling. Although according to a new study, Catathrenia can be valid through all stages of sleep.
The groaning can differ from person to person and can sound like an arousal or sexual dreaming, which can cause many inconveniences in social life and peace of the patient as well. As it poses little or no life-threatening situation, often people live through catathrenia all their lives without once knowing anything about it.
What catathrenia is not
Catathrenia is an ageless sleep disorder, which is reported more in males than females. Often misconceived to be snoring or a ‘weird dream’ by the partner, the sleeper has no memory to approve or disprove it when awakened. Science cannot pinpoint if the disorder starts from an arousal or respiratory problems, although ICSD-2 or International Classification of Sleep Disorders Diagnostic and Coding Manual has termed it as a parasomnia currently.
Here are some disorders that Catathrenia is not:
- Snoring: It is termed as the strained sound of air passing through an obstructed upper airway when inhaling.
- Sleep Apnea: Also known for its critical or fatal reasons, this somnipathy relates to the closure of our upper airways, preceded by snoring during inhalation.
- Sleep Terrors or Night terrors: An intense nightmare like phenomena with intense fear can surface with extreme discomfort such that the patient screams and flails mid-sleep.
- Stridor: This is a grated high pitch sound that when occurs mid-sleep due to vehement airflow into the larynx of the patient and can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea as well.
- Sleepwalking/ Sleep Talking/ Childhood enurisis: Whenever the REM stage of sleep is obstructed, sleepwalking, sleeptalking and bedwetting can happen when the dream of the patient incorporates his or her stimulus in the reality.
- Seizure: Sometimes, people assume that they suffered an epileptic attack that they cannot recollect due to second party briefings; however patients of catathrenia suffer no discomfort akin to a fit.
- Rousing Dreams: Most family and partners often feel that the patient is having a perverse sense of sexual dream that is rousing the moan-like groans in their spouse.
- Mental Instability: Another misconception that people living in dormitories or in groups have been that the patient of catathrenia is mentally disabled, owing to the groans that they cannot remember after waking up.
How is Catathrenia caused?
As the disorder is not life threatening, it is the least researched. Being still under case studies and patients anecdotes, the inferences are many but approvals are scarce. The debate whether Catathrenia is a respiratory disorder is still under judgement, however it is clear that catathrenia is a sleep associated respiratory ailment.
Certain research roots that catathrenia due to craniofacial abnormalities is also a major cause as it obstructs airways in the most peculiar of ways. Some of the widely known hypotheses of catathrenia are:
- Obstruction in upper airway while exhaling: The cause and effect of Catathrenia, any block in your upper airway while you are breathing-out during sleep can cause your voice box to be stopped.
- Partial Closing vocal cords in REM stage of sleep: As the mind enters REM sleep, the body enters partial-paralysis with a semi-closure of the vocal cords. This might create a compulsive breath of expiration that is prolonged after a deep inhalationn. This is an involuntary yet forced expiration to par the resistance from afore when the air pushes through the airways to suddenly unblock or free the vocal cords, leading to groaning.
- Functional Damages to the brain: Another significant cause of Catathrenia is the anatomical and other functional damages like lesions to a part of the brain, which manages the ventilation for neurons and its structures.
- Irregular Breathing Exercises: There has been a popular hypothesis that people with a history of doing irregular breath exercises are vulnerable to catathrenia. Exemplifying, holding the breath for athletic feats when in childhood can lead to the same.
- Presence of Arousal: Certain studies advocate that if the groans of the patient are long, there are chances that it can end in arousal. Three quarters of nocturnal groaning are often parallel to arousal. However, there is no evidence whether the groans start the arousal or vice-versa.
Apart from the above hypothesis, another majorly cited cause of Catathrenia is stress. This hypothesis is based on anecdotal inferences of the patient’s psychology and has no accepted theories yet. In fact, Catathrenia is observed to cause no impact to the patient’s sleep.
What are the symptoms of Catathrenia
When catathrenia occurs, it is often followed by a situation of taking long or short breaths called bradypnea. The disorder consists of two phases- end-inspiratory apnea– holding your breath during breathing in and expiratory moaning while breathing out, which leads to groaning while asleep.
- Inspiration: Patients of Catathrenia inspire deeply and in a muted fashion
- Distinct Groans: Groans of Catathrenia are distinct, occurs a few minutes before the sleeper wakes up and can ranges from two seconds up to thirty seconds.
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness or EDS: As the patients rarely enter deep sleep, the consequent daytime would be lethargic and they have a higher chance of suffering from a somnipathy called excessive daytime sleepiness as well as sleep cycle issues.
- No Memory or Recollection: Even thought the partner complains about the groaning of the patient mid-sleep, he or she has no recollection of the episode whatsoever.
How To Test for Catathrenia
Once your partner has complained about your distinct groans in bed, it is time to confirm if you are a patient of catathrenia in the first place. As the disorder has little or no consequences to the mind or quality of sleep, treatment is mostly flexible. To confirm catathrenia you may try these:
- Record Your Sleep: Start with a recording device that captures the audio and video of your entire sleep session so that you can analyse what you remember, from the tape that shows what you’ve forgotten. However, this recording should only help you or your doctor to diagnose catathrenia, if at all.
- Polysomnogram: This the study of a patient’s sleep and brain wave patterns in a sleep chamber under the supervision of a sleep specialist. Your REM sleep stages, arousal, variations and volume of groaning are captured using high-end equipment.
Once you have confirmed that you have catathrenia, make no delay about visiting a sleep clinic ASAP if you or your partner are bothered by the same.
How To Treat and Cope with Catathrenia
As most people live through their entire lifetimes without once realising that they have catathrenia, there are scarce records of this parasomnia. However, if you go to a sleep specialist, you will be referred one of the following modes of treatment:
For the Patient
If you wish to correct your nocturnal groaning, the first place to start is at the bed. Start with choosing a bed that keeps you in deep sleep and helps you sleep upright. Next, visit the sleep clinic next to you. If you can provide the doctor with a recording of your sleep or volunteer to retire in the sleep chamber for the night under professional evaluation, the treatment is effortless.
- Z Drugs: When professionally examined, many antidepressants (Z Drugs) have been administered and found to be of no use to majority of patients of catathrenia
- Mandibular Advancement Device or MAD: These devices are provided to correct craniofacial abnormalities.
- CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Masks: The device provides continuously unblocked pressure to keep your airways perpetually open. These oral devices are also provided for snorers, but CPAP machines have been found to resolve the nocturnal groaning in all seven people who were part of a study conducted in Stanford University, 2008.
There are several surgeries to correct the craniofacial abnormalities or physical triggers of Catathrenia depending upon the patient’s medical history.
For the Partner
As the patient suffers from no sleep related issues, the actual victims of catathrenia are the partner of the patient in bed. For deep sleepers, grunting and groaning of their partner might not be a problem, but for others, surely a handful of tricks can make a lot of difference to ensure their own quality sleep.
Check our best ways to cope with your partner or family member with catathrenia:
- Sleep Separately: It might seem like a harsh decision, but if your partner has nocturnal groaning and if it is deducing your sleep, then it’s high time that you go for the hard road for sleeping alone. Alternatively, choose to sleep at different times than your partner.
- Music for Sleep: Avoiding of postponing is not an ideal way to cope with anything. If you are sure that you cannot sleep separately, then pick white noise instruments of special music for sleep that can drown your partner’s sound as well as guarantee deep sleep.
Coping with catathrenia is difficult for the both the patient and his or her partner. Nevertheless, the truth is that nocturnal groaning is not a serious issue. In addition, living with it is effortless, if you choose the right things to drown out the sound, flawlessly.