A Guide to Catathrenia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More

A Guide to Catathrenia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More

Catathrenia is a parasomnia when the nervous system's activity goes haywire during sleep. The individual will generally take a deep breath, hold it for a second, and then exhale with a long, sustained, high-pitched groan.

While the exact cause of catathrenia is unknown, it is believed to be related to disruptions in the normal sleep cycle. 

Treatment for the condition typically involves lifestyle changes and counselling. In some cases, medications may also be prescribed to help relieve symptoms. 

What is Catathrenia?

Catathrenia is a rare sleep disorder characterized by intense episodes of screaming or moaning during sleep (Sleepwalking). 

The screams or moans typically occur just before or during sleep onset, and they may last for several minutes. The condition can be very distressing for both the person with the disorder and their bed partner. 

What is Catathrenia

REM Related Parasomnias

Catathrenia is classified as a REM (rapid eye movement) related parasomnia. Parasomnias are a group of sleep disorders involving abnormal behaviours or experiences during sleep. 

Other types of REM related parasomnias include sleep paralysis and night terrors

Catathrenia is a sleep-related disorder characterized by severe, recurring attacks. It is most commonly seen during the rapid eye movement (REM) period of sleep, but it has been identified in all sleep phases. 

It's not to be confused with obstructive sleeping apnea or ordinary snoring, while the sufferer may wake up feeling refreshed and fully rested. 


The primary symptom of catathrenia is loud screaming or moaning during sleep. The episodes typically happen just before or during sleep onset, and they may last for several minutes. 

The screams or moans are usually unaccompanied by any other movement, although some people with catatonia may also experience mild body twitching. 

Episodes typically occur several times per night, and they can disrupt the person’s sleep and their bed partner's. 

In some cases, people with catathrenia may also have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also experience daytime fatigue due to a lack of sleep. 

What are the Causes of Catathrenia?

The exact cause of catathrenia is unknown. However, the condition is believed to be related to disruptions in the normal sleep cycle. Catathrenia may be caused by: 

  • Abnormalities in the brainstem, which controls breathing during sleep
  • Abnormalities in the central nervous system
  • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety or stress
  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea 
What are the Causes of Catathrenia


    Catathrenia is a rare condition, and it can be challenging to diagnose. The disorder is often mistaken for other sleep disorders, such as nightmares or sleep paralysis. 

    To diagnose catathrenia, your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam and review your medical history. They may also order a sleep study to rule out other sleep disorders. A sleep study involves spending the night in a sleep lab so that your sleep can be monitored.

    Documentation of symptoms: Your doctor will document your symptoms, including the frequency and intensity of groaning and any additional secondary features such as daytime tiredness or decreased attention.

    Physical exam: A general physical examination will most certainly include an evaluation of your nose, mouth, and throat cavities for any obstructions to breathing. It may also entail using a radiology technique to create a clearer picture of your internal structure.

    Questioning an observer: When you groan, it's usually due to discomfort or pain. Your doctor may request your spouse or another knowledgeable witness who has been kept awake by your sleeping as soon as possible after you've awoken.

    Sleep study: You may be required to undergo a sleep study if your problems are severe. During rest, your groaning and other physiological activities will be tracked and recorded. Sleep studies are usually done at home or in specialized medical centres.


    Many procedures have been able to minimize or eliminate nighttime groaning. Medical devices, operations, and other treatments are all used by those with catathrenia. 

    People who suffer from catathrenia frequently use a variety of therapies to combat symptoms of the condition.

    Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy

    A CPAP machine, which is often used to treat people who have sleep apnea, is a typical type of therapy. The medical device sends pressurized air through a mask you wear as you sleep. 

    This approach ensures that your windpipe remains open throughout the night and prevents the airway from collapsing.

    CPAP is a successful therapy for individuals who experience nocturnal stridor. CPAP usage in these situations has also been proved to help people become more alert during the day.

    Oral Appliances

    Catathrenia can be treated with oral appliances worn at night and resemble retainer teeth. These goods are only worn at night and resemble a retainer. The oral appliances' job is to keep the top airway open.

    Tonsillectomy and Adenotonsillectomy

    Another alternative to treating nighttime groaning is the tonsillectomy, or removal of both the tonsils and adenoids, known as an adenotonsillectomy.

    Case studies suggest that these operations may help to cure snoring. 

    Researchers note that when a gadget like a CPAP machine or a mouth device is used, the therapy is more successful.

    Some of the lifestyle changes can also help with Catathrenia, such as:

    • Practising good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine before bed
    • Reducing stress with relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation
    • Exercising regularly 

    In some cases, medications, such as sedatives or antidepressants, may be prescribed to help relieve symptoms. Surgery is not typically recommended for catathrenia. 


    There is no known way to prevent catathrenia. However, you can reduce your risk of the condition by practising good sleep hygiene and managing stress. 

    If you think you may have catathrenia, it's essential to see your doctor so that the condition can be appropriately diagnosed and treated. 

    Left untreated, catathrenia can lead to sleep disruption and daytime fatigue. 


    Tips for Living with Catathrenia

    The cause of catathrenia is unknown, and there has been limited research on the subject. 

    Because catathrenia is not a particularly dangerous condition or linked to the development of more severe health issues, there has been little study in this area.

    Here are some suggestions for assisting bed partners in coping with catathrenia. These include:

    1. Don't be alarmed: Catathrenia is entirely harmless.
    2. Listen: Catathrenia might hide other issues, such as apnea. On the exhalation, groaning is observed; there are few nighttime awakenings, and the individual will generally feel refreshed upon waking up. Examine for additional odd noises, such as wheezing, gasping on inspiration, or excessive snoring, as the sign of Catathrenia
    3. A fan or a humidifier might be used to drown out some of the groaning noise.
    4. Earplugs: If the groaning is minor, they can help.
    5. Seek Medical Attention: If nothing else works, see a doctor or a sleep expert, get an evaluation or possibly take CPAP therapy.

    When Should I Consult my doctor?

    The condition is frequently misdiagnosed, as people with nighttime groaning are unaware that they have it. 

    Instead, a family member or sleep partner may inform them of the noises they make while sleeping. Contact your doctor if you make night waking sounds that are distressing to those near you or if you experience other symptoms such as disrupted sleep and tiredness.

    If you can, take notes about the groaning noises and your symptoms and observations. 

    These notes might help your doctor understand what you're going through better. Your healthcare professional may be able to rule out other similar sleeping disorders, such as sleep talking and snoring, based on your reports.

    Polysomnography, or a sleep test, is used to diagnose catathrenia. If you experience nocturnal rumbling, your sleep test may reveal breathing problems and restricted airflow. 

    Your doctor may also conduct a physical examination of your head, neck, jaw, and tonsils to look for indicators of nocturnal groaning.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is catathrenia dangerous?

    No. Catathrenia is not dangerous and will not lead to other health issues. The main concern with catathrenia is its noise, which can be disruptive for both the person with the condition and their sleep partner.

    Is catathrenia common?

    The prevalence of catathrenia is unknown as it is often undiagnosed. Studies suggest that the condition may be more common in women than men.

    What is the difference between catathrenia and sleep apnea?

    While both conditions involve disruptions to breathing during sleep, there are some key differences. Catathrenia occurs when exhaling, while sleep apnea occurs when inhaling. 

    Additionally, people with catathrenia generally feel well-rested upon waking, while people with sleep apnea often feel tired during the day.


    Catathrenia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by groaning noises during exhalation. 

    The condition is not dangerous but can be disruptive for both the person with the condition and their sleep partner. 

    There is no known cure for catathrenia, but some lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency and intensity of the groaning noise. 

    If the condition disrupts your sleep or daily life, consult your doctor for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.

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