Groaning in Your Sleep – Can it be Harmful?

Do you find it nearly impossible to get a good night of sleep? Do you feel more tired when you wake up than when you went to sleep? Are you tossing and turning all night, just to wake up feeling exhausted? The truth is that there may be more to sleep problems such this than it seems. You may not be getting enough sleep because you are actually suffering from sort of sleep condition — something most of us don’t want to admit, but is more common than you might realize.

In many cases, snoring is to blame for poor sleep quality and it may be related to a condition known as sleep apnea. If none of these is to blame, however, it could be something else – a little known condition, sleep groaning, may actually be what is causing you to suffer from many sleepless nights. This isn’t as well known or understood, but recent studies and news point to this as a common culprit.

It’s Something To Pay Close Attention To

Sleep groaning is not regular old snoring — it involves making noises in your sleep you can’t control. You are unlikely to have any recollection of these noises or the groaning you are doing in your sleep. Your partner may notice, however, that you make these noises even in the deepest part of your sleep. This is often how a diagnosis happens since you may not notice it in yourself unless you happen to wake up while you are making these noises.

The official name of this condition is catathrenia [1] and you need to be aware of what it is all about. It may not end up being a major health condition or issue on its own. If it is waking you from your sleep, if it is happening in conjunction with snoring, or if it is causing you to temporarily stop breathing, then this is where the concern lies. You want to learn more about the condition if you have concerns with your sleep pattern. Know that it may very well be nothing to worry about, but also be aware of any and all disruptions to your sleep such as sleep groaning.

It’s Often Misunderstood or Mistaken for Something Else

Herein lies the biggest problem with catathrenia or sleep groaning — it is so often mistaken for something else. You might think that it’s just snoring or even talking in your sleep. If you do happen to wake up and hear yourself groaning, it’s easy to dismiss as part of a dream. Even if your partner hears you making these noises, they would have to hear them consistently for a long period of time to decipher the difference.

Diagnosis is most likely to happen if you go to a sleep clinic or if you keep a record of what is going on. The fact that this happens when you are in a deep sleep certainly doesn’t help either – you may be so out of it that you aren’t aware it’s even happening. So, how can you get a proper diagnosis? How can you be sure of what’s going on? Better yet, how can you tell if it is in fact sleep groaning and not just a noise you sometimes make in your sleep? Let’s start by looking at exactly what sleep groaning is, as this is really rather new information to so many of us.

What’s the Difference Between Snoring and Groaning in Your Sleep?

Sleep groaning falls under the category of parasomnia[2] which basically means unwanted behaviors, thoughts, or actions that happen while you are asleep. These can happen at any time during your sleep cycle, or may even happen as you are just falling asleep or just waking up. This category even covers night terrors and sleep walking and talking. So we’re dealing with a rather large category here.

The difference between sleep groaning and snoring is the cause. Snoring happens as you inhale. Again, this is all happening subconsciously, but when you breathe in during sleep this is the point at which snoring occurs. With sleep groaning however, it is just the opposite.

When you groan in your sleep, it is happening during the time at which you breathe out or exhale. That may not sound like a big difference, but it can be during your sleep cycle. Just one groan in your sleep can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, which is considerable. It’s not that you stop breathing, but rather that as you breathe out you let out this groan. Innocent enough, right? It may be or it may be a bigger indicator of your overall health if it is happening often.

Potential Causes and Contributing Factors

There are a few things that may contribute to sleep groaning, though some of this is still being studied. Sleep groaning as we know it is a relatively new health condition so that means there is still more information needed. Some health experts believe that those with facial abnormalities may be more susceptible to sleep groaning. This is due to the fact that the structure of the upper airway may influence how you exhale, and thus may make noises like groaning much more likely.

It is believed too that stress may contribute to sleep groaning. This is part of a newer study, but the information is starting to come together. When you are under stress it may influence your breathing, particularly your exhaling. Therefore when you breathe out, you may subconsciously groan during these stressful times.

Excess tissue in the upper airways may play a role in sleep groaning, just as it does in snoring. This is quite common in men and therefore you tend to see more men that snore as well as sleep groan. You don’t obviously know about this issue until you find out that you are somebody who snores or groans in your sleep. This can help to explain why more men suffer from the condition, particularly if there are other things at play at the same time.

It’s Something to Keep an Eye On

The reality is that sleep groaning is nothing that can lead to a dire health situation. Though it can be frustrating and interrupt your sleep, it is not necessarily a problematic health condition. Not only that, but it may very well go undiagnosed. You want to be aware of it if the pattern exists and try to keep record of when it is happening.

The most likely side effect from sleep groaning is interrupted or restless sleep. That means that you aren’t going to wake up refreshed. In the short term that may mean a weakened immune system, but that’s about it. If you suffer from sleep deprivation in the long term it could negatively impact your health, but that’s in the more extreme cases.

Summary: What Should You Do Now?

If you find that you are suffering from sleep groaning or you suspect that you are, you should get evaluated. Talk to your doctor and see if there is a sleep clinic you can get an analysis from. You want to see if you also suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, for both can be something more serious that you want to pay attention to. Sleep groaning may be fairly harmless, but you always want to get evaluated just to be sure and be proactive in working through your sleep issues.

Action Steps: Tips for Treating Sleep Groaning

  1. Take notice if you are consistently getting a restless night of sleep
  2. Try to take note of signs of groaning when you wake up or see if your partner notices
  3. Write down any patterns that may be obvious
  4. Talk to your doctor and see if you can work with a sleep clinic to be evaluated

groaning in sleep title card

Though sleep groaning isn’t something detrimental to your overall health, it is certainly something to be aware of. Since it is in the news lately and there are studies being done, this is obviously a rather common sleep behavior. Know that this is something that you can likely stay ahead of and that it will not interfere with your good health.

Always be on the lookout though for long term interrupted nights of sleep and see how you can work through them. Sleep is such an important part of your lifestyle, so be sure that you make it a priority and work to protect it each night.


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