Nocturnal moaning and groaning - Catathrenia or nocturnal vocalizations

Adnan A. Abbasi, Timothy I. Morgenthaler, Nancy L. Slocumb, Maja Tippmann-Peikert, Eric J. Olson, Kannan Ramar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Descriptions of nocturnal vocalizations, including catathrenia, are few. We undertook a study at our center on patients diagnosed with catathrenia, to evaluate the characteristic features of these events and their response to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. Methods: Retrospective study of patients with a diagnosis of catathrenia who had an overnight polysomnogram (PSG) and available synchronized audio video recordings (to confirm the presence of moaning and groaning), at our center between January 2007 and May 2010. Result: Ten patients were included in the analysis. Three (30%) patients presented with the chief complaint of expiratory noises during sleep. The other moaning/groaning sounds were incidental findings noted by the sleep technologist and/or the sleep physician. The number of moaning/groaning events during PSG varied between 2 and 343 per patient with sound duration ranging from 0.4 to 21.4 s. Moaning/groaning events during exhalation (1,026 episodes) were separated into typical catathrenia events (as per the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 2nd edition [ICSD-2] definition) and atypical/nocturnal vocalization events (moaning/groaning events that did not meet the ICSD-2 criteria). Typical catathrenia events (5% or 52/1,026) were experienced by five of the ten patients and had mean exhalation duration of 14.97±5.13 s (range 5.8-24 s) with a mean sound duration of 8.47±5.97 s (range 2-21.4 s). The typical and atypical events occurred predominantly in NREM sleep. Six of the ten patients had associated sleep-disordered breathing and four underwent CPAP titration. All four patients had significantly fewer events of moaning/groaning (mean reduction was 75.8±26.2%) with CPAP. Conclusion: New and unique features were identified in our series of patients diagnosed with catathrenia. Though all events had the characteristic moaning and groaning sound during exhalation, only a small percentage (5%) met the catathrenia definition as outlined in ICSD-2. Do we label the atypical events as part of the spectrum of nocturnal vocalizations or consider them as catathrenia by redefining the criteria? CPAP appeared to be a reasonable treatment option.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-373
Number of pages7
JournalSleep and Breathing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Catathrenia
  • Continuous positive airway pressure
  • Nocturnal vocalization
  • Sleep-related groaning
  • Sleep-related moaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Clinical Neurology


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