Why Catathrenia Isn’t Taken as Seriously as Other Sleeping Disorders

The diagnosing and treating of sleep disorders have increased significantly in recent years. It’s not necessarily a case of people sleeping any worse than they have for decades, but more a result of attention finally being paid to these serious medical conditions.

Of course, some sleep disorders have received far more attention than others. And one condition in particular, catathrenia, has not been as closely examined or taken as seriously as perhaps it should be. So, why has that been the case?

Unfairly Connected to Sleep Apnea
As a parasomnia condition, catathrenia is often lumped in with conditions like sleep apnea. However, the conditions are distinct from one another. A person with this will take a deep breath, hold it for up to thirty seconds, and then groan or make a high-pitched squeak as they exhale. Many people will confuse the sound with snoring. However, snoring is done by sleepers while they are inhaling. With this sleep disorder, the groaning sound is made while the person exhales and follows an overt delay after they inhaled their breath.

Medical professionals will sometimes see this condition as being similar to sleep apnea. They will even offer the same treatment as sleep apnea, which is usually the use of a CPAP machine. CPAP can be an effective treatment, but that doesn’t mean the condition is the same as sleep apnea. There has been no direct medical connection made between catathrenia and sleep apnea, despite the former being so closely associated with the latter.

Not a Life-Threatening Condition
Another reason why little attention is paid to catathrenia is that it’s not considered a life-threatening condition. While serious cases of sleep apnea can cause severe damage to a person’s health and potentially cause death, everything we know indicates that it results in minimal amounts of oxygen desaturation. In short, no one’s going to die because from the aforementioned disorder, and therefore, there is little urgency to study it further.

With that being said, the condition is not without symptoms and side effects. People with this disorder have been known to suffer from sore throats, fatigue, and dizziness. The groaning and other sounds they make can also be disturbing to their partners who may be sharing a bed with them. While those are not major consequences of living with it, the condition can indirectly create problems in a person’s social and professional life if their sleep or the sleep of those close to them is negatively affected on a regular basis.

Many Theories but Few Facts
It’s also easy to ignore catathrenia compared to other sleep disorders because there is so little concrete information about the disease. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence and a wide-array of theories that help us to shed light to some extent. However, there is little we can do about the condition with a high degree of certainty.

For instance, there is some evidence to suggest that it’s a psychological condition that’s linked to stress and anxiety. Some have also reported catathrenia accompanying stressful dreams. Other studies have found a loose connection between catathrenia and athletes who regularly hold their breath while training and competing, such as weightlifters and swimmers. There is also speculation that people with small jaws are more likely to experience it. This theory had created a connection between the disorder and people who may have needed orthodontic work or teeth extractions when they were younger.

Some have even suggested that certain medications cause catathrenia. But the truth is that there’s little that we know for sure because there are so few medical professionals and sleep disorder experts who take the condition seriously enough to inspire serious studies.

3 Replies to “Why Catathrenia Isn’t Taken as Seriously as Other Sleeping Disorders”

  1. I have suffered from this condition for the last ten years and it has been hellish! I often wake up with a dry and sore throat. I haven’t heard the sound myself, but it has been described to me as a very loud groan that can be heard way beyond my bedroom. Only two (yes TWO!) people have mentioned it and always with anger or derision. They cannot believe that I do not do it consciously or deliberately! There has been banging on walls/ceilings/floors depending on where I was sleeping. The shocks of being woken this way, sometimes several times a night, have almost turned me into a nervous wreck. My choice of places to sleep or live is very limited because of this. Sudden noises even when I’m awake and at work, make my heart jump into my mouth. I’m surprised I haven’t had a stroke or a heart attack! I’ve taken to drinking for oblivion as my way of coping. I’m trying to find a solution and hope to do so soon!

  2. Steve, I totally relate. I have had this since the age of 10 and didn’t even know there was a name for it. I have always been diagnosed with sleep apnea even though I described my problem as taking a deep breath and holding it for a long time (one girlfriend actually measured it) and then I squeak, which is totally irritating to anyone nearby. I am both a swimmer and a weightlifter, so I guess there is some truth to the anecdotal evidence about the association. I am going to try CPAP again…hopefully the technology has improved since I last tried it.

  3. Hi,
    My Symptoms are exactly the same as Mark describes and have on occasion heard the squeaking noise just as it nears the end of my breath holding, it has woken me up, although possibly my wife giving me a dig to wake up. I have had it for at least 10 years but was told its not Sleep Apnea. Has anyone tried sleeping upright or at a sharper angle, is there any other remedies that folks have tried to help the situation.
    I have not noticed any sleepiness , dry throats or dizziness during the day as some have suggested..

    Any help greatly appreciated, especially by my wife.

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