Why Do I Moan In My Sleep When I’m Sick?

We’ve all been there. You’re feeling under the weather, you’ve finally managed to doze off, and then it starts. A strange sound, akin to a moan, escapes your lips. If you’ve ever wondered, “why do I moan in my sleep when I’m sick?” you’re not alone. This article will delve into the reasons behind these nocturnal noises, from parasomnias to the body’s response to illness.

Unraveling Parasomnias: An Overview

What are Parasomnias? Parasomnias are unusual behaviors that occur just before falling asleep, during sleep, or when waking up. They include a wide range of phenomena, from sleep talking and sleepwalking to more rare conditions like catathrenia, or sleep groaning.

Why Do I Moan In My Sleep When I’m Sick? | Parasomnias Happen During This Sleep Stage

While parasomnias can occur at any stage of sleep, many are associated with the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. It is the stage when dreaming occurs, and the brain is highly active. However, other parasomnias, such as sleepwalking or night terrors, are more likely to occur during non-REM sleep.

Catathrenia: What Are The Symptoms?

Catathrenia, or sleep-related groaning, is a rare parasomnia. It involves making groaning noises while exhaling during sleep. Symptoms typically include:

  • Groaning noises that occur on exhalation, are often described as a prolonged “moan” or “hum.”
  • Groaning episodes can last up to 40 seconds, often occurring in clusters throughout the night.
  • No memory of groaning upon waking.

Interestingly, catathrenia is often reported by the person’s bed partner, as the individual is usually unaware of their nocturnal noises.

Groaning in Sleep with Cold: A Common Experience

When you’re sick, especially with a cold, your body is working overtime to fight off infection. It can lead to discomfort and changes in your normal sleep patterns. If you’ve noticed you’re groaning in your sleep when you have a cold, there are a few potential reasons:

  1. Congestion: Nasal congestion can change your breathing patterns during sleep, potentially leading to unusual noises.
  2. Discomfort: The general discomfort of being ill can disturb your sleep, possibly triggering parasomnias like catathrenia.

If your groaning is accompanied by other symptoms like trouble breathing, severe sore throat, or high fever, it’s important to seek medical attention. For more information on the impact of colds on sleep, check out this comprehensive guide by the Sleep Foundation.

How to Stop Groaning in Your Sleep

If you’re wondering how to prevent groaning in your sleep, consider the following strategies:

  1. Maintain good sleep hygiene: This involves following a regular sleep schedule, keeping your sleep environment comfortable, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime.
  2. Manage stress: High-stress levels can contribute to parasomnias. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help manage stress.
  3. Consult a healthcare professional: If your sleep groaning is causing significant disruption or distress, a healthcare professional can help identify any underlying issues and suggest appropriate treatments.

Involuntary Moan While Falling Asleep: What’s Happening?

An uncontrollable moan while falling asleep can be a sign of parasomnia, such as catathrenia. It can also be related to hypnagogic jerks, sudden movements, or sensations just as you fall asleep. Hypnagogic jerks are often accompanied by a sensation of falling or a sudden startle, and may be associated with noises such as a moan or gasp.

What Does Involuntary Moaning Mean?

Involuntary moaning, especially during sleep, can be a symptom of several conditions or phenomena. Here are some possibilities:

  1. Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing stops and starts during sleep. It can often result in loud snoring or choking sounds, which could be mistaken for moaning.
  2. Parasomnias: Parasomnias are unusual behaviors that occur before falling asleep, during sleep, or when waking up. One such parasomnia is catathrenia, or sleep-related groaning, which involves making groaning noises while exhaling during sleep.
  3. Illness or Fever: When you’re sick, especially with a fever, you may moan in your sleep due to discomfort or difficulty breathing.
  4. Pain or Discomfort: If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, you might moan without realizing it, even during sleep. It is your body’s response to discomfort.
  5. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: This sleep disorder causes intense dreaming and muscle activity during REM sleep, which might include moaning.

If you or a loved one notice frequent involuntary moaning during sleep, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider. It is especially important if the moaning is accompanied by other symptoms like gasping for air, snoring loudly, or experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, as these could be signs of a more serious condition like sleep apnea.

Why Do I Make Humming Noises in My Sleep?

Similar to moaning, making humming noises in your sleep could be a sign of catathrenia or other parasomnias. It could also be related to snoring, especially if you’re congested or have other conditions that affect your breathing during sleep, such as sleep apnea. If you or your bed partner notice regular humming noises during sleep, it’s worth discussing with a healthcare provider.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. There are three main types: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. The most common form, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway during sleep. Symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Treatment options range from lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and avoiding alcohol, to using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices or undergoing surgery.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a neurological disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, usually accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. These symptoms often worsen during periods of rest, particularly at night, and can severely disrupt sleep. The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but it is believed to involve an imbalance of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate movement. Treatment options include medications, iron supplementation, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and relaxation techniques.


Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that involves difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early without being able to return to sleep. It can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and can have various causes, including stress, medical conditions, and poor sleep habits. Treatment for insomnia often includes cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), sleep hygiene improvements, and, in some cases, medications. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding caffeine and creating a relaxing bedtime routine, can also help manage insomnia.


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden sleep attacks. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone), sleep paralysis, and vivid hallucinations during the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Narcolepsy is thought to be caused by a deficiency of the neurotransmitter hypocretin, which plays a crucial role in regulating wakefulness. Treatment for narcolepsy typically involves medications, such as stimulants and antidepressants, along with lifestyle changes to improve sleep hygiene and manage daytime sleepiness.

The Impact of Diet on Sleep

Diet can play a significant role in sleep quality. Consuming a balanced diet rich in nutrients is essential for maintaining good sleep health. Some dietary factors that can influence sleep include:

  1. Tryptophan: This amino acid is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, both of which are important for sleep regulation. Foods high in tryptophan, such as turkey, milk, and bananas, may promote sleepiness.
  2. Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that helps regulate sleep, and a deficiency can lead to insomnia. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables.
  3. Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and chocolate that can disrupt sleep, especially when consumed close to bedtime.
  4. Alcohol: While alcohol might make you feel drowsy initially, it can lead to poor sleep quality, frequent awakenings, and reduced REM sleep.
  5. Heavy meals: Eating large, heavy meals close to bedtime can cause discomfort and make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, opt for a lighter meal and give yourself enough time to digest before heading to bed.

Incorporating a healthy, balanced diet and being mindful of food choices before bedtime can help improve sleep quality and overall health.

Moaning in Sleep During COVID-19

COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to our sleep. Many people have reported changes in their sleep patterns, including increased instances of parasomnias. Moaning in sleep during COVID-19 could be related to general illness discomfort or increased stress and anxiety, both common during these trying times.

If you’re sick with COVID-19 and notice significant changes in your sleep, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare professional. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides resources for managing stress during the pandemic.

In conclusion, if you’re wondering, “why do I moan in my sleep when I’m sick,” it’s likely due to factors related to being ill and potential sleep disturbances like parasomnias. Remember, while this article provides a comprehensive overview, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional if you’re concerned about your sleep health.