Ask SleepBetter: Making Noises in Your Sleep

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is about noises in the night:

“I was wondering if you could tell me why after having my fourth child who is 3 months old now, I constantly wake myself up with a short “Mmm” noise after dozing off.  I’ve never done this before but my partner says I have been doing it quite regularly.”
-Bec (via Facebook)

We urge you to discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible.  What your describing could be a sign of sleep apnea.

Several types of sleep apnea exist, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. The most noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring, but can also be grunting or involuntarily making noises just before waking in the night.  We found this great description of what you might be experiencing on the Winthrop University Hospital website:

As the patient’s snoring grows louder, it builds to a crescendo and is followed by silence, which signals that breathing has stopped. Eventually, the patient resumes breathing, often with a noisy grunt or deep guttural breath. The silent periods are called apneas. Patients can have dozens of apneas an hour. Each time, the brain sends a powerful signal to resume breathing. The generation of this signal to resume breathing fractures sleep and interrupts restful restorative sleep, leading to severe tiredness and daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is often associated with the need to take naps, which are not very helpful because the patient experiences the same symptoms during the naps. 

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although it most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight.  While we certainly don’t know your situation, many woman at least temporarily gain weight from pregnancy.  Sleep apnea can lead to a number of health problems, and can be fatal.

Again, please visit your doctor and discuss this situation with him or her as soon as possible.  Your doctor may suggest visiting a sleep specialist and/or participating in a sleep study to get a full diagnosis.

Do you have a question for Ask SleepBetter?  You can send us a note through ourcontact form, or simply post it on the SleepBetter Facebook Page.