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A Guide to Sleep Talking: Symptoms and Causes

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Did any of your friends, siblings, or parents tell you that you talk during your sleep? Ah, well nothing to be embarrassed of because you are not alone in this. Sleep talking is quite normal and in fact, most individuals would have spoken out loud in their sleep at some point in their lives.

This may be even underestimated, because most of the time, people don’t realise that they are actually doing it, until someone tells them the other day or wakes them up to explain things.

Though it is common for humans to experience a few episodes of sleep talking in their lifetime, too much of it isn’t normal. On that note, let’s understand what this condition is all about is all about, its symptoms, causes, treatment, and much more.

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What is Sleep Talking?

The scientific terminology of sleep talking is somniloquy, a type of parasomnia where an individual talks during his or her sleep without realising about it.

Unlike other parasomnias, which happen only in certain parts during the sleep cycle, on the other hand, sleep talking occurs during any one of these two:

  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep
  • Non-REM sleep

Often, sleep talking is distinct from vocalizations, which may occur during your sleep and a good example of this is catathrenia1, a breathing disorder which causes RBD (REM sleep behavior disorder) and audible groaning. It also involves the person to physically act out his or her dreams.

Talking in the sleep can involve from complicated monologues or dialogues to complete mumbling or gibberish. Mostly, it is a short-lived and rare occurrence.

It is a common occurrence and isn’t a serious medical problem. Usually, the nighttime chatters are harmless. Sleep talkers generally are seen speaking for not more than 30-40 seconds in each episode. However, in some cases, some people may talk longer than this.

These late-night diatribes can be eloquent, mumbling, and sometimes, the words may be difficult to decipher. It can involve either simple, small sounds or involved, long speeches.

Typically, sleep talkers talk to themselves but there can be times when they carry on their conversations with someone else. They might even shout, scream, or whisper. Now, if you share your bedroom with someone who is a sleep talker, then you know what we are talking about.

sleep talking

Symptoms of Sleep Talking

Seep-talkers mostly speak either gibberish or in an understandable language or voice. The symptoms include:

  • Calling out someone
  • Talking-out loud
  • Mumbling
  • Moaning
  • Utterances
  • Whispering

Causes of Sleep Talking

Though medical experts aren’t 100% sure why people talk during their sleep, there are studies claiming that it might have genetics linked to it. In short, it may run in the families.

Interestingly, this condition is also reported to co-occur often with teeth grinding, nightmares, and sleepwalking in both adults and children. All of these might share a genetic relationship. However, more research is required to better comprehend these possible connections.

If this research paper is to be considered, sleep talking occurs more frequently in individuals with mental disorders. In fact, it occurs frequently in individuals with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But this isn’t the case always, as most of these cases cases aren’t thought to be associated with any mental illness. So it’s just a possibility.

Besides the above, here are a few more causes that can trigger one to sleep talk:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Emotional disturbances Use of drugs & alcohol
  • Stress and fever
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Certain medications

In addition, this is also seen along with other sleep disorders, particularly:

  • Sleep apnea
  • REM behavior disorder
  • Parasomnias (example: confusional arousals, night terrors, sleepwalking)

Sleep talking, which begins spontaneously after 25 years of age is mostly seen with other psychiatric or medical issues. If the case is severe, sleep talking might be linked with nocturnal seizures.

Duration, Stages, and Severity of Sleep Talking

The concept of somniloquy can be better understood if you consider all these 3 aspects together:

1. Duration of Sleep Talking: The Criteria

Acute: This is the stage when sleep talking occurs for either 1 month or lesser.
Subacute: This is the sage when it happens for over 1 month but not more than 1 year.
Chronic: This is the stage when it continues either for 1 year or longer.

2. Different Stages of Sleep Talking

Stage 1 and 2: These are stages when a sleep talker isn’t in a deep sleep when compared to a sleep talker in the stage 3 and 4. During this phase, the words used by the person speaking in his or her sleep can be easily understood and can make sense at times.
Stage 3 and 4: These are stages when a sleep talker experiences an episode in his or her deep sleep. This is also the stage where speech is pretty hard to process or understand because most of the time, it sounds moaning or gibberish.

3. Severity Levels of Sleep Talking

Mild: In this level, it tends to occur either once or a couple of times per month.
Moderate: Here, sleep talking can occur either one time or two times per week but not each night.
Severe: In this level, sleep talking can occur every night and might trouble others who are sharing the same room.

Treatment for Sleep Talking

Once someone tells you that you are sleep talking in excess or you realise it all by yourself, consulting a good sleep specialist is crucial. This is particularly true if you are experiencing multiple episodes of it in your adulthood, there are violent actions and intense fear, or your unconscious moaning or mumbling is disturbing others sleeping beside you.

If your kids experience these issues, talk to a paediatrician. But there aren’t any tests to identify this habit. A specialist might order tests to examine your sleep study (often a polysomnogram where they record your sleep) if he or she feels that you might be suffering from other sleep disorders.

Note: There aren’t any treatments for the condition. However, a sleep expert can advise you to manage some conditions in order to lessen it. Now, if you really feel that your sleep talks is bothering someone sharing your room, you need to work on a few things, which include:

  • Don’t consume alcohol or drugs.
  • Don’t have heavy meals right before your bedtime.
  • Maintain a strict bedtime habit. This means sleep and wake up on time.
  • Don’t watch any horror movies before your bedtime, as this can trigger sleep terror.
  • Ensure that your bedroom’s ambiance is peaceful.
  • Ensure that you get proper sleep because a sleeptalker usually talks during sleep when he or she isn’t well-rested.
  • Reduce your stress and anxiety levels because they aggravate the severity of sleep talking.
  • Practice yoga every day to ensure you have a peace of mind, which in turn, helps you to sleep better.

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Ergo therapist, paediatric and sleep consultant certified for adults, Reiki practitioner and massage instructor.
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Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

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Sleep Coach

Authored by healh experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

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Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians