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Somniloquy: Facts and Information about Sleep Talking

Sleep talking Facts Header

Somniloquy, or sleep talking, is a non-rapid eye movement parasomnia that consists of the production of sounds or speech while asleep without the person being aware. It can occur at any point during the sleep cycle and the lighter the sleep, the easier it is to understand. Most people who talk in their sleep are not aware of the fact unless they are told by another person. Causes of sleep talking can ranged from anxiety disorders to fevers. In most cases, sleep talking is not a serious problem and can usually be resolved over time.

What is Sleep Talking?

Close Up of Sleeping Womans Lips

Sleep talking is a type of abnormal behavior that occurs during sleep. It’s very common, especially in young children, and is usually not considered a medical problem. Sleep talking may consist of just a few brief words or can involve a long, drawn-out speech. Conversations carried on by the sleep talker may sound like a whisper, mumbles or can be shouting. Sleep talkers may appear to be talking to themselves or seem like they are carrying on a conversation with another person. Due to these circumstances, sharing a bedroom with a sleep talker can be difficult.

Who Talks in Their Sleep?

Many people, both children and adults, talk in their sleep. Nearly 50 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 10 years of age carry on conversations during sleep. Only 5 percent of adults have conversations while asleep. These late-night talk sessions can occur every night or just on occasion. In a 2004 poll, results showed that approximately 1 in 10 children talk in their sleep more than once a week. Some experts believe that sleep talking may be genetic and run in families.

What are the Symptoms of Talking in Your Sleep?

While it’s hard to tell if you are talking in your sleep, others may be able to tell you. Sleep talkers may hear others complain about keeping them up all night with their chatter. Depending on the volume of your sleep talking, someone in the same room or even the room across the hall may hear your talking, grunting or other common noises made during sleep. Individuals can make a definite diagnosis of their condition by recording their sleep session and playing it back for signs of unusual talking or sounds.

What Causes Sleep Talking?

According to many scientists, sleep talking is not linked to dreaming or nightmares. It can occur outside of dream-state in any stage of sleep. While sleep talking is not dangerous in most cases, it can be a sign of a more serious health condition or sleeping disorder. Sleep talking can occur in individuals with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), sleep terrors, sleepwalking and nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder. Other potential causes of sleep talking include emotional stress, certain medications, mental health condition, fever and substance abuse.

How can Someone Reduce His or Her Amount of Sleep Talking?

There is no known way to prevent sleep taking from occurring, but there are ways to reduce it. Sleep talkers should get plenty of sleep and maintain a routine sleep schedule to avoid exhaustion. They should also avoid stress as this can be a trigger. Consider keeping a sleep diary to help identify sleep patterns. This information could help your doctor find the underlying cause to your sleep talking if there is one. In the diary, note the time you go to sleep and the time you wake up, medications that you take and what time of the day you take them, when you exercise, and what you drink each day, such as caffeinated beverages or alcohol.

How Closely Related is it to REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) or Sleep Terrors and what are the Differences between Each?

Sleep terrors and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) are types of sleeping disorders that can result in shouting while asleep. Individuals who have RBD may shout, yell, grunt or may act out their dreams violently. Sleep terrors, also referred to as night terrors; typically involve kicking, trashing and frightening screaming. The individual experiencing the night terror may seem awake, but in reality they are not. Many children with sleep terrors often sleepwalk or sleep talk. Each of these conditions may feature spurts of sleep talking.

Other Links and Resources

  • Stanford University – Sleep Talking (Somniloquy)
  • Raising Children Network – Sleep Talking in Children
  • Parenting and Child Health – Sleep Walking and Talking
  • Sleep Education – Sleep Talking
  • Winthrop University Hospital – Common Sleep Disorders
  • Adler And Sullivan Fragments
  • Healthism – Talking In Your Sleep: Causes and Solutions
  • Sleepdex - Somniloquy
  • Awake Man with pillow Around Ears
  • Virtual Sleep – Talking In Your Sleep
  • Queensland Sleep Disorder Unit – Sleep Talking
  • Stress and Sleep Talking
  • Other Sleep Disorders
  • Ask an Expert: Sleep Talking

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