Do you talk in your sleep or know someone who does? It can be disturbing on both sides, either to find out that you’ve said some crazy things overnight or to wake up and hear someone else talking in their sleep.
Sleep talking can be unsettling, but it isn’t dangerous. If you talk in your sleep or love someone who does, here’s what you should know.
The Symptoms of Sleep Talking
Sleep talking, or somniloquy, can involve outbursts, incoherent mumbling, conversations, monologues, and more. The key is that the person doing the talking does not know that they are talking. A sleep talker may even sound different when they are talking in their sleep – they may use different vocabulary, have a different accent, or even speak in a different language (provided they have learned it while awake).
People who talk in their sleep can do it with varying degrees of severity.
|Mild||Episodes are sporadic, less than once a week.|
|Moderate||Episodes occur at least once a week, but less than once a night and only mildly disturb a bed partner.|
|Severe||Episodes occur at least once a night and/or cause major sleep disruption for a bed partner.|
Sleep talking can come on suddenly, triggered by a life event or change, or it can be a lifelong issue. Acute somniloquy has been happening for a month or less. Subacute patients have been talking in their sleep for longer than a month but less than a year. Chronic sleep talking happens when patients regularly talk in their sleep for more than a year.
It’s important for partners and parents to know that sleep talking can occur at any stage of sleep. The lighter the stage, the easier it will be to understand the speech. People who sleep talk in stages 1 and 2 of sleep are fairly intelligible and may even carry on conversations while asleep. Those who sleep talk in stages 3 and 4 of sleep are more likely to mumble or make very little sense.
Sleep talking tends to occur alongside other sleep conditions, like sleepwalking and night terrors.
The Causes of Sleep Talking
Sleep talking, though not well understood by scientists, does follow a few patterns. It seems to run in families, which indicates some sort of genetic cause or connection.
However, the amount that a sleep talker talks seems to be tied to some other conditions. Things like stress, drowsiness, sleep deprivation, fever, and alcohol consumption all make a person more likely to talk in their sleep.
Somniloquy can also be tied to some physical and mental illnesses. Depressed people are more likely to sleep talk, as are folks with some other psychiatric diagnoses. Occasionally, people having nocturnal seizures will suddenly start talking in their sleep, too. This sort of sudden-onset sleep talking is most common in adults over the age of 25.
Treatment for Sleep Talking
There is not much known about treating somniloquy because treatment isn’t usually necessary. Even when it happens regularly, sleep talking doesn’t often disturb the sleep of either the talker or their partner.
If you have talked in your sleep for a long time or it is disturbing your partner, try cleaning up your sleep hygiene. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, do your best to go to sleep and get up at the same times every day, and make sure your room and your bed are comfortable places to rest.
You can also track things like alcohol consumption and stress levels to see if you are more likely to talk in your sleep when you drink or when you’re stressed. This can help you manage the disorder in the future, simply by keeping these things in check.
If you can’t find a solution that works for you and your partner, talk to your doctor. There may be an underlying cause of your somniloquy, like sleep apnea. Treating this could make your sleep talking episodes less frequent and less severe.
If you don’t like your sleep talking, you don’t have to live with it. Take these steps today to understand the disorder and decide on the solution that’s best for you.