Sleep Talking: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

sleep talking

Have you been told by your partner or housemates that you talk while you sleep? We know you’ll probably knock it down as a joke. They must be pulling your leg, right? You’re sleeping, how can you be talking! Well, maybe they’re not joking. 

Does your partner wake you up in the middle of the night having full-blown and incomprehensible conversations? You may turn and ask what the heck are they talking about?! What’s all the gibberish in the middle of the night about? But he or she is fast asleep and probably won’t even remember the incidence the next morning when you bring it up. 

Sleep talking, or somniloquy, is not a serious condition, but can sometimes disrupt sleep and cause sleep deprivation for the person that is sleep talking and also their partner. Sleep talkers can whisper soft words that last a few seconds to complete loud conversations that can last up to 30 seconds. It can, on top of the sleep deprivation, cause anxiety and embarrassment for the sleep talker. 

It’s important to know what causes sleep talking and what you can do about it if this is a regular occurrence in your house. 

Who Talks in Their Sleep?

Sleep talking can happen to practically anyone but is more frequent in young children and adult men. It also has a genetic component to it so your chances of chatting while asleep are greater if you have family members that are sleep talkers. Approximately half of children between the ages of 3 and 10 have regular episodes of sleep talking. Most of them tend to grow out of it with episodes getting rare as they age. 

“The condition is very prevalent: 17 percent of people report sleep talking in the last 3 months, and 66 percent report ever having talked in their sleep.” -National Sleep Foundation 

Causes of Sleep Talking

As mentioned above, there is a genetic factor associated with sleep talking. But there are other reasons that can bring on episodes of sleep talking even if no one else in your family exhibits signs of sleep talking.

Doctors aren’t fully aware of why some people sleep talk regularly. People don’t tend to seek medical attention for sleep talking since it isn’t a life-threatening condition and doesn’t normally interrupt productivity and day to day activities.

Some lifestyle habits or other medical conditions that can bring on sleep talking are

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Medications
  • Psychiatric disorders 

 Additionally, other types of sleep disorders can cause sleep talking in certain people such as: 

REM sleep behavior disorder and night terrors can cause a person to yell, shout and thrash around. This type of sleep talking is thought to be sometimes linked to the sleeper’s dreams.

Symptoms of Sleep Talking

Chances are you don’t even know you chat away in the night if you sleep alone and don't have any roommates. However you'll find out soon enough if you sleep talk once you have a roommate or a partner in bed.

It can be quite disturbing to hear your partner speak gibberish in the middle of the night. Your partner may try to understand what you are saying and will even try to wake you up and speak with you. Of course, you probably won’t remember any of this in the morning. 

There are usually no other symptoms apart from the jibber-jabber. However it can, in some rare cases, be accompanied by thrashing or physical outbursts.  

Sleep talking can occur in any stage of sleep. It can be very comprehensible conversations if it comes about during the lighter part of sleep (stages 1 and 2). It will probably be gibberish or moaning sounds if it happens during deep sleep (stages 3, 4, and 5). We would tend to believe that the words being uttered have some correlation with the dreams, but doctors seem to think that they are unrelated unless it’s linked with another sleep disorder.

It usually doesn’t harm the sleep talker’s health but can cause anxiety that can lead to insomnia. Imagine if you are afraid of going to sleep for fear of saying things while you sleep that are not meant to be heard by anyone! That may keep you awake and stressed. 

Over time, sleep deprivation can have consequences on a person’s life and relationships. Actually, sleep deprivation can aggravate sleep talking. Kind of a vicious cycle!

The severity of the sleep talking is measured by the frequency at which it happens.

  • Mild - The Sleep talking episodes are less than once a month.
  • Moderate - The sleep talking episodes happen about once a week. 
  • Severe - Sleep talking is considered severe when it occurs every night.

How to Stop Sleep Talking

There isn’t really any treatment for sleep talking, but some lifestyle changes and habits can possibly help diminish the episodes. 

Decrease alcohol and caffeine intake ☕

    Alcohol has a negative impact on our overall sleep. It can cause us to snore up a storm and even provoke episodes of sleep talking. Imagine the things you will say when sleep talking while drunk! 

    Diminish the alcoholic or caffeinated drinks several hours before going to sleep to get a good night’s sleep and to help keep at bay sleep talking occurrences.

    Keep a sleep diary 📝

      Over a 2-week period write down when you go to bed, when you wake up, what time you take your medications, what time you exercise, what you eat and at what time in the evening. Jot down everything and anything that you think may affect your sleep in any way. 

      This way you can analyze your lifestyle and maybe pinpoint things that you can change in order to get better sleep.

      This sleep diary may come in handy if you eventually need to see a doctor about your sleep disturbance.

      Reduce stress 🍃

        Stress is a big factor in most people’s lives today. We juggle so many responsibilities and life can get messy sometimes. Try to reduce stressful situations before bedtime and create a calm environment an hour before going to sleep. 

        Dim the lights, read a book, drink some tea, or cuddle with your partner. 

        Meditate 🧘

        Meditation is proven to quiet the mind and whirlwind thoughts. You may be able to reduce the sleep talking episodes If your mind is quieter before you hit the sack. 

        Meditation gets easier and more effective over time. Don’t give up on it because you think it’s not working.

        Sleep Music 🎵

          Another way to calm the mind and body is to listen to relaxing music while you sleep.  

          There is no magic pill or even any treatment plans for sleep talking but try any or all of these things and note if your sleep talking episodes become less frequent.

          When To See a Doctor

          The normal type of sleep talking that doesn’t affect anyone is not a cause for concern. When the sleep talker or the partner experiences sleep deprivation as a result of the night disturbance then a doctor should be consulted.

          You may be referred to a sleep specialist and he or she will evaluate your sleeping habits and patterns and may even order a sleep study to determine if the sleep talking is associated with another sleep disorder. Your sleep diary will come in handy here!

           A treatment program will be prescribed If the sleep talking is in fact linked to a known sleep disorder like sleep apnea or REM sleep behavior disorder. 

          Are You Talking to Me?

          You should consult a specialist if the sleep talking onset was sudden and is accompanied by thrashing or violent outbursts. Also, speak with your doctor if the sleep talking is a nightly occurrence and is loud enough to wake your partner up every night. 

          Sleep talking is not dangerous and is usually not a cause for concern. Your partner may even be amused by your occasional night time gibberish. Ask him or her to record it if you want to hear yourself the next day. Chances are it’s quite light and will give you both a chuckle.