Why Do We Talk In Our Sleep?

Whether you have been caught doing it yourself, or been awoken by a friend, partner or family member, sleep talking is something which all of us have encountered.

Along with dreams (read more in this blog post), sleep talking remains a phenomenon that the majority of us know little or nothing about.

Here at Sleepy People, we like to help you better understand your sleeping habits so that you can have the best night’s sleep possible. So here is everything you need to know about why we talk in our sleep.


What actually is it?

Sleep talking (also known as somniloquy) is, of course, the act of speaking in your sleep. It is defined as a type of parasomnia, which is a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviours, dreams and perceptions.

Most parasomnias are sleep states which occur during the transitions from being awake to NREM sleep, or from being awake to REM sleep.

Sleep talking spells normally last no longer than 30 seconds. The words spoken by a sleep talker can be projected with the clarity of a normal conversation, or mumbled heavily. They also range in content, from polite right up to explicit and offensive. 


Who sleep talks?

Sleep talkers vary massively depending on age. Around half of all children between the ages of 3 and 10 will talk in their sleep. However, only around 5% of adults chinwag while asleep.

There is no conclusive proof that gender affects sleep talk, with men sleep talking as much as women.


What causes it?

A common misconception is that sleep talking occurs when a person is dreaming. Sleep experts are still sceptical on this, mostly because unlike dreams, sleep talking can happen at any stage of sleep.

Sleep talking occurs by itself, can happen to anyone, and is majoritively harmless. However, there are other sleep disorders which involve sleep talking or can be much more harmful.

Sleep terrors (sometimes known as night terrors) and REM sleep disorder (RBD) are two types of sleep disorders which involve people sleep talking.

Sleep terrors can include thrashing, kicking and screaming during sleep. Children who suffer from sleep terrors also sleep talk more heavily and sleep walk.

Those who suffer from RBD tend to shout and grunt, even act out their dreams, most often violently. If you suffer from something similar or know of someone who does, it can be misinterpreted as sleep talking, so make sure to speak to a health professional before making your own assumptions.

The causes above are quite specific conditions, but there are far more common causes too. Some people may sleep talk if they have taken certain medication, if they are under emotional stress, are ill or have a fever or suffer from substance abuse or a mental health disorder.


How is it treated?

If your sleep talking is affecting the people you live or sleep with the best thing is to seek out a sleep professional.

While there is no specific treatment for sleep talking on its own, a doctor may test you by recording your sleep, or putting you through a sleep study.

This is to find out whether your sleep talking is just harmless nattering, or a sign of a more serious condition, like those mentioned earlier.

For those who sleep talk, but have no sleep conditions, there are currently no tried and tested treatments to reduce it.

The best advice for those who do occasionally sleep talk, particularly adults, is to reduce stress as much as possible and get your recommended eight hours sleep every night.

Also, consider any medication you might be on, the times you exercise each day and when you choose to consume caffeinated drinks throughout the day, as these could disrupt your sleep.