Sleep talking, often times accompanying sleepwalking and other sleep disorders, is known as somniloquy. Most sleep talkers are completely unaware that they are speaking in their sleep until informed by a bed partner or housemate.
Sleep talking can be classified as simple mumbling, strange sounds or even long drawn out speeches or conversations. The sleep talker also varies in volume from whispers to shouting. Many sleep talkers’ bed mate (or house mates depending on volume) are disturbed by the noise and suffer from insomnia as consequence.
The condition is more common in males and children, but can affect anyone. 1 Also, episodes can occur in any stage of sleep; however, the lighter the sleep, the more intelligible the content. 1 In stages one and two, individuals may appear to be continuing a conversation from moments before or talk about the day’s events. In stages three and four, the speech may be limited to gibberish and mumbling, but can consist of comprehensible conversation.
Half of children between ages 3 and 10 carry out conversations during their sleep as do about 5 percent of adults. 2 Sudden commencement of sleep talking for the first time may be associated with mental disorders. 1
Normal episodes of sleep talking occur for no longer than 30 seconds; however, the content of the talking can be alarming, erotic and vulgar. 2 Content of sleep talking should be taken lightly as it is associated with no known psychological significance. 3
While sleep talking is thought to be genetic, various circumstances and behaviors can trigger episodes, such as:
- Drinking alcohol before bed
- Mental disorders
- Certain medications
Other symptoms of sleep talking may include:
- Sleep Terrors
- Nocturnal Seizures
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
While the disorder may be a serious problem for some, it typically does not require treatment. If the disorder is thought to be a side effect of a corresponding sleep disorder, treatment may be necessary. See your doctor if sleep talking is a problem and regularly disrupts sleep.
1. National Sleep Foundation—Sleep Talking; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/sleep-talking
2. WebMD—Talking in Your Sleep; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/talking-in-your-sleep
3. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.