Complete Guide to Sleep Talking

Sleep talking, properly known as somniloquy, is a type of parasomnia. Parasomnias are abnormal behaviors that take place during sleep. As the name indicates, sleep talking is simply the act of speaking during sleep. Sleep talking is highly similar to sleepwalking, which is walking while asleep. Sleep talking is actually a common occurrence and is generally not considered a serious sleep disorder.

Sleep talking may vary in presentation from relatively harmless whispering to much more graphic, and louder, language. As a result, it can potentially be disruptive to a sleeping partner. If the sleep talking is loud enough, it could even wake others in the household or neighbors who share walls. Some listeners could find the content offensive or vulgar, or ultimately disruptive to their own sleep. Because of the potential to disturb family members and neighbors, it is common to seek relief from sleep talking.



Sleep talking can be genetic. If one of your parents sleep talks, then you might too.

Symptoms and Causes

Sleep talking typically occurs without the presence of other sleep disorders, so it is usually harmless. However, in some cases, sleep talking can be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder or health condition. Causes of sleep talking include REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and sleep terrors. Both of these sleep disorders cause some people to shout during sleep. Sleep terrors, also called night terrors, usually involve frightening screams, thrashing, and kicking as a result of more heightened nightmares or unusual dreams. Sleep talking can also occur with sleepwalking and nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED), a condition in which a person eats while asleep.

Generally, sleep talking has some common causes and increased risks associated with the following factor:

  • Sleep talking parents. Parents who talk in their sleep are more likely to have children who sleep talk too. This includes parents who begin to sleep-talk later in life without any prior history of sleep talking during childhood or adolescence. Sleep talking can still occur, though less likely, when neither parent has a history of sleep talking.
  • Stress. Stress can cause a lot of health problems. Unfortunately, it can also cause sleep talking. Researchers have found that people who have suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) talk in their sleep at higher rate than those who have not.
  • Depression, Sleep Deprivation, Day-time Drowsiness, Alcohol Use, or even Fever. It often occurs in association with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. 

Prevalence and Risk Factors

Sleep talking is common and is reported in roughly 50% of young children at least once a year. A large percentage of people progressively sleep talk less after the age of 25. Unfortunately, a sizable proportion of people without any episode during their childhood begin to sleep-talk in adult life without a clear cause. However, somniloquy appears to run in families. Due to the various associations with other sleep disorders, the exact likelihood of developing a sleep talking disorder is difficult to predict.   

Prevention and Treatment

It is a good idea to see a sleep specialist if your sleep talking occurs suddenly as an adult or if it involves intense fear, screaming, or violent actions. You might also consider seeing a doctor if unconscious chatter is interfering with sleep quality or that of those that near you.

If you think your child has sleep problems, you should make an appointment with your pediatrician.

There are no tests needed to diagnose sleep talking. However, your doctor may order tests, such as a sleep study or sleep recording (polysomnogram). These tests can determine if your sleep is being disrupted or if you might have others sleep conditions potentially causing you to sleep talk. 

Sleep talking rarely requires active or intensive treatment. However, severe sleep talking may be the result of another more serious sleep disorder or medical condition that can be treated. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.