Why do people talk in their sleep?
Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is a sleep disorder that causes people to talk while they sleep. It can occur when you’re in the midst of a REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle and your brain signals your mouth to move while you’re dormant. It’s most common in children, but adults can experience it too.
Symptoms and effects of somniloquy
Sleep talking can occur during any stage of sleep. But it most often happens when people are in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This is when dreaming takes place and the brain is more active than at other times during sleep.
In adults, REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) is one cause of sleep talking that may call for treatment.
Sleep talking is likewise recognized as somniloquy, which means "to talk in sleep." Sleep talking differs from sleepwalking and alternative forms of nighttime behavior because it occurs during REM sleep rather than non-REM sleep (stages 1 through 4). When people sleepwalk, they’re not dreaming and don’t have sharp memories of their movements after waking up—but with sleep talking, you’ll remember what you said.
There are several types of sleep talking:
- Recurrent isolated somniloquy is the most common type and means spontaneous utterances while sleeping
- Continual episodes of speech characterized persistent somniloquy throughout the night
- Episodic somniloquy means only occasional episodes of speech
Many people talk in their sleep. You may have even done it yourself. But what exactly is sleep talking, and how can you stop it?
Several things can cause sleep talking, including:
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), which causes people to act out their dreams while they’re asleep;
- A side effect of certain medications;
- Alcohol consumption before bedtime.
If you think that it might relate your sleep talking to RBD, it’s important that you get tested by a neurologist right away. RBD is a serious condition that requires treatment with medication and/or surgery.
Types of somniloquy
Somniloquy is believed to be a result of stress and/or an underlying medical or psychological condition. It is a relatively common disorder, with estimates suggesting that as many as 50 percent of children and 5 percent of adults experience it at least once in their lifetime.
There are two main types of somniloquy: monologuing and dialoguing.
- Monologuing is when an individual speaks in a continuous stream of words without any response from another person.
- Dialoguing occurs when the person responds to an imagined conversation.
In both cases, the individual’s speech may be incomprehensible, or it may be clear and easily understood. The cause is not fully understood, but there are several potential explanations. Stress is believed to be one possible cause, as it can cause the body to become more aroused and disrupt normal sleep patterns. Other psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia may also be linked to somniloquy. Certain medications and alcohol may increase the likelihood of sleep talking. Certain medical conditions such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, and narcolepsy may also increase the risk of somniloquy. In some cases, the cause can be related to a physical injury or illness that affects the brain. In these cases, treatment of the underlying condition is necessary to reduce the frequency and severity of sleep talking episodes.
Results of Sleep Talking
Sleep talking is innocuous and doesn’t cause any physical damage to your body or brain. However, it can be annoying if you have a partner who sleeps with you and hears you speaking in your sleep. If you notice your partner is worried by how often you communicate in your sleep, there are a few ways that you can help them out:
- Don’t let them know what’s going on! If they think they’re hearing something like an animal growling at them from under their bed, it could make things worse by creating anxiety for both of you.
- Tell them not to worry about it! You might get away with telling them it’s just part of being human—that everyone does this kind of thing in their life.
- Try wearing ear plugs! This will block out any noise coming from outside the room where both of you are sleeping so that only one person gets disturbed by any sounds coming from within.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for somniloquy, or sleep talking, that can help the individual understand and manage the underlying issues that may be causing their sleep talking.
CBT is a form of psychotherapy that works to identify and change negative thought patterns that influence behaviors. It typically involves identifying patterns and triggers that lead to sleep talking. This can involve discussing past experiences, current issues and situations, and any other factors that may be contributing to the sleep talking.
CBT helps the individual learn how to recognize and manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to reduce the occurrence of sleep talking. The process often includes relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, that can help the individual cope with and manage their thoughts and emotions.
With CBT, the individual is also taught how to identify and challenge negative thought patterns that can contribute to sleep talking. For example, if the individual tends to ruminate on negative thoughts before bed, they can be taught to identify these thoughts and replace them with more positive and calming ones.
CBT is a highly effective treatment for somniloquy and can help the individual gain insight into their sleep talking, understand the underlying causes, and learn how to cope with and manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Sleep talking is the involuntary utterance of speech during the act of sleeping. It occurs during REM sleep, which is when the most vivid dreams occur.
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- Ries, J. (2019, July 15). Why Do We Sleep Talk? Here’s Everything You Should Know. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-do-we-sleep-talk_l_5d279150e4b02a5a5d57fe87
- Wikipedia contributors. (2023, January 31). Sleep-talking. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep-talking