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Discover The Facts About Sleep Talking

Updated on August 16, 2012

Talking in your sleep - crazy or normal?

Do you listen intently, trying to understand every word to see if your sleep talking spouse will spill the beans? Have you ever been awakened by a child's shout in the middle of the night, just to be followed by complete silence and an unaware sleeper? Have you considered posing a question to someone talking in their sleep - just to see if they will answer? Well, you are not alone, somniloquy, (sleep talking), is not unusual.

Children do it more than adults, (approx. 50% vs. 5-15%), and it can be eloquent prose or mumbled gibberish, but either way, sleep talking is not usually a medical problem, and some experts have postulated that it may run in families. The fact that it is not typically a medical problem makes the twin questions of what causes sleep talking, and is there a treatment for it, the province of sleep specialists.

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*see composite image component citations | Source

Sleep Talking - Medically Speaking

1Officially designated as somniloquy, sleep talking has no known medical causes, but it does seem to have a dual-personality. Some sleep specialists view it as an independent behavior, while others freely associate it with both REM sleep behavior disorder, (RBD), and sleep terrors, and nocturnal sleep-related disorders, (NS-RD).

The most common attribution is as an independent behavior. RBD and sleep terrors, (nightmares), usually involve shouting and screaming instead of just sleep talking.

Even though the cause of sleep talking has not been pinned down to a definitive source common to all sleep talkers, many sleep specialists agree that it could be brought on by; certain medications, emotional stress or fever, and even possible mental health disorders or substance abuse.

It can also occur in both deep REM sleep and lighter more shallow sleep states. Although difficult to say with certainty it is believed that sleep talking can be tied to dreams or occur independently in a non-dream state.


Treatments for Sleep Talking

1Finding a sleep talking treatment that works is almost like pinning the tall on the donkey. The causes are so nebulous that, short of taking a sleep recording (polysomnogram), or participating in a sleep study, it is very difficult to determine a treatment. If it has abruptly just started, it could be related new medications or recent emotional stresses, in which case, for medications, stopping or changing the medication could be a first step, and if it appears stress related - then the obvious solution of trying to moderate the stress would be a first choice.

If it is a child sleep talking, then a trip to the pediatrician is the first step to rule out any specific medical causes, but the most common result of that action is a "wait and see what develops" recommendation, or if it is very severe, or even falling into the sleep terrors category, a referral to a sleep specialist is probably the next step.

Medical treatment is rarely an option in most cases, unless the onset is abrupt and the activity is extreme, but if the issue is too worrisome to be ignored, starting a sleep diary would be the best way you could help a doctor, or sleep specialist, help you.

Sleep diaries should include:

  • your normal sleep patterns - when you go to bed, when you think you fell asleep and when you woke up
  • brief notes about your mental state during the day
  • medicines you take and when you take them
  • exercise routines - start time, type, and duration
  • what you drink prior to retiring, ie. sodas, coffee, alcoholic beverages

This sleep diary will help your doctor in the search for both a cause and a cure.

Are you a sleep talker, or sleep with someone that is?

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Common sense - a sleep talking treatment

2Sleep talking has, as mentioned, been associated with both deep REM, (Rapid Eye Movement), sleep and more shallow sleep states. Some sleep specialists think short bursts of sleep talking may be the partial arousal of your mind as it transitions from REM to disturbed sleep, and back to REM again, so one possible treatment for sleep talking might be a healthy dose of common sense.

  • try to establish a sleep routine of regular bedtimes
  • put aside stressful thought before crawling into bed - if your mind is fretting over a day's event, your sleep will be fitful
  • don't eat heavy meals just prior to bedtime, or engage in heavy alcohol consumption
  • If the sleep talking is more screaming and shouting than talking, then it could be a case of sleep or night terrors, and a primary doctor or pediatrician should be contacted for referral to a sleep specialists. Sleep or night terrors are much more serious than sleep talking


About the Author

Reporting for the Daily Constitutional, and providing articles for various online publishing sites are my primary work responsibilities, but it is the freelance editorials from the Curmudgeon's desk that provide the most satisfaction. - GAA

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