Have you ever found yourself wondering why people talk in their sleep? If so, you're likely the partner or roommate of someone who talks in their sleep. Or, you may be that person yourself.
No matter the case, you are far from alone. Many people experience symptoms from the condition known commonly as sleep talking. The health condition is not considered severe, but it's still an issue that can perplex sleep talkers and those around them.
While almost always considered a benign quirk, sleep talking isn't a laughing matter either. The issue could be a symptom of a more serious sleep or health-related condition. And in worst cases, sleep talkers are likely keeping those around them up or waking them up at inconvenient times throughout the night.
While we don't have all the details on why people talk at night, we do know that it is a topic many can relate to. Read on to learn what the causes of sleep talking might be and possible solutions.
What is Sleep Talking?
Sleep talking, scientifically known as somniloquy, is a common occurrence many experience during sleep, where they speak or vocalize in some form while at rest. Sleep talking is categorized as part of the parasomnia type of sleep disorders, which include other abnormal behaviors that occur during sleep.
Symptoms can vary significantly. In some cases, individuals will tumble or make noises while they sleep. Others may speak words, sentences, and even entire conversations or speeches.
It is believed that most sleep talkers think they are talking to themselves. However, some have reported engaging with individuals or imaginary figures while sleeping. In any case, these conversations can range in volume from a whisper to shouting.
In most cases, sleep talking exists for just a few seconds, with most instances ending after 30 seconds or less. However, the frequency can vary, with some people experiencing numerous bouts of sleep talking in one evening.
What makes sleep talking unique from other parasomnia disorders is that it can occur during any sleep stage. In most cases, disorders occur at specific points in the four sleep stages. But with sleep talking, the occurrence can happen at any point, including rapid eye movement (REM) sleep  .
Sleep talking varies in frequency, depending on the person experiencing symptoms. Periods are categorized into three groups :
- Acute: Symptoms lasting for one month or less
- Subacute: Symptoms last more than a month but less than a year
- Chronic: Symptoms last one year or longer
Sleep Talking Causes
Researchers and medical professionals continue to search for the cause or causes of sleep talking. While some may assume it is linked to dreaming, no definitive evidence has suggested that. In fact, with sleep talking able to occur at any stage of rest, dreaming may or may not be a factor.
Some of the possible causes of sleep talking to be reported include:
- Certain medications
- Emotional stress
- Mental health disorder
- Substance abuse
Sleep Talking Symptoms
Unlike other sleep disorders, sleep talking symptoms aren't very clear. In most cases, the primary reported effect is in the name: you'll speak in your sleep. Other sleep talking symptoms may exist but, no short- or long-term effects are associated with the condition.
How Common is Sleep Talking?
Sleep talking is quite a common occurrence. In a study of 1,000 people, 66% reported experiencing symptoms, making sleep talking the most common form of parasomnia in the analysis. While the condition is common, it isn't as frequently reported as some may think, primarily due to many sufferers needing to record issues for several days to document their symptoms .
Sleep Talking Risks
Sleep talking is considered relatively harmless in most cases. The person suffering from sleep talking is unlikely to experience a significant effect on their sleep or sleep quality. The issue is often infrequent enough that it should not cause any severe health issues like other parasomnia and sleep disorders may be associated with.
In fact, sleep talking may be more detrimental to those around them. Significant others and roommates are often more affected by this condition, with loud enough talking leading to abrupt wake-ups and possibly exacerbating their sleep issues or disorders.
However, sleep talking sufferers should not take the condition lightly. The condition may be a sign of additional parasomnia or other sleep disorders. Anyone experiencing regular effects of sleep talking should consider speaking with a medical professional to rule out any more severe underlying conditions.
Possible Sleep Talking Solutions
Some potential solutions to sleep talking may be found in the possible causes of the condition. They include :
- Reducing or eliminating medications from your daily regimen
- Change when you take your medications
- Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol, particularly closer to bedtime
- Avoid exercise late in the evening
- Make your nightly routine more relaxing (Begin to wind down about an hour before your intended bedtime)
If you are experiencing sleep talking, consider starting a diary to chronicle your nightly symptoms and instances. You may also want to record your daily activity, including any foods, beverages, and medications consumed, as well as any physical activity or other noteworthy instances that happen throughout the day.
Sleep Talking Solutions for Partners and Roommates
Sleep talking is indeed relatively harmless for those experiencing symptoms. However, the issues could be more concerning for partners or neighbors who listen to chronic nighttime talking.
If a person is woken up by frequent night talking, they may experience detrimental health effects as a result. Those looking for possible fixes to the situation include:
- Wearing earplugs
- Using a noise machine
- Sleeping in another room
Finding a solution to sleep talking can be difficult in any situation. Roommates may feel uncomfortable calling someone out for their medical condition. Similarly, a partner may not want to exacerbate the issue by making their loved one feel bad about their ongoing issues.
It's nice to avoid calling anyone out for issues they can't control. Still, sleep talking can be harmful to those nearby trying to sleep. Address the issue civilly and respectfully to ensure everyone has an optimal chance for a good night's rest.
Expressing your concerns, needs, and boundaries can help establish a dialogue that addresses the issue as best as possible for everyone. With few solutions to the issue, it may seem difficult to resolve. However, with a healthy dialogue and some potential lifestyle changes, roommates and partners can at least say they're trying everything to make the issue work as best for all involved.