Finding out that you’re a person who talks in their sleep or while napping isn’t a pleasant thing to discover. Sleeping with other people just to find out that you could’ve potentially spilled out some intimate details or secrets can make anyone of us kind of nervous to go to bed anymore. You might even start wondering if you’re having any issues on a mental or an emotional level that might be causing this sleep talking condition.
Well, we’re going to try and relieve you from all your worries. First of all, in most cases, sleep talking is nothing to worry about. Add to that the fact that anything said by a sleep talker shouldn’t be taken as a statement bearing in kind of revelation. Sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., makes clear in a statement that experts have no collected information that would suggest that sleep talking can offer any hint as to what happens in the subconscious of a sleep talker.
Understanding Sleep Talking
Sleep talking, or Somniloquy as it’s also referred to, can manifest in a number of different ways. Not all sleep talkers do speak actual words. In some cases, people make incoherent mumblings or even groan or shout loudly. And in the majority of the cases, a sleep talker will have no awareness or recollection of what occurred during their sleep talking. In these cases, the only way to know is by it being witnessed by someone else present and awake during the incident.
Other sleep-related phenomena can be tied to sleep talking. This includes teeth grinding, night terrors, and sleep-walking, among other nighttime behaviors. Another thing to note is that Somniloquy can be hereditary. So, if you ever witnessed one of your siblings or parents talk in their sleep, you have a significant chance of being a sleep talker yourself.
The different cases of Somniloquy can be categorized in a number of ways.
Sleep talkers who experience the condition for a period that doesn’t exceed a month are considered acute sleep talkers.
A subacute sleep talker is that who experiences the condition for longer than a month but less than a whole year.
The condition is considered chronic when it happens regularly for longer than a year.
Severe sleep talking is known for happening at least once a night and for how bothersome it can be to a sleep partner. Moderate sleep talking, on the other hand, would happen no more than once a night but at least once a week with no severe irritation ensuing from it. When it comes to mild Somniloquy, it won’t happen more than once a week
What Do We Sleep Talk About?
Subjects can vary widely from one person to another. Some folks will initiate entire conversations with a non-existing third party. Others will tend to spit out random words, notably swear or just speak some nonsense.
If the case accompanies light sleep, then the manifestations of it will be easier to understand. But if it comes during the deep sleep (REM), then it will mostly be random sounds and groans.
Sleep talking may take the form of yelling or whispers, and usually, it wouldn’t last more than 30 seconds tops.
Which Sleep Talkers Talk More?
The condition isn’t an uncommon one, notably for children.
50% of kids under the age of 10 will experience sleep talking in some form. It’s very similar to other nighttime conditions that happen to children like bed wetting and sleepwalking in the sense that it would naturally go away as children grow older.
When it comes to adults, 5% will have a regular case of sleep talking while 2/3 of them will experience sleep talking at least once every few months.
For children, gender doesn’t seem to play a factor in how prone someone would be to the conditions, but for adults, it seems to occur more for males when compared to females.
What’s the Reason Behind Sleep Talking?
We don’t have any definite results from all the studies that have been conducted around the subject to know exactly the reason behind sleep talking. It can be linked to mental health issues, or it can have something to do with heredity.
Singular occurrences of sleep talking can be the result of various factors. We’re talking about substance abuse, medications, fevers, stress or sleep deprivation (which in itself can be caused by stress or other sleep-related issues like sleep apnea and insomnia).
There’s a widespread misconception that sleep talking is linked to the kind of dream a person is having. The truth of the matter is that EEG recordings reveal that sleep talking can happen at any given moment of sleep, whether it be REM or not.
It’s Still a Mystery
There is no solid and clear understanding relating to what causes sleep talking in people. Some experts think that it’s a specific reaction to something experienced by the person in their dream, but that tends to be hard to prove since a sleep talker would have no recollection of the incident.
The phenomenon can happen at any instant during sleep. If it manifests during either the 1st or the 2nd stage of slumber, the spoken sounds will most likely have meaning and be easy to understand. But once the individual delves deeper into the later stages of sleep, it would be expected of him to start emitting sounds that have no meaning or sense.
The severity of the cases differs depending on the person. Some have it for the entirety of their lives while others will notice that it’s brought on by stressful conditions or significant changes in their lives.
The period of the condition can be short. If the person deals with the situations in their life and moves on from them, then the state will tend to disappear. In other cases, the sleep talking issue can last for significantly long periods.
A number of factors can trigger the issue also. A lot of cases of sleep talking happen under the influence of alcohol, because of sleep deprivation, overwhelming stress or because of a fever. Another factor that can play a part is depression. In some instances, people may go through night seizures and sleep talk at the same time. Sleep talking can happen outside of all of these influences, but someone happens to be affected by any of them, it will only make matters worse.
When Does Sleep Talking Get Serious?
We’ve already stated that, in most cases, you don’t have to bat an eye about sleep talking. It will happen once in a while, appear and disappear in a spontaneous manner. But in a few cases, it may be an indication of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
RBD: REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
This concerns individuals that yell, punch and kick during their sleep violently.
For a healthy person, the brain paralyzes the body’s muscles during REM sleep to avoid any physical damage happening from movements relating to the dreams that a person might try to act out.
For an individual that has RBD, the brain does not paralyze the muscles, and that gives the dreamer the ability to move freely according to the dreams they are having. Evidently, that can be dangerous for the dreamer and the bed partner.
This condition is only experienced by fewer than 7% of kids and 1% of the adult population.
An individual suffering from this condition will suddenly wake up through a kick to the nervous system. They’ll wake up with the feelings of fear and confusion, sweating and with a fast heart rate. The physical manifestations of the condition are what makes it distinct from ordinary nightmares.
As we’ve mentioned with RBD, night terrors are characterized by kicking and yelling which are not present in normal nightmares since the body is kept paralyzed during the REM sleep.
If we’re going to mention any other sleep-talking-related conditions, they’re going to be nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder and somnambulism (sleepwalking). Eating and walking during sleep and not remembering doing so after waking up is what characterizes this kind of issues.
Sleep Talking: Severity and Different Stages
We can classify different types of sleep talking by either severity or stages:
- Stages 1-2: The sleep talker isn’t in a very deep sleeping stage and would speak in an understandable manner.
- Stages 3-4: These are relatively deep stages. The meaning speech is difficult to make out and will most likely have no meaning at all.
The severity is determined through the frequency of the occurrences:
- Mild: Occurring less than once a month
- Moderate: Happening once a week but not on a nightly basis. It also does not reach a level of becoming too irritating to other present individuals.
- Severe: The condition manifests every night and can cause quite the disturbance to other sleeping individuals
Who Is at More Risk of Having the Condition?
All of us have a chance of having an instance of sleep talking at any time of our lives. However, it seems that those or more at risk of having the condition are men and children.
Another contributing factor can very well be genetics. If you know any member of the family with a notable case of sleep talking, then you might as well have it too. The same situation would also be for your children.
Other triggers for the condition also include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Mental health disorders (e.g., depression)
- Alcohol consumption
Also, having a history with other sleep disorders can cause an increase in the risk of sleep talking. These disorders include:
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Sleep apnea
When Is It Time for A Medical Opinion?
If the sleep talking comes with other symptoms like nightmares, a sensation fear, violent movements (as in RBD cases), then you should definitely consider making an appointment with a specialist. Other reasons to do so will be if the sleep talking appeared suddenly in your adult age or if it’s getting too annoying for your house’s residents. It can even reveal deeper causes for the situation that may not be related to sleep disorders, like a negative emotional state or the wrong use of a specific substance.
To help out your doctor with the diagnosis, you might want to try documenting the nature of your sleep as well as the different characteristics of your day. For example, you can your bed partner to take note of when you go to bed and when you wake up, how many times you get up at night or when you sleep talk. You can also take some notes of your daily activities, exercise, diet, emotional state and the usage of substances like alcohol, caffeine, and drugs.
But maybe you’ll want to do it all by yourself. For that, you’ll find Smartphone apps dedicated to recording the noise that you make when you’re asleep. Some even detect and record sleep talking and keep records of when it happens during sleep.
How Is the Condition Treated?
Going to the doctor, you’ll be asked about the first occurrence of sleep talking. You may not be aware of it, so you’ll have to ask your sleeping partner about it or even your parents, seeing how it could’ve been happening since your childhood.
The condition requires no diagnosis, but you may be requested to undergo some tests like a polysomnogram (sleep recording) or a sleep study if you happen to be showing any signs of other sleep disorders.
The problem itself doesn’t require treatment in the majority of cases. But if it carries on in a severe manner, it may happen to be linked to another serious medical condition which can and must be treated. All of this must be consulted about with your doctor.
How to Make a Sleep Talker Quiet?
For the more severe cases, the sleep talking issue can be more of a problem to a sleeping partner rather than the one who suffers from it. For any unfortunate person having to deal with it, here’s what you can do to make it less of an inconvenience.
The Sleep Partner
- Look for a quiet mattress; it’ll be impressive thanks to the motion isolation that it can offer. The likes of latex beds or memory foams can do the trick and cancel out all the sleep-disrupting movements caused by the person going through the issue.
- Consider getting noise-reducing products: white noise has been used for a long time to help with sleeping. You can find physical products to buy or just download an app from the store. Besides that, ear plugs still do their job pretty well.
The Sleep Talker
- Try to reduce stress in your life as much as possible as it can be a contributing factor in sleep talking. Before bed, try out a number of relaxing activities like yoga and meditation or even breathing exercises.
- Avoid the consumption of drugs and alcohol as they can cause issues to your normal sleep cycle.
- Maintain good hygiene and make sure you have all the sleep hours you need. Sleep deprivation is yet another influencing factor in the whole sleep talking problem. So make sure it’s not an issue anymore and try to get in and out of bed in fixed times daily.
How to Handle Sleep Talking
In most cases, sleep talking is a harmless phenomenon that happens to all of us. The severity of the situation varies from person to another. And if the condition reaches high levels of severity or if maybe you’re getting complaints from your significant other, it may be time for you to look into it.
You have to think of what might be behind all of this problem. If you consume a lot of alcohol or aren’t giving yourself the proper amount of sleep that you need daily, then it’s time to start changing that. It can also be caused by negative emotional states, and for that, you’ll want to talk with a specialist to figure it all out. It’s definitely worth it’ll help reduce the severity of the condition.
Hygiene and Sleep Talking
Make your bed the ideal place for sleeping. Stay away from monitors of electronic devices when sleep time approaches and always uphold a strict schedule of getting in and out of bed. If none of that brings about any improvements, then you should check with a specialist. What you want to do is to scratch the other possible sleeping disorders from the doubt list to make sure that you exactly know the reason behind what is going on.
Think of Your Partner
Going through this journey, you’ll need support from your loved ones. For that, what you don’t want to do is bring them any discomfort during your nights of sleep talking. Consider getting your significant other earplugs to improve the situation a bit. Or maybe get them to sleep in another room as long as the issue persists, outside of any moments of intimacy or sexual activity.
A Sleep Diary
Keeping track what goes on through this journey can be really beneficial for understanding the situation clearly and moving towards solving it. Make records of two weeks that would include your bedtime, your time of waking up as well as details about the medication that you can potentially be taking. Add to that the fact that you’ll want to mention your workout routine as well as the diet and the instances of drinking alcoholic beverages, energy drinks, etc.
At the end of the day, these are some of the most popular and helpful tips that we can share with you concerning sleep talking. While it may not present a problem in most cases, we hope that you can find help in some of our suggestions if you ever need them. Experiment and see what works best for you.