Talking in Your Sleep

What Causes Talking in Your Sleep?

What Causes Talking in Your Sleep?

Have you ever found your partner mumbling in their sleep or your child calling out to you while asleep? It could be somniloquy, also known as sleep talking. It is a sleep disorder that involves talking while asleep without any knowledge of it. Sleep talking can vary from one person to another: it can involve dialogues and monologues, complete gibberish or just mumbling and moaning. Sleep talking affects mostly children and males. It can be a rare, short-term occurrence, or it may require proper diagnosis and treatment.

Sleep talking is the result of a confused mental state and can indicate underlying disorders. Although sleep talking is not harmful, it is embarrassing for the person and annoying for other sleeping nearby. It can cause concern in those who have never experienced it, and people may either make fun of the person or stay away from him. As a result, sleep talkers might be afraid to stay overnight away from home or share the room with new people.

Sleep talkers seem to be talking to themselves, but sometimes they may also seem to be having the conversation with another person. Sleep talking may not be a regular occurrence. A person may sleep talk infrequently, but when it happens every day, it should be properly evaluated by a doctor.

Who Talks In Their Sleep?

Anyone can talk in his or her sleep. Many children between the ages three and ten talk to themselves while asleep, and about five percent of adults do the same once they fall asleep. These may not be a regular occurrence and can happen once in a while. Experts think that sleep talking runs in the family. So sleep talking parents might have children with similar patterns.

Stages of Sleep Talking

When being examined, a sleep talker will be evaluated by the stages of somniloquy. There are four stages of sleep talking, but they can be grouped into two.

Stages 1 and 2: In the first two stages, the sleep talker isn’t in very deep sleep. Thus their speech is easier to understand. In these stages, the sleep talker can have entire conversations that make sense. People sharing the bed or the room with the sleep talker might think that the person is awake and having a conversation with someone. However, the sleep talker isn’t aware of this occurrence.

Stages 3 and 4: In these stages, the sleep talker is in deeper sleep, making their speech harder to comprehend. The ‘talk’ may vary from mere moaning or mumbling sounds to full-fledged gibberish accompanied by shouting and screaming. Sleep talkers in these stages can be a real annoyance for the people around.

Sleep talkers can be broadly classified into these two groups. Sleep talking can either take place at the beginning of sleep or in a deep sleep. In either case, the person has no memory of the occurrence.

Severity of Sleep Talking

The healthcare practitioner will determine the severity of the condition by understanding how frequently it occurs. As mentioned earlier, sleep talking may or may not happen regularly. Therefore, when being evaluated by a doctor, the severity and frequency of the occurrence should be taken into account.

 

There are three types of severity.

Mild: The condition is classified as ‘mild’ when sleep talking happens less than once a month.

Moderate: The condition is classified as ‘moderate’ when sleep talking occurs once a week, but not regularly, and does not affect the others in the room.

Severe: The condition is classified as severe when sleep talking occurs every night and interferes with the sleep of others in the room.

Possible Causes of Sleep Talking

There is no solid evidence as to what causes sleep talking. Experts claim that sleep disorders like sleep apnea, night terrors, and somnambulism (sleepwalking) are possible triggers for somniloquy. Since the talking can happen at any stage of sleep, it is not clear if sleep talking has any connection with dreaming.

Sleep talking could be a sign of more serious disorders. REM sleep disorder (a type of parasomnia) and night terrors are two of the most causes found to be associated with sleep talk. Both of these disorders usually involve screaming, thrashing about, and kicking. People suffering from REM sleep disorder may also violently shout or act out dreams.

Sometimes, nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (where a person eats while asleep) can also be responsible for sleep talking.

Other possible causes include severe emotional stress, trauma, fever, reaction to medications, and substance abuse.

Treatment of Sleep Talking

Somniloquy doesn’t have any treatment, so the doctor will talk to the sleep talker to find out if there are any underlying causes of the condition. Even though sleep talking isn’t harmful if the occurrences are too violent or loud or start suddenly. Since the person himself isn’t aware of these occurrences, he has to talk to his partner, roommate, or other family member to find out the severity of the condition.

The doctor will try and find out if there is any other condition that is causing the sleep talking. In some cases, sleep tests, such as a sleep study or sleep recording (polysomnogram), may be suggested. The doctor will also want to know if the person is on any medication, has a history of trauma, or gets enough rest.

How to Minimize Sleep Talking

Even though cannot be predicted and there is no treatment either, there are steps a person can take to minimize the occurrences. These include:

  • Avoiding stressful situations and triggers that can disturb sleep and cause somniloquy
  • Getting enough sleep every night
  • Avoiding heavy meals close to bedtime
  • Keeping track of medications and reactions to them
  • Avoiding alcohol or caffeinated drinks

Sleep talking isn’t a serious condition as long as it isn’t interfering with the sleep of others. If someone suddenly starts sleep talking after age 25, it needs medical attention. If sleep talking is mild to moderate, then roommates or partners could try using earplugs or white noise to drown out the talking.

 

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