After a long, loud day, everyone enjoys the quiet of sleep. However, when the person sleeping next to you starts to mumble or talk, it can be funny at first – and then it becomes frustrating. The person who’s talking in their sleep isn’t aware that they’re doing it, but their monologues are keeping you awake. The good news is that, for most people, it’s a rare and short-lived occurrence. Sleep talking can be spontaneous, or it can be a result of conversing with the sleeper. While it’s not physically harmful, people can be embarrassed about talking in their sleep. This may make them reluctant to sleep away from home. Someone who talks while they sleep could be anxious about going to sleep, making them at risk of developing insomnia. Sleep talking can also cause insomnia in anyone sleeping in the same room. Therefore, finding out more about sleep talking can help everyone get a good sleep.

What Causes Sleep Talking?

Sleep talking can be brought on by sleep deprivation, day-time drowsiness, alcohol, and fever1. Sometimes, it can run in families, but external factors seem to encourage it. It can also be linked with stress and depression. Easing these problems would help to alleviate talking in your sleep, and you can find out more about this in our topic, ‘Stress and Sleep’ and our article, ‘Sleeping with Depression’.

If you are struggling with depression, it’s important to note that depression is also linked with insomnia, a sleeping disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and even to get up. Read more about insomnia here.

Sleep talking can also occur with other sleeping disorders, such as having nightmares, REM Sleep Behavioural Disorder, and Sleep Apnoea.2 Sleep Apnoea is a condition that causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted while they sleep. When their breathing pauses, they will wake up for a brief moment and their breathing will return to normal. Someone with Sleep Apnoea does not remember waking up, and is not aware that they have the sleeping disorder. However, as breathing can be interrupted many times during the night, these frequent periods of waking up with disrupt the quality of sleep. Read more about Sleep Apnoea here.

While anyone can experience sleep talking, it’s more common in males and children. In rare cases, frequent sleep talking in adults can be linked with a mental or medical illness. This is more common in people over 25 years of age.3 If you’re talking while asleep frequently, it’s worth talking to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to determine if there’s an underlying cause, and they can help ease your sleep talking. This is also beneficial for anyone who sleeps in the same room as you.

Symptoms of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking can happen during any stage of sleep. However, it’s thought that the lighter the sleep, the more coherent the speech. In the first and second stages of sleep, people may have entire conversations that can be made out clearly by anyone listening. In stages three and four, the speech can become restricted, with words giving way to moans and nonsense.4

Symptoms can vary in severity and duration.

Severity can be categorised as below;

  • Mild: sleep talking occurs less than weekly
  • Moderate: ‘episodes’ occur more than once per week, but less than nightly and cause mild disturbance to a bed partner
  • Severe: someone sleep talks nightly, and this can seriously interrupt a bed partner’s sleep

Duration is split into three sub-categories:

  • Acute: one month or less
  • Subacute: more than one month, but less than one year
  • Chronic: one year or longer5

Other symptoms of sleep talking can include:

  • Sleep terrors
  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder
  • Mental illness
  • Nocturnal seizures

More Sleep, Less Talking

While there is no treatment necessary for sleep talking, you can reduce the likelihood of talking in your sleep.

Follow a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning, will help to improve the quality of your sleep. Choose your bedtime depending on when you want to get up – you should get the recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep. By doing this, you’ll help to ease feelings of stress and depression, which can increase the chance of talking in your sleep. Through this, insomnia is also helped.

Have a good sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.

Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol can make you feel drowsy, it’ll keep you getting the deep sleep that your body needs. It’ll also wake you up much earlier than you need to be awake, and you could struggle getting back to sleep.

Think about your diet. Don’t eat heavy meals late in the evening, and don’t eat within two hours of your bedtime.

Meditate. As stress contributes to sleep talking, reducing your stress levels could be a great way to help you – and your partner – get a better sleep. Focus on your breathing – slowly take a deep breath in, and slowly exhale. You can also visualise a peaceful scene, like a deserted beach. Read more about meditation in our article here. Mindfulness is also useful in reducing stress, as it forces you think of the present moment and your current surroundings. Read more about the benefits of mindfulness here.

Consider ear plugs. This is a tip for the person sleeping in the same room as you – ear plugs can help reduce the noise disturbance, and let you sleep peacefully.

Remember, the best you can help yourself is to consult your doctor. Knowing your symptoms can help them to determine if there’s an underlying cause, like a pre-existing sleeping disorder, that is making you talk in your sleep.

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Footnotes

  1. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-talking
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-talking
  3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-talking
  4. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-talking
  5. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-talking
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