Sleep Talking: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment

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Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is a relatively common phenomenon among children. However, only around 5% of adults talk in their sleep on a regular basis.

Sleep talking is usually harmless and does not require treatment. Most people who sleep talk do not remember doing it. However, if sleep talking is frequent and disrupts your sleep or the sleep of others, it may be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. In these cases, treatment may be necessary.

Signs of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking can range from mumbling a few words to carrying on full conversations. It usually happens during the transition from wakefulness to sleep (the hypnagogic state) or from sleep to wakefulness (the hypnopompic state).

However, it can also occur during deep sleep. Sleep talking is considered a parasomnia, which is a type of sleep disorder that involves abnormal behaviors or experiences that happen during sleep:

  • The main symptom of somniloquy is talking during sleep without being aware of it.
  • The things people say during these episodes can range from gibberish to full sentences.
  • In some cases, the person may even shout or swear loudly.
  • Sleep talking can occur either sporadically or frequently.
  • Some people only talk in their sleep once in a blue moon, while others do it several times per night.
  • Episodes usually last for less than 30 seconds; however, they can occasionally go on for several minutes. 

Most people who talk in their sleep don't have any recollection of the things they said during their episodes.

Causes of Sleep Talking

There is no single cause of sleep talking. It may be genetic and run in families. It can also be triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, or certain medications. Sleep talking can occur at any age, but is most common in children and adolescents.

Below is a list of potential causes of sleep talking:

  • Family history: Sleep talking can be passed down in families. If your parents or other close relatives talked during sleep, you may be more likely to do so as well.
  • Sleep deprivation: Not getting enough sleep can trigger sleep talking. This is because sleep deprivation can lead to fragmented sleep, which makes it more likely for you to enter into the lighter stages of sleep where talking is more likely to occur.
  • Stress: Stressful life events can trigger sleep talking. This is because stress can also lead to fragmented sleep.
  • Certain medications: Some medications, such as sedatives and antihistamines, can cause sleep talking. This is because they can cause drowsiness and make it more likely for you to enter into the lighter stages of sleep.
  • Psychiatric disorders: Sleep talking has been linked with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, mania, and depression. This is because these disorders can cause fragmented sleep.
  • Sleep disorders: Sleep talking has been linked with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

However, in many cases, there is no clear cause for sleep talking. 

Types of Sleep Talking

Below is a list of the various types of sleep talking:

  • Simple Somniloquy: This is the most common type of sleep talking. It usually involves brief, meaningless utterances such as grunts, moans, or single words.
  • Complex Somniloquy: This type of sleep talking is rarer and involves longer, more coherent speech. The person may seem to be having a conversation with someone or may be speaking in gibberish.
  • Logorrhea: This is a very rare form of sleep talking that involves an abnormal flow of speech. The person may speak rapidly and incoherently for several minutes at a time. This type of sleep talking can be a symptom of a mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Treatment for Sleep Talking

Most people do not require treatment for sleep talking. If sleep talking is disruptive to your sleep or the sleep of others, there are some things you can do to reduce the frequency or severity:

  • Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation can trigger or worsen sleep talking. Make sure you are getting enough restful sleep every night.
  • Reduce stress: Stress can trigger or worsen sleep talking. Identify and avoid sources of stress in your life. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep meditation.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption can trigger or worsen sleep talking. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Therapy to help reduce stress or anxiety: If stress or anxiety is causing your sleep talking, therapy can help you learn coping and relaxation techniques.
  • Medication to treat an underlying sleep disorder: If an underlying sleep disorder is causing your sleep talking, treatment of the disorder may reduce or eliminate the sleep talking.
  • Sleeping in a separate room from others: If sleep talking is disruptive to the sleep of others, sleeping in a separate room may help.
  • Wearing a mouth guard at night: If sleep talking is disruptive to your own sleep, wearing a mouth guard at night may help to prevent you from making noise.

If sleep talking is a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder, treatment of the disorder may be necessary. For example, if sleep apnea is the cause, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine may be prescribed to help keep your airway open during sleep. If restless leg syndrome is the cause, medications may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms.

Coping With Sleep Talking

If you live with someone who sleep talks, there are some things you can do to make the situation more manageable:

  • Establish ground rules: If sleep talking is disruptive to your sleep, establish some ground rules with the person who sleep talks. For example, you may agree to sleep in separate beds or bedrooms.
  • Use earplugs or white noise: Earplugs or a white noise machine can help block out the sound of sleep talking.
  • Avoid trying to talk to the person who is sleep talking: This can be confusing and frustrating for both of you. It is best to wait until they are awake to communicate.

If sleep talking is disrupting your life or the lives of those around you, talk to a doctor. They can help determine if there is an underlying sleep disorder causing the sleep talking and recommend treatment options.

Prevention of Sleep Talking

There is no sure way to prevent sleep talking. However, you can reduce the risk by getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and avoiding alcohol. If sleep talking is a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder, treatment of the disorder may help to prevent or reduce the frequency of sleep talking episodes.

How Is Sleep Talking Diagnosed? 

There's no formal diagnosis process for somniloquy since it's not considered a medical condition. The diagnosis is usually made based on self-reports or reports from bed partners or roommates.

A doctor may ask about any medications you're taking or any medical conditions you have that could be contributing to your symptoms. They may also ask about your general mental health and whether you've been under any unusual stress lately.

In some cases, a doctor may order a polysomnogram—a diagnostic test that uses sensors to measure various aspects of your sleep—to rule out other potential causes for your symptoms such as insomnia or sleep apnea.

A Word From Verywell

If you talk in your sleep on occasion, there's no need to worry—this is perfectly normal behavior for many people. However, if you find that you are frequently waking up your partner or roommates with your loud nighttime ramblings, it might be time to seek medical help. Additionally, if you only started sleep talking after experiencing a major life stressor (such as the death of a loved one or losing your job), this could be an indication of an underlying psychological condition that needs to be treated by a professional. In any case, if you're concerned about your nighttime habits, don't hesitate to bring it up with your doctor—they will be able to help you get to the bottom of things and find some relief.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.