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Everything You Should Know About Sleep Talking

What is sleep talking?

Sleep talking is actually a sleep disorder known as somniloquy. Doctors don’t know a lot about sleep talking, like why it happens or what occurs in the brain when a person sleep talks. The sleep talker isn’t aware that they’re talking and won’t remember it the next day.

If you’re a sleep talker, you may talk in full sentences, speak gibberish, or talk in a voice or language different from what you’d use while awake. Sleep talking appears to be harmless.

Stage and severity

Sleep talking is defined by both stages and severity:

  • Stages 1 and 2: In these stages, the sleep talker isn’t in as deep of sleep as stages 3 and 4, and their speech is easier to understand. A sleep talker in stages 1 or 2 can have entire conversations that make sense.
  • Stages 3 and 4: The sleep talker is in a deeper sleep, and their speech is usually harder to understand. It may sound like moaning or gibberish.

Sleep talk severity is determined by how frequently it occurs:

  • Mild: Sleep talk happens less than once a month.
  • Moderate: Sleep talk occurs once a week, but not every night. The talking doesn’t interfere much with the sleep of other people in the room.
  • Severe: Sleep talking happens every night and may interfere with the sleep of other people in the room.

Who is at increased risk

Sleep talking can happen to anyone at any time, but it appears to be more common in children and men. There may also be a genetic link to sleep talking. So if you have parents or other family members who talked a lot in their sleep, you may be at risk too. Likewise, if you talk in your sleep and you have children, you may notice that your children talk in their sleep too.

Sleep talking can increase at certain times in your life and may be triggered by:

People with other sleep disorders are also at an increased risk for sleep talking, including people with a history of:

When to see a doctor

Sleep talking usually isn’t a serious medical condition, but there are times when it might be appropriate to see a doctor.

If your sleep talking is so extreme that it’s interfering with your quality of sleep or if you’re overly exhausted and can’t concentrate during the day, talk to your doctor. In rare situations, sleep talking can occur with more serious problems, like a psychiatric disorder or nighttime seizures.

If you suspect that your sleep talking is a symptom of another, more serious sleep disorder, such as sleep walking or sleep apnea, it’s helpful to see a doctor for a full examination. If you start sleep talking for the first time after the age of 25, schedule an appointment with a doctor. Sleep talking later in life may be caused by an underlying medical condition.

Treatment

There’s no known treatment for sleep talking, but a sleep expert or a sleep center may be able to help you manage your condition. A sleep expert can also help to make sure your body is getting the adequate rest at night that it needs.

If you have a partner who’s bothered by your sleep talking, it might also be helpful to talk to a professional about how to manage both of your sleep needs. Some things you may want to try are:

  • sleeping in different beds or rooms
  • having your partner wear ear plugs
  • using a white noise machine in your room to drown out any talking

Lifestyle changes such as the following may also help control your sleep talking:

  • avoiding drinking alcohol
  • avoiding heavy meals close to bedtime
  • setting up a regular sleep schedule with nighttime rituals to coax your brain into sleep

Learn more: Tips to sleep better »

Outlook

Sleep talking is a harmless condition that is more common in children and men and may occur at certain periods in your life. It requires no treatment, and most of the time sleep talking will resolve on its own. It can be a chronic or temporary condition. It also may go away for many years and then reoccur.

Talk to your doctor if sleep talking is interfering with your or your partner’s sleep.

Poll: How much do you sleep?

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