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Pillow talk: Why do people talk in their sleep?

Sleep Talking Disorder

Are you a chatty Cathy when you’re supposed to be sleeping? 

Perhaps your partner has told you all about the weird and wonderful things you blurt out during your snoozing sessions. If that’s the case, you’re probably worried that you’ve been sharing your deepest and darkest secrets without realising. 

Even if you don’t have anything to hide, it’s pretty unnerving to discover that you’ve been doing something in your sleep that you weren’t aware of. 

The good news?

Sleep talking isn’t as worrisome as it seems. 

In fact, psychologists suggest that if you are a victim of excessive sleep talking, people shouldn’t take what you say when you’re sleeping as gospel. The things we blurt out when we’re unconscious aren’t necessarily some indication of any underlying truths, and they certainly can’t be held against you in court (phew). 

The truth is that around 66% of the population has blabbed in their sleep at one time or another. While some of us mumble nonsense, others deliver full sentences or attempt to carry on conversations. The question is, what does all this perplexing pillow talk mean?

Read on to your guide to the mystery of somniloquy, and everything that you need to know about talking while sleeping.

Sleep Talking Disorder

What is sleep talking disorder?

So, what is sleep talking disorder anyway?

Well, scientists are still figuring out the finer points of this condition. However, they suggest that somniloquy is just a random occurrence that occurs when we’re exposed to certain triggers, like lack of sleep. Sleep talking is often a rare and short-lived issue. While anyone can experience this condition, the episodes are most common in children and men. 

Sleep talkers are usually blissfully unaware that they’re blathering on during their sleep — until their partner shakes them awake and tells them to shut up. Because we’re not aware that we’re speaking, it’s also more likely that our voices will be a little different to whatever we sound like when we’re awake. Even the type of language you use when you’re asleep might differ to your usual diction. 

For the time being, there isn’t a lot of research into the nature of talking in your sleep, or the content that comes out when you sleep talk. Sometimes, people will say things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Other people have been known to recall past experiences and events during their sleep. However, both the law, and modern sleep science agree that sleep talking in adults and children is not a product of the conscious or rational mind. 

About 5% of the population suffers from excessive sleep talking. If you happen to be one of these people, or you’re just up for the occasional chat, it should help to know that somniloquy isn’t physically harmful. The worst you can expect is to be a bit embarrassed about whatever you’ve said. Additionally, sleep talking can seriously get on your partner’s nerves, so you might need to invest in some extra ear plugs.

At what stage does sleep talking occur?

So, when does sleep talking occur?

Most people assume that the episodes would happen during REM sleep, when your vivid dreaming occurs. After all, if we’re in the middle of an exciting dream, at least we have something interesting to talk about. 

However, studies show that sleep talk can happen at any time during the night, and in any stage of sleep. During the earlier stages of the night, when you’re more likely to be spending additional time in REM sleep, it is possible to experience sleep talking symptoms. When this happens, scientists call the presence of talking during REM “motor breakthrough.” Basically, they mean that whatever is going on in your dreams breaks through into the conscious world, via speech. Your mouth and vocal cords are briefly switched on by the brain, and you say what you’re saying in your dream out loud. 

However, somniloquy doesn’t have to happen during REM. You may also begin talking while sleeping during stages of “transitory arousal.” These are moments when you partially wake up while transitioning from one stage of non-REM sleep into another. Sleep talking is just as common in non-REM sleep (if not more so) than REM sleep. This indicates that our mind is always active — even during those periods when we’re not dreaming. 

It’s difficult to know for certain how common sleep talking disorder is, particularly because we’re sleeping during the process, and we don’t always wake our bedfellows with whatever we say. Additionally, our understanding of sleep talk is limited because we still don’t know much about what happens to our mind during sleep. Courts have previously rejected the idea that sleep talking could be entered as evidence in court, claiming that it’s difficult to know for certain if what we say is real, or factual.

Sleep Talking Disorder

Why do people talk in their sleep? Sleep talking causes

Although our research into the experiences and symptoms of sleep talking is limited, experts are beginning to make some progress into figuring out the causes of sleep talking. When it comes to understanding the answer to “Why does sleep talking occur?” scientists suggest that there may be numerous reasons. For instance, sometimes the condition is a result of genetics, scientists have found that it’s more likely for sleep talking disorders to run in families. 

However, there are also many external factors that can cause sleep talk and certain medications or physical conditions too. Here are just some of the most common causes of sleep talking:

  • Medications: If you’re on any particularly heavy doses of medication for anxiety, illness, or pain, then you’re more likely to mumble in your sleep. Medications that trigger drowsiness make it harder for your brain to operate as normal during the sleeping cycle. This increases the risk of something slipping through the cracks. 
  • Alcohol and drugs: Just as medications make it harder for your brain to act normally during sleep, alcohol seriously messes up your sleeping pattern. Drinking before you go to bed increases your risk of snoring, sleep talking, and even sleep walking at times. 
  • Depression and stress: Your mood can make a huge difference to how well you sleep. If your mind is filled with worry, sadness, or anxiety, then you might be less likely to sleep soundly. When you struggle to sleep properly, that’s when issues like sleep talking disorder become more likely. 
  • Genetics: As mentioned above, excessive sleep talking is often a disorder that runs through families. If you have family members that sleep talk, then you’re pretty likely to do the same. Before you start laughing at your dad for what he says when he’s sleeping, remember that you could be in the same boat. 
  • Sickness: When you’re not in great health, your sleep will usually be disturbed. Problematic slumber can trigger sleep talking and other disorders. The exhaustion caused by fever and illness also leads to a range of other sleeping disorders
  • Significant lifestyle changes: Massive changes to your regular sleeping routine can also increase the chances of sleep talking in adults. If you’re going to bed at a different time, or you’ve just eaten a massive meal before sleeping, you might through your system out of balance.
Sleep Talking Disorder

What are the symptoms of sleep talking?

As mentioned above, sleep talking can occur during any stage of the sleeping cycle. The lighter your sleep is, the more intelligible your chatter is likely to be. In deeper stages of the sleep cycle, people can have entire conversations with themselves or the people in their dreams. On the other hand, if you’re just in the very light stages of sleep, then you’re more likely to mumble or groan. 

Ultimately, the main sleep talking symptoms are the noises and sounds that you make when you’re resting. However, some people who suffer from excessive sleep talking may also feel more tired when they wake up because sleep talking is often a sign that you’re not getting the right level of rest. Other possible symptoms or combined conditions of sleep talking include:

  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep terrors
  • Confusional arousal
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • REM behaviour disorder
  • Nocturnal seizures
  • Psychiatric disorders 

Most of the time, sleep talking disorder is a very mild condition that doesn’t happen very often. However, doctors believe that “severe” or excessive sleep disorder might become a problem if you’re babbling away to yourself on a nightly basis. Although the symptoms of the condition might not be physically dangerous, consistent sleep talking suggests that you’re not getting the quality of sleep you need to recover and recuperate each night. 

If you visit your doctor complaining about sleep talking symptoms on a nightly basis, they’ll often send you for a sleep assessment overnight to see what’s causing the problems.

Is excessive sleep talking a bad sign?

Don’t panic. 

Talking in your sleep is usually nothing to worry about. For most people, it’s a random episode that happens occasionally and disappears before you know it. However, there are some instances where sleep talking in adults can be a sign of other conditions. That’s why most experts recommend speaking to a doctor if you start to talk too often. 

For instance, regular sleep talk could indicate that you have a condition called REM sleep behaviour disorder. This is a condition where you violently yell, punch, or kick during your dreams. During normal REM sleep, your brain will often paralyse your muscles temporarily to prevent you from acting out your dreams or hurting yourself. However, if you have RBD, you don’t have the same kind of muscle paralysis. This means that you are more likely to act out what you see in your head. 

Talking while sleeping could also be a sign that you have a problem with nightmare disorder. This means that you frequently experience bad dreams that are significant enough to wake you up during the night. Terrifying dreams often come with a rapid heartbeat, night sweats, and other physical sensations that leave you even more exhausted by the time you wake up. 

An overnight sleep assessment will give your doctor an insight into what’s going on when you’re resting. These evaluations will make sure that your habit of talking during your slumber isn’t a deeper sign of something that needs treatment.

Sleep Talking Disorder

Is sleep talking normal? Can sleep talking reveal secrets?

So, is sleep talking bad?

Not necessarily. It’s a pretty common condition, particularly among children. About half of the children under the age of 10 talk in their sleep. Additionally, like other sleep issues that are more common in childhood, such as bedwetting, sleep talking is something that often becomes less frequent with age. 

While both boys and girls are equally prone to sleep talking during the early years, sleep talking in adults appears to be more likely with men. Although we’re still working on answering the question: “Why does sleep talking occur?” it’s generally accepted that you shouldn’t be too worried about what you say during episodes of somniloquy. 

Despite what romantic songs would have you believe, sleep talking doesn’t reflect your prior memories or waking behaviours most of the time, according to scientists. Even if you’ve been dealing with family drama that day, or you have a rough time at the office, you’re probably not going to be talking about those issues in your sleep. 

While it’s fun to think that listening to someone talk when they sleep can help you to unearth their deepest and darkest secrets — that’s rarely the case. There are apps available to record sleep talking these days, and plenty of people have uploaded their ramblings to the internet. 

More often than not, the things that you say when you’re sleeping are likely to be complete nonsense. Even if you do manage to mumble a complete sentence, you’re probably going to say something that no-one, but you would understand. 

If your partner complains that you confessed to sleeping with someone else during your sleep, let them know that scientists have proven that the things you say during an episode of sleep talking disorder are complete gibberish. The real meaning of anything that you say when you’re sleeping is this: you’re not getting enough sleep. More often than not, the majority of the disorders that happen when we’re sleeping are caused by the fact that we’re not getting enough high-quality rest. It’s that simple.

Sleep Talking Disorder

The truth about somniloquy: Sleep talking facts

Let’s iron out some of the factors of sleep talking disorder. 

If you’ve heard that you’re whispering sweet nothings in your sleep, or your child screams out streams of nonsense when they go to bed, there’s no need to panic. 

Talking while sleeping is often funnier than it is worry-provoking. The chances are that your chitchat will leave you and your partner giggling the next day — provided that you haven’t kept your entire household up with your shouting. Here are some facts about sleep talking to help you clear the air:

  • Anyone can speak in their sleep: While talking while sleeping is more common in children, a lot of people have dealt with this condition. If your child feels nervous or embarrassed about their late-night chattering, let them know that most kids have the same experience at least once or twice and that they’ll probably grow out of it over time. 
  • There’s no magic treatment for sleep talking: Unfortunately, because we’re not always sure what causes sleep talking, it’s challenging to provide a one-size-fits-all treatment. Your doctor will usually send you to a sleep specialist if you experience this issue too regularly, however, just to make sure that nothing else is going on. 
  • Sleep talking means you need to get some more rest: Rather than trying to decipher the meaning of what you say when you’re sleeping, you should take sleep talking as a sign that it’s time to improve your sleep hygiene. Sleep talk is often a sign that something is wrong with your sleeping patterns. Try going to bed a little earlier or sticking to a regular routine. 
  • Sleep talking can lead to other issues: While sleep talking doesn’t cause any problems in itself, it can sometimes be an indication that you have an underlying disorder that needs to be addressed. For instance, you might have night terrors that are keeping you awake, or sleep apnea could be stopping you from getting rest. If this is the case, don’t be surprised if you encounter episodes of sleepwalking too!
  • It’s possible to reduce sleep talking: If you do have issues with excessive sleep talking, your doctor will often recommend using natural strategies to overcome the problem. For instance, they might ask you to go to bed at a certain time each night, record your dreams, and even look for ways to add more relaxation to your daily routine.
Sleep Talking Disorder

Why do I talk in my sleep? Deciphering the chit chat

Ultimately, sleep talking symptoms are nothing to be concerned about. 

In very rare cases, sleep talking in adults might indicate that you need treatment for some other underlying condition. However, most of the time, these episodes are just an indication that you’ve eaten too much before you went to bed, or that you’re overly exhausted from working too hard through the week. 

While it’s tempting to read a lot into what you or your partner says when talking in your sleep — don’t let it get to you. Experts recommend not giving much stock to the utterances that occur during somniloquy. Usually, you’ll just be blurting out sounds based on the random images that you see in your dreams, or the things that you say might not be connected with anything at all. 

The only time that excessive sleep talking might be a cause for concern is if you feel incredibly tired the day after you’ve been chatting up a storm. If your nocturnal conversations are disturbing your sleep or causing problems for your partner, then it’s probably time to speak to a doctor. Sleep talking in adults can also be an issue if it’s accompanied by other forms of “acting out” during unconsciousness, such as sleep walking. 

If you’re facing problems with your sleep that go beyond the basic rest talking symptoms, a specialist will help you to figure out how to improve your nightly routine. On the other hand, if you’re shouting “waffles” at 3am every now and again — we wouldn’t worry about it. 

Don’t forget to stay tuned here at Siestio for more tips and insights into the fantastic things that happen when you close your eyes at night. 

Siestio. Sleep Matters.

Content Strategist

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