How To Stop Sleep Talking

Sleep talking can also occur with sleepwalking and nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder(NS-RED), a condition in which a person eats while asleep.

Talking in Your Sleep

Have you been told that you whisper sweet nothings in your sleep — unaware that you ever spoke a word? Or, maybe your child shouts out streams of babble late at night — only to fall right back to sleep. Have you been hoping your sleep-talking spouse will spill a long-time secret? Go ahead. Pose a question while they are sleeping, and don’t be surprised if you get a single-syllable answer! But be warned: A sleep talker usually doesn’t remember anything that’s said during sleep.

Talking in your sleep can be a funny thing. Perhaps you chitchat unconsciously with unseen associates at the midnight hour. Or maybe a family member unknowingly carries on nightly conversations. Here are answers to your questions about talking in your sleep — what you need to know about sleep talking, from causes to treatments.

What is sleep talking?

Sleep talking, or somniloquy, is the act of speaking during sleep. It’s a type of parasomnia — an abnormal behavior that takes place during sleep. It’s a very common occurrence and is not usually considered a medical problem.

The nighttime chatter may be harmless, or it could be graphic, even R rated. Sometimes, listeners find the content offensive or vulgar. Sleep talkers normally speak for no more than 30 seconds per episode, but some people sleep talk many times during a night.

The late-night diatribes may be exceptionally eloquent, or the words may be mumbled and hard to decipher. Sleep talking may involve simple sounds or long, involved speeches. Sleep talkers usually seem to be talking to themselves. But sometimes, they appear to carry on conversations with others. They may whisper, or they might shout. If you share a bedroom with someone who talks in their sleep, you might not be getting enough shut-eye.

Who talks in their sleep?

Many people talk in their sleep. Half of all kids between the ages of 3 and 10 years old carry on conversations while asleep, and a small number of adults — about 5% — keep chit-chatting after they go to bed. The utterances can take place occasionally or every night. A 2004 poll showed that more than 1 in 10 young children converse in their sleep more than a few nights a week.

Girls talk in their sleep as much as boys. And experts think that sleep talking may run in families.

What are the symptoms of talking in your sleep?

It’s hard to tell if you’ve been talking in your own sleep. Usually, people will tell you they’ve heard you shout out during the night or while you were napping. Or maybe someone might complain that your sleep talking is keeping them up all night.

What causes sleep talking?

You might think that sleep talking occurs during dreaming. But scientists still are not sure if such chatter is linked to nighttime reveries. The talking can occur in any stage of sleep.

Sleep talking usually occurs by itself and is most often harmless. However, in some cases, it might be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder or health condition.

REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and sleep terrors are two types of sleep disorders that cause some people to shout during sleep. Sleep terrors, also called night terrors, usually involve frightening screams, thrashing, and kicking. It’s hard to wake someone having a sleep terror. Children with sleep terrors usually sleep talk and sleepwalk.

People with RBD yell, shout, grunt, and act out their dreams, often violently.

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Sleep talking can also occur with sleepwalking and nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder(NS-RED), a condition in which a person eats while asleep.

Other things that can cause sleep talking include:

  • Certain medications
  • Emotional stress
  • Fever
  • Mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse

How is talking in your sleep treated?

It is a good idea to see a sleep specialist if your sleep talking occurs suddenly as an adult or if it involves intense fear, screaming, or violent actions. You might also consider seeing a doctor if unconscious chatter is interfering with your sleep — or that of your roommates.

If you think your child has sleep problems, make an appointment with your pediatrician.

A sleep specialist will ask you how long you’ve been talking in your sleep. You’ll have to ask your bed partner, roommate — even your parents — this question. Keep in mind, you may have started sleep talking in childhood.

There are no tests needed to diagnose sleep talking. However, your doctor may order tests, such as a sleep study or sleep recording (polysomnogram), if you have signs of another sleep disorder.

Sleep talking rarely requires treatment. However, severe sleep talking may be the result of another more serious sleep disorder or medical condition, which can be treated. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

How can someone reduce their amount of sleep talking?

There is no known way to reduce sleep talking. Avoiding stress and getting plenty of sleep might make you less likely to talk in your sleep.

Keeping a sleep diary can help identify your sleep patterns and may help your doctor find out if an underlying problem is causing your sleep talking. Keep a sleep diary for two weeks. Note the times you go to bed, when you think you fell asleep, and when you woke up. You’ll also want to write down the following:

  • the medicines you take, and the time of day you take them
  • what you drink each day and when, especially caffeinated drinks such as cola, tea, and coffee, as well as alcohol
  • when you exercise

Show Sources

American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “What Is Sleep Talking?”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Sleep Problems in Children.”

National Sleep Foundation: “Sleep Problems in Children.”

What to know about sleep talking

Somniloquy is the scientific name for sleep talking, a sleep disorder that causes people to call out, speak, or produce incoherent language during sleep.

Sleep talking is one of the more common sleep disorders and is more widespread among children and adolescents than adults. However, according to another study, there is no difference in the frequency of occurrence between males and females. It can also occur during rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

There is little research to explain why sleep talking occurs. This might be because it has few health or adverse health consequences other than disturbing the sleep of others.

Keep reading to learn more about possible causes, side effects, and some prevention tips for sleep talking.

Person asleep on bed with hat on, sleep talking.

Experts are not entirely sure why sleep talking occurs in some people and not in others. Generally, those who talk in their sleep do not have any underlying health conditions.

Sleep talking is a widespread type of parasomnia. Some studies show that sleep talking affects almost 67% of the population in the United States.

While sleep talking is generally a harmless and random event, sometimes it has associations with serious illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease. A study found that people with Parkinson’s were seven times more likely to experience REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).

RBD is a sleep disorder that involves physically acting out vivid, sometimes unpleasant dreams with vocal sounds and sudden, often violent arm and leg movements during REM sleep

Research also shows that the frequency of sleep talking among those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychiatric conditions is twice as high as for those without such disorders. For example, PTSD increases the odds of REM sleep behavior disorder and other parasomnias in veterans.

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Typically, sleep talking is harmless, but it can disrupt the sleep of others. This can lead to outcomes such as increased daytime sleepiness due to a lack of restful sleep.

Furthermore, a person does not know what they are saying while they are sleeptalking, and sometimes, they may say personal things that might adversely affect relationships.

Recurrent episodes of sleep talking in addition to other parasomnias, such as sleepwalking, teeth grinding, or nightmare disorder, in adults might indicate an underlying sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

If people are worried about their lack of sleep, or quality of sleep, a medical professional or sleep specialist may be able to help.

Sleep talking episodes are typically brief. However, a doctor or sleep specialist may be able to help if:

  • an adult with no know previous history starts sleep talking
  • sleep talking accompanies violent movements and dream reenactment while still asleep, also known as REM movement disorder
  • recurrent sleep talking interferes with a person’s or their partner’s sleep

If sleep talking happens more often, becomes a problem, or accompanies other parasomnia behavior, taking part in a lab sleep study, or polysomnography, might help rule out other sleep disorders that could contribute to sleep talking.

Management strategies for parasomnias, such as sleep talking, vary according to the type of movement or behavior a person experiences, the frequency and severity of the episodes, and the presence of an underlying sleep or other medical or neurologic disorder.

Infrequent sleep talking does not usually require treatment. Effective pharmacologic therapy is available for certain disorders, such as RBD. In all cases, counseling on common triggers, such as sleep deprivation and alcohol use, can often help. It is also important to establish a safe sleeping environment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

One type of therapy that might help is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing behaviors and thoughts patterns, improving emotional regulation, and strengthening coping mechanisms.

CBT targets sleep talking by helping people employ relaxation skills, leading them through instruction that they can then use to reduce their anxiety.

Research from 2013 shows improvement in parasomnia disorders for 6 out of 6 people who underwent CBT or hypnosis treatment. However, it is important to note this is a very small sample size, and the study did not look specifically at sleep talking but sleep disorders in general.

A 2015 literature review suggests similar findings but acknowledges that far more studies into the efficacy of CBT for the treatment of parasomnias must take place before researchers have definitive evidence to support these early findings.

While the data shows that CBT may help to reduce parasomnia activity, there is no definitive solution to stop sleep talking.

Avoiding stress and getting enough restful sleep each night may help reduce sleep talking occurrences. Keeping a sleep diary may also help people notice patterns in their bedtime habits that may contribute to sleep talking tendencies.

Such habits might include exercising shortly before bed, consuming too much caffeine, and taking medication in the evening, all of which can impact restful sleep.

Abnormal movements and behaviors during sleep, such as sleep talking, are part of a larger group of nocturnal events that may occur during wakefulness, the transition into or out of sleep, or during sleep itself.

Sleep talking is a relatively common manifestation of parasomnia that primarily affects children and adolescents. It may resolve on its own, but it is always important to look for and address an underlying cause, particularly when it occurs in adults.

CBT could be one way of preventing sleep talking, but research is in its early stages.

Sometimes, improving the quantity and quality of sleep may help to prevent episodes of sleep talking.

If a person is concerned about their sleep and that sleep talking may have links to another sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, a doctor or sleep specialist can help.

Last medically reviewed on July 9, 2021

  • Neurology / Neuroscience
  • Psychology / Psychiatry
  • Sleep / Sleep Disorders / Insomnia

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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