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Why Do We Talk in Our Sleep

English: Man with beard sleeping.

If your husband claims he has no recollection of the discussion you had last night, he may not be trying to get away with something. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If your husband or wife is claiming that they have no recollection of the discussion you had last night, they may not be trying to get away with or get out of something.  They may have been talking in their sleep.  Most of us think that talking during sleep is limited to nonsense, gibberish, or single word outbursts, but the truth is that sleep talkers can have complete conversations with others without ever being aware that they are talking.  Before you point fingers or start playing the blame game, read on to learn more about who is prone to sleep talking and why it happens.

Sleep talking is a type of sleep disorder called an NREM parasomnia.  It’s official name is somniloquy and it can be experienced by anyone.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, most instances of sleep talking are short-lived but for some, this behavior can become chronic or persistent.  Men and children are more likely to be sleep talkers and the condition can be experienced spontaneously, you can talk in your sleep without any provocation, and in can sometimes be induced by another person.  This means that if you start a conversation with your spouse because you think they are awake, they may respond as if they are even though they are still asleep.

Sleep talkers don’t always make sense, however.  Much of the time the sleep talk doesn’t really resemble the talker’s normal speech.  They may say nonsense words, utter sounds only, or use a voice that is different from their normal speaking voice.  This can be very unnerving for those who sleep in the same bed.  Other times, sleep talkers can have entire conversations by themselves, converse as if there is another person participating, or go on and launch into a monologue for several minutes.  All of these behaviors fall under the sleep talking umbrella, even those when no actual words are spoken.


What Causes Sleep Talking?

Since it can affect anyone who sleeps, which is all of us, it is very helpful to understand what can cause sleep talking.   There are many external factors that can increase the incidence of sleep talking.  These factors include:

While sleep talking does seem to run in families, most experts agree that the genetic predisposition isn’t enough to get someone chitchatting during sleep.  Most people also need some kind of external stimulus to get the sleep talking started.

Sleep talking is also commonly seen in conjunction with other sleep disorders.  People who have night terrors, obstructive sleep apnea, and REM sleep behavior disorder are more prone to sleep talking than others.  There are also some medical and mental health conditions for which sleep talking is a symptom.  If you are over the age of 25 and suddenly start talking in your sleep on a regular basis, you should discuss this with your doctor as it may indicate an underlying medical or mental health condition.


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