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You’ve Been Talking in Your Sleep

Do you know that talking in your sleep is actually a sleep disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Do you know that talking in your sleep is actually a sleep disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Although the symptoms and long term effects of talking in your sleep are significantly less impactful than those of other sleep disorders, sleep talking or somniloquy, is a sleep disorder in its own right.  One of the parasomnias, sleep talking is characterized by the act of speaking while sleeping.  Although it is officially a sleep disorder, it is not generally considered to be a medical condition requiring treatment.  It can happen to anyone, at anytime and most sleep talkers have no memory of their late night monologues.  Sleep talking can range from full sentences to dialogue with others to gibberish and is not considered to be conscious speech from a legal perspective.


What Causes It

While there is evidence that sleep talking tends to run in families, there are other factors that seem to increase the likelihood of talking in your sleep.  Episodes of somniloquy can occur when your stress level increases, you aren’t getting enough sleep, you are sick and have a fever, when you drink alcohol, and if you are depressed.  Although these factors seem to increase the likelihood of talking in your sleep, there is no evidence to support direct cause and effect relationships.  In many cases, sleep talking accompanies another sleep disorder like night terrors, sleep apnea, or REM behavior disorder.


What Are We Talking About

In some cases, sleep talkers seem to be making perfect sense and can even carry on a conversation with another person without ever regaining consciousness.  Sleep talking can also make no sense at all, composed of gibberish, unusual sounds, parts of words, or odd exclamations.  The truth is, there is no way of knowing where the content of our sleep talking comes from or what it means.  The most important thing to remember, especially if your spouse seems to be uttering someone else’s name while they are sleeping, is that the words we say could relate to something we experienced in the past, something we heard from someone else, or something completely unrelated to us at all.  From a scientific standpoint, sleep talking is not a product of our rational mind and therefore cannot be taken as conscious speech.


What the Symptoms and Impacts

The only real symptom of sleep talking is the talking.  It doesn’t seem to disrupt the sleep of the speaker or result in daytime drowsiness like other sleep disorders.  There are no known negative health consequences related to sleep talking.  In fact, the only real problem it can cause is when it interferes with the sleep of our bed partners or roommates.   In those who experience frequent episodes of sleep talking, especially children and teens who may be embarrassed by this behavior, anxiety about sleeping away from home may develop.  However, there are no long term impacts associated with this harmless sleep disorder.


How is it Treated

Since sleep talking has no real impact on the sleeper, there is generally no need for treatment.  In the event that your late night utterances are causing issues with your significant other or other people who share your room, you may want to discuss the issue with your doctor.  In some cases, sleep talking can accompany another sleep disorder or an underlying medical condition that should be diagnosed and treated.


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