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What Causes Sleep Talking? Are there Effective Treatments?

Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is a disorder where you talk during sleep without your knowledge. Somniloquy can involve monologues, mumbling, or gibberish. It can also be induced by another person interrogating you when you are asleep.  It can take place on a nightly basis or occasionally.

There is no reason to lose sleep over it because the good news is that it is short-lived and a rare occurrence. When sleep talking, you are not aware of your speech or behavior. Therefore, your voice and type of language used may sound different from your wakeful speech.

Little is known about the information of somniloquy. Some talking may relate to relationships, past events, experiences and so on while some may not make sense at all. Although not harmful, somniloquy can be embarrassing and may also be annoying especially in group-sleeping situations. Researchers found that most sleep talking involves negating something and confrontation-like communication including communication with gaps where someone responds.

You may assume that somniloquy occurs during the REM phase of sleep, which is during dreaming. It is common during this phase, but not exclusive as you may nap talk during any stage while sleeping.  It is also a common occurrence to talk when you are half awake.

Who Is Affected By Sleep Talking?

Anyone can be affected by sleep talking. As a matter of fact, many people talk in their nap. However, a smaller percentage of adults is affected as compared to children. Research has shown that 5% of adults are affected while 50% of children aged 3 to 10 years have sleep talking disorder.

Like other types of parasomnia and teeth grinding, many children tend to grow out of sleep talking. Male and female kids are equally likely to experience somniloquy. Among adults, sleep talking is common in men than in women.

If you are a grown up and a part of the affected population, worry not because it is not considered a medical problem. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep talking is not considered a product of a conscious or rational mind, hence inadmissible in the court of law.

What Causes Sleep Talking?

Somniloquy is caused by many different factors. Researchers have found links between sleep talking and genetics.  This suggests that parents who had the same problem during their childhood are likely to have children experiencing the same disorder.

REM sleep disorder and nap terrors are types of sleeping disorders that may make you shout when asleep. Night terrors involve frightening screams, kicking or thrashing. It is hard to wake up a person having a nap terror. Nap terror usually involves sleepwalking or sleep talking.

The condition may also occur with the nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder. This is a condition in which you eat while you are asleep. Somniloquy can also occur with sleep apnea and nocturnal arousals. If your child is suffering from this condition, he or she should be closely monitored at night with all security measures taken.

Mental and Physical Health Problems

In some cases, adult-onset nap talking, particularly if it begins after 25 years of age, is a sign of a psychiatric disorder. Somniloquy may also be caused by daytime drowsiness or sleep deprivation that may be as a result of mental illness, sleep disorder or occasional normal sleeping issue.

Substance abuse

Use of drugs or alcohol may lead to the condition, particularly if you use or abuse them shortly before going to bed.

Certain medications contribute to somniloquy. Consider checking the side effects of the drugs you are using. This should not be a bother if the drugs are to be taken for a short period of time.

Emotional stress

Going through a hard time at work, with family, working out relationships or other problems may lead to this condition. It is important to see a therapist who can help you emotionally with the situation you are facing.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Talking?

Somniloquy may occur at any stage of sleep. With a lighter nap, the speech is more intelligible. In stages 1 and 2, you may have an entire conversation with other people or your partner. In stages 3 and 4, your speech may be restricted to gibberish and moans. Symptoms vary in duration and severity.

Duration criteria

  • Acute: occurs for one month or less.
  • Sub-acute: occurs for more than a month, but less than a year.
  • Chronic: for one year or longer.

Severity criteria

  • Mild: sleep talking episodes occurs less than a week.
  • Moderate: somniloquy occurs more than once in a week, less than nightly causing mild disturbances.
  • Severe: episodes occur every night and cause pronounced disturbances.

How Can You Stop Sleep Talking?

Although the condition should not be anything to worry about, it can be irritating especially if sharing a room with other people or a bed with your partner. There are no known cures, but simply measures that can reduce the likelihood of an embarrassment or disruption.

Minor somniloquy can be halted or improved by sufficient rest, improved sleep hygiene and maintaining a regular sleep schedule.  Sticking to a regular bedtime ensures you get plenty of sleep, which reduces the occurrence of sleep talking.

Refraining from alcohol, caffeine, unnecessary stress, and heavy meals may also help. Partners or roommates of sleep talkers may consider using earplugs to avoid any inconveniences while sleeping.

Keeping a nap diary may help you identify your sleeping patterns and help your sleep specialist identify an underlying problem causing you to sleep talk. Note down the times you retire to bed, the time you think you fell asleep and the time you woke up.

Also note down the medicines and time taken, drinks taken each day and when you exercise.

When Should You Seek Medical Assistance?

Somniloquy can also be vulgar or graphic, possibly disturbing or offensive to listeners or the speaker soon after you learn what you said while asleep. This situation may cause you to fear sleeping while in the presence of others for fear of causing disruption.

In such a situation, medical intervention is not a must for you, but maybe a good option to put you at ease and also prevent others from being disturbed. As said, somniloquy is harmless. However, in other cases, it can be a sign of other serious sleeping disorders.

If your child has nap problems, especially nap talking associated with nap walking, it is important you see a pediatrician. Talk to the specialist about treatment options or remedies for your child to avoid any risks, especially when sleep walking.

If nap talking is severe in that it occurs nighty or continues over a long while, it may be related to other health problems. You should; therefore, consult a medical expert for any underlying medical problems to be checked. If you get involved in violent actions it is also important to see a doctor.

A specialist will ask you a number of questions related to the disorder. You may be asked how long you have been sleep talking. Talk to your partner, roommate or your parents to know the exact period. There are no tests that are required to diagnose somniloquy.

What Do You Say When Sleep Talking?

It is obvious that you are curious about what you said while sleep talking. There are a number of sleep talk recorder apps you can use. Such applications listen for any sounds while you are asleep and record any mumblings. You can then listen in the morning to what your partner or you blurted out at night.

The apps range from helping you analyze your sleep cycle and waking you up at the required time. Others monitor sleep and record only the important information, store a complete history of all your sleep recordings.

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