It’s easy to worry about talking in your sleep, especially if you have been known to say odd, unusual, or frightening things, or to be very loud in your sleep. However, talking in your sleep is usually harmless, unless it disturbs your sleep partner. If you’re worried about it or wondering about it, here is everything you need to know.
What is Somniloquy?
Somniloquy is another word for sleep talking. While many sleep talkers actually say words, some people mutter incoherently, yell loudly, groan, or do other things similar to talking while they’re asleep. Almost all of the time, sleep talkers are unaware of what they are doing and don’t remember it at all in the morning. The only reason we know that some people talk in their sleep is because their sleep partners report it later.
Sleep talking is tied to other nighttime behaviors, like sleep-walking, night terrors, and teeth grinding, and other unusual nighttime activities. Somniloquy can run in families, so if you talk in your sleep, the chances are that someone you’re close to does, too.
The severity of somniloquy is measured on a couple of scales. People are acute sleep talkers when the issue has been occurring for less than a month. They are subacute when it’s been going on for more than a month but less than a year. The condition is chronic when a person regularly talks in their sleep for more than a year.
|Acute Sleep Talker||Subacute Sleep Talker||Chronic Sleep Talker|
|Less than 1 month||1 month - 1 year||More than 1 year|
Mild somniloquy occurs sporadically but less than once a week. Moderate sleep talking happens at least once a week but less than once a night, and is only minimally bothersome to a sleep partner. Severe sleep talkers talk at least once a night, or their sleep talking is very invasive to the sleep of a bed partner.
|Mild Somniloquy||Moderate Somniloquy||Severe Somniloquy|
Less than once a night
|At least once a week,
less than once a night,
does not disturb partner
|At least once a night
and/or very invasive
for sleep partner
Why Do People Talk in Their Sleep?
No one is really sure why people talk in their sleep. Some researchers believe that people are acting out or responding to what is going on in their dreams, though there’s no way to prove this since sleep talkers don’t remember saying anything.
Sleep talking can occur at any time during the sleep cycle. If it happens in Stage I or II sleep, it’s more likely that the person will say things that make sense, or are at least easy to understand. As people get deeper and deeper into their sleep, the things they say are more likely to be garbled, nonsensical, or confusing
Some people talk in their sleep throughout their lives. Others find that it comes on or is exacerbated by stressful life circumstances, major life changes, or other significant events. Sometimes, the period in which a person talks in their sleep is short: once they process an event or a change, they don’t do it anymore. Other times, stress or life change triggers sleep talking that lasts a long time.
Most sleep talkers find that they talk more under certain conditions. People tend to talk after drinking alcohol, when they are stressed or sleep deprived, or when they have a fever. Depression can also trigger somniloquy. Very occasionally, people will start having night seizures and will also begin to talk in their sleep at the same time. While sleep talkers may also talk at other times, it will be worse if these things are going on in their lives.
What to Do if You Talk in Your Sleep
Most of the time, you don’t have to do anything about somniloquy if you don’t want to. It’s usually harmless and doesn’t necessarily indicate any underlying conditions. If it’s bothering you or disrupting the sleep of your bed partner, though, it might be time to see if there’s anything you can do to limit the number of times that it happens.
If you suddenly start talking in your sleep regularly, look at the conditions under which it happens. If you’re drinking more alcohol or aren’t getting enough sleep, try changing these things and see if your sleep talking gets better, too. Are you depressed or stressed out? You may need to talk to a doctor to remedy these conditions, but that’s worth the hassle if they can help you solve your sleep talking problem.
Work on Sleep Hygiene
Clean up your sleep hygiene, too. Make sure you’re going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, that your bed and bedroom are comfortable and optimized for sleep, and that you are staying away from screens before bedtime. If changing your circumstances doesn’t help, it’s probably time to see a doctor. You need to rule out any underlying sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Treating these can sometimes limit your sleep talking symptoms, too.
Help Your Partner Out
Sometimes, it’s impossible to stop talking in your sleep. If you’re disturbing your partner, it’s time to see what can be done for their comfort. It might help them to sleep in earplugs, or to sleep in a separate bedroom outside of sexual activity. There are many ways for them to deal with your sleep talking that maintains intimacy while still allowing them to get the rest they need.
Sleep talking is common and, usually, harmless. In fact, many people think it’s funny to record what their partners say while they’re asleep. If you don’t want to talk in your sleep, though, try some of these suggestions. There’s usually a good way to limit or stop somniloquy, you just have to figure out what works for you.