Let’s Talk about Sleep Talking!
Essentially, sleep talking is a type of parasomnia or abnormal behaviour that happens during sleep.
The sleep disorder, referred to in the medical field as somniloquy (not to be mistaken with a Shakespearean ‘soliloquy’), is an audible expression that can sound like gibberish, but in some cases, may come out as clear sentences. 💬
Considered one of the most common parasomnias, an estimated 2 out of 3 people experience sleep talking at some point in their lives. Meaning you have likely spilt secrets to a partner, roommate or friend, oblivious while tucked up in bed.
Just kidding! It’s more likely you were explaining something entirely bizarre and useless, like your ability to fly or the latest mythical creature you’ve battled.
Sleep talking is prevalent among children ages 3-10 years old, affecting fewer adults and occurring equally in men and women.
An episode of sleep talking usually lasts for no more than 30 seconds, though it can occur multiple times in a night.
More often than not, the sleep talker is unaware of their sleep talking episodes upon waking, which, depending on how you look at it, could be embarrassing for some and amusing for others.
Sleep therapist and author of ‘Fast Asleep, Wide Awake’, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, believes the root cause of the phenomena is “the nervous system being overstimulated.”
According to Dr Ramlakhan, the behaviour “can be related to excessive use of technology before bed or too much caffeine.”
“But these sorts of behaviours can happen with people who are quite hard on themselves, they’re perfectionists, but they often hold back on saying what they really want to say. When they go to bed at night, it spills out into the sleep.“
Is Sleep Talking Harmful?
Now that you know what sleep talking is all about, you might be wondering if it’s something that you should be worried about.
Well, good news! Sleep talking is not considered a condition to be seriously alarmed about. So you can sleep soundly (pun intended) because there’s no reason for it to keep you up at night. 🛏️ 💤
However, while sleep talking may be harmless, it is important to note that — if alongside other forms of sleep apnea — it can be a sign of a severe sleep disorder.
Things to look out for include:
- Severe or prolonged cases: talking every night to the point that it seriously disturbs you and your sleep partner
- Other parasomnias, such as sleep terrors (nightmares) or sleepwalking.
- Teeth grinding
What Causes Sleep Talking?
Sleep talking is typically associated with the realm of dreaming, but as dreams are an evolving field of study, the science isn’t settled on all the specifics. Doctors, experts and researchers agree that it can occur during any stage of sleep, including the REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) stage and the non-REM sleep phase.
Talking in your sleep may either have a genetic component or be caused by different external factors.
Strong external forces that can make a person sleep talk include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Daytime fatigue
- Mental health problems
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- and substance abuse (including alcohol).
Can Sleep Talking Be Stopped?
In most cases, sleep talking happens once in a while as a spill-off from your dreams.
When it happens every so often, it’s best to ignore it as it won’t require any intervention from a sleep specialist.
But, there are cases wherein the frequency of sleep talking increases, and sleep disorders need to be ruled out and addressed, as sleep talking may be a symptom of another issue.
Sleep talking, in itself, can not be cured, but underlying causes that induce somniloquy can be treated and managed. Once better sleep quality is achieved, the talking may be reduced or, if you’re lucky, not come back at all. (We wouldn’t bet on it, though.)
How to Prevent Sleep Talking:
There are many ways to improve your sleep quality and, in turn, lessen the risk of a disrupted sleep cycle — that may be the culprit behind your noisy nights.
Follow a Sleep Schedule
- Observing a regular sleep schedule and making it a habit to sleep on time is the best way to develop a good sleep pattern and improve overall sleep quality. Identifying and following these patterns allows our sleep cycles to regularise: minimising the chance of discrepancies in our NREM and REM sleep.
- Keep a log or a sleep diary on your bedside table, and maybe ask a bed partner or a roommate to report back whenever they hear you talking in the night. Understanding when and how much you sleep could hint at the cause of your sleep talking.
- Practice good sleep hygiene: Set your bedroom to the perfect temperature, make sure it’s dark and quiet, and fully designed to accommodate a good night’s sleep (meaning: a night free of wakefulness and sleep disturbances).
Explore Different Relaxation Techniques
Meditation is one of the best ways to clear your mind before bedtime. It can take you away from your immediate thoughts and allow you to be more mindful, present and at peace.
A more relaxed mind can help control your brain’s processing and may assist in your mission to sleep soundly. Meditation is excellent for your mental health and your body’s overall health and wellness.
Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, and Heavy Meals before Bed
Be mindful of what you put in your body right before bedtime. Eating certain kinds of foods cause poor sleep quality, reduce the amount of your sleep, and can sometimes even cause bad dreams.
Set up a Comfortable Sleeping Area
Being comfortable in bed allows you to maximise the benefits of sleeping fully. This step is crucial to avoid messing up sleep cycles and could result in quieter sleep.
Sleeping with a Partner?
If you talk in your sleep, then ironically, it’s actually convenient if you sleep with a partner. They can act as a first-hand witness of your sleep talk episodes and inform you of their appearances so that you can log them in your sleep diary.
The truth of the matter is, when you sleep talk loudly enough, your family members or other people in your household might overhear, so don’t be shy to ask them about it.
While sleep talking can cause sleep disturbance to your partner, there are ways around it; you may offer to provide earplugs for them or play some white noise or relaxing music to drown out the sounds (this trick also works for snoring! And there are tons of free sleep mixes on Youtube to browse through).
When to Call It a Night
Have you caught yourself sleep talking before? Maybe someone called you out on it sometime? In any case, there’s not much cause for alarm.
Observe your sleep quality, and if the habit becomes chronic, consider visiting your local sleep specialist.
But for now, we hope these tips quiet your mind, and we wish you and your partner a restful night’s slumber. 😴