Sleep talking, scientifically referred to as somniloquy, is a parasomnia (abnormal activity during sleep) in which a person talks without being aware. It can range from mummers to complicated dialogues and monologues. It can also involve talking things that make complete sense and other that do not. Sleep talking can be loud or in low in tone.
Most at times, the person who is talking in sleep is usually unaware. As such, their voice and even language is different from the one they use when awake. In most people, sleep talking does not last for a long time. Male adults and young children are the most affected.
Sleep talking is seen in about 50% of children but they quickly outgrow it as the brain develops further in puberty. It is only reported in about 4% of adults. Most sleep-talkers are genetically predisposed but the condition is triggered by environmental factors.
Sleep talking can occur by itself as a condition. However, it is usually a symptom of other sleeping disorders. These sleeping disorders include sleep terror and obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep Talking: Content
Most of the utterances in sleep talking are usually not easy to understand. However, when spoken clearly the content can be about current events or past events. In general, the law assumes that sleep talkers talk when they are not conscious. Consequently, the content is sleep talk is admissible in court.
Sleep talking, unlike sleep walking is not harmful. A pure event of talking in sleep does not affect the talker’s sleep patterns. In fact, insomnia- a common symptom of sleeping disorders- is not reported. However, it may cause the person to be afraid of going to bed and also wake up early. If this happens, the person can feel drowsy during the day. The biggest negative effect is embarrassment. In addition, the sleeping partner may find this offensive.
Cause of Sleep Talking
This parasomnia can occur at REM or the non-REM stage. However, it is mostly seen at the transition stage between REM and non-REM. In light sleep (non-REM) the conversation are clear and make more sense. In REM (deep sleep), the talk is unclear and involves moaning sounds. It is good to note that sleep talking is not always related to dreaming. Some the trigger factors include:
- Stress and depression.
- Medical and narcotic drugs.
- Fever as seen in bacterial diseases.
- Mental and psychological problems.
Treatment for Sleep Talking
When it occurs by itself without any underlying condition, treatment is never necessary as the sleeping pattern is not affected. In addition, it is not harmful. Treatment can be sought if the events of sleep talking last for more than one month.
In most cases however, talking in sleep is a symptom of another condition. By treating the underlying sleep disorders, the regularity of sleep talks go down. Since it is associated with stress and depression, these two conditions should be explored and if need be, treated.
It is important that the sleep talker is understood by the bed or roommates. Making fun of the talks can lead to insomnia as the person may be afraid if sleeping. In addition, the thing said in sleep talks should not be take seriously as the person is unconscious. The bed partner should get ear plugs so that they are protected from the noise.