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Sleep Talking

What is it?

The medical term for this activity is "somniloquy." It occurs when you talk out-loud during sleep. A listener may or may not be able to understand what you are saying. Sleep talking can occur by itself. It may also be a feature of another sleep disorder, such as one of the following:

The subject matter being talked about tends to be harmless. It may also make no sense at all. At other times, the content may be vulgar or offensive to a listener. The talking can occur many times and might be quite loud. This can disrupt the sleep of a bed partner or roommate.

Sleep talking may occur in any stage of NREM sleep or REM sleep. It is still unknown if the talking is closely linked to dreaming.

Sleep talking that is related to RBD or sleep terrors is much more dramatic. As a part of RBD, talking may be loud, emotional, and profane. Talking during sleep terrors tends to involve intense fear with screaming and shouting.

Who gets it?

Sleep talking is very common. It is reported in 50% of young children. About 5% of adults are reported to talk in their sleep. It occurs at the same rate in both men and women. It also appears to run in families. People who begin talking in their sleep as adults sometimes have mental problems as well. But most cases are not related to any mental disorder.

How do I know if I have it?

You will rarely be aware of talking in your own sleep. You will need a bed partner or someone else who hears you to tell you about it.

Sometimes things that cause other sleep problems can also bring out sleep talking. It may be a result of one of the following:

  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse

Do I need to see a sleep specialist?

Sleep talking is very common and tends to be harmless. If your talking is dramatic, emotional, or vulgar, then it may be a sign of another sleep disorder. You will want to see a sleep specialist in this case. A sleep specialist can also help if your sleep talking severely hurts the quality of sleep for you or a bed partner.

What will the doctor need to know?

The doctor will need to know how long you have been talking in your sleep. Get information from those who sleep with you or have seen you sleep. This includes spouses, relatives, friends, teammates, roommates, etc.

You will also need to provide a complete medical history. Be sure to inform the doctor of any past or present drug and medication use. Also tell him or her if you have ever had any other sleep disorder.

You will also want to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the doctor see your sleeping patterns. This information gives the doctor clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it.

Will I need to take any tests?

No tests are needed to detect sleep talking. Tests may be used if the doctor suspects that you have another sleep disorder.

How is it treated?

Sleep talking tends to be harmless and does not require treatment.

Reviewed by David Kuhlmann, MD
Updated August 31, 2007


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