Somniloquy: What is Sleep Talking, Symptoms, And Treatment


[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ave you ever woken up in the middle of the night, scared by some noises, and were surprised to see that your friend was talking in his/her sleep? Have you ever been told by your roomie that you mumble sweet nothings in your sleep, unaware that you even did so? Has your spouse come to know about a long-time secret you accidentally spilt last night? If the answer to all these questions is yes, calm down night chatterers, as you are suffering from a very common sleep disorder, Somniloquy or Sleep Talking.

Somniloquy: What is Sleep Talking, Symptoms, And Treatment

What is Sleep Talking?

Sleep talking is a kind of sleep disorder which is defined as talking during sleep without knowing that one did so. Technically known as “somniloquy”, talking while you sleep can occur at any stage of sleep, but more often it occurs during REM sleep. When we sleep talk during the third and fourth stage of NREM sleep, it sounds like gibberish and involves mumbles, calling out, moans, whispering, owing to the fact that it is not something, done in consciousness. A person who sleeps talk is unaware of the fact that they talk while sleeping and also what exactly they talk.

Studies found that anyone can get this sleep disorder, but often it is genetic and tends to occur mostly in men, and children. When the children who sleep talk reach adulthood, they grow out of this habit and only 5% of them continue talking in their sleep till adulthood, Other sleep disorders like sleep deprivation, depression, stress, drugs and alcohol intake, anxiety, and fever can also lead to sleep talking. Though this insane habit is not considered a serious mental problem that requires treatment, yet it needs to be paid attention to if it co-exists with other “parasomnias” like sleepwalking, night terrors, sleep apnea, and until it chronically disturbs your sleep mate. Also, the development of somniloquy in adult over 25 years of age can be related to the presence of some medical issue.

Who Sleep Talks?

There are a lot of people out there who sleep talk but are unaware of it. Children between the ages of 3-10 years do it more often while around 5% of adults have been observed with this habit i.e. the habit of chit-chatting after they go to sleep (now stop thinking about 👻👻)

Related Read: Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms, and Preventive Measures

The frequency of sleep talk may take place every night or just occasionally. A poll conducted in 2004 showed that more than 2 in 10 children converse while sleeping on many nights in a week.

Girls also sleep talk as boys do. Most of the researchers believe that this habit may run in families and is inherited by the child. A recent study showed that more than 70% of toddlers sleep talk. The most interesting aspect of sleep taking is that a person who sleep talks is unaware that he/she does so as what they speak is often in a very dry tone with less emotion.

Is Sleep Talking Good or Bad?

Sleep experts do not accept somniloquy as harmful unless it is combined with other dangerous aspects. Those aspects are mainly other sleep disorders like sleep deprivation and sleep apnea which can be connected to sleep talking. Chronic form of sleep talking relates to intercurrent sleep disturbance created by sleep apnea. Thus, sleep talking is mainly not considered to be harmful unless it occurs chronically which can be a warning sign for a greater disorder. In addition, the disorder of REM sleep and sleep terrors can make some people shout while they sleep. In children who have sleep terrors, there’s a high chance of occurrence of Somniloquy (sleep talking) and Somnambulism (sleepwalking). On such a basis, somniloquy is again viewed as a possible sign of some abnormal sleep disorders.

Sleep talking also occurs in individuals who suffer from nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder, emotional issues, medications, or have a fever. Additionally, stress and anxiety also make people more prone to sleep talking. All the reasons mentioned above behind sleep talking are just hypothesis because researchers still don’t have enough proof to say why exactly somniloquy occurs. As believed by experts, sleep talking is harmful only when it disturbs your partner or roommate. One can also look out for possible treatments of sleep talking in the section below.

Stage, Severity & Duration of Sleep Talking

Somniloquy can be comprehensively understood by considering these three aspects:  Stages, Severity Criteria and Duration Criteria. We have discussed these aspects in detail, in the section below:

Stages of Sleep Talking:

  1. Stage 1 & 2: During these stages of sleep, the sleep talker is not in deep sleep as the sleep talker of stages 3 & 4. The speech of people in 1st and 2nd stages are easy to understand and also their talk makes sense to others in the same room.
  2. Stages 3 & 4: When the sleep talker is going through stage 3 and 4, they are experiencing a deep sleep and thus, their speech is quite hard to understand as it sounds like gibberish and moaning.

Severity Criteria of Sleep Talking:

Somniloquy is also determined by how frequently or often it occurs. It is divided into 3 parts:

  1. Mild: When sleep talk occurs a few times or once in a month.
  2. Moderate: When sleep talk occurs once or twice in a week and not every night. This form of severity does not disturb much to the sleep of the people sharing the same room.
  3. Severe: During this, sleep talking takes place every night which may trouble the sleep of people sharing the same room.

Duration Criteria of Sleep Talking:

  1. Acute: Sleep talk occurs for 1 month or less.
  2. Subacute: Sleep talk occurs for more than 1 month but less than a year.
  3. Chronic: Sleep talk continues for 1 year and longer.

Symptoms of Sleep Talking:

A sleep-talker mostly speaks gibberish or in a language and voice which can’t be easily understood. The main symptoms of sleep talking includes:

  1. Mumbling
  2. Utterances
  3. Calling out
  4. Talking-out loud
  5. Moaning
  6. Whispering

Why does Sleep Talking occur?

There’s a misconception in people’s mind that sleep talking occurs when people usually dream. Researchers are still unsure whether nighttime chatter is linked to nighttime reveries or not.

As mentioned before, somniloquy can occur at any sleep stage, but usually, it occurs by itself and without any harmful consequences. Only in a few cases, it may be a warning sign of some related sleep disorders or health condition. Mostly it occurs due to:

  1. Emotional Disturbance
  2. Certain medications
  3. Mental Disorders
  4. Fever
  5. Substance Abuse

Sleep disorders like sleep terrors and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) are the main reason that makes some people shout in their sleep. Sleep terrors are also known as Night terrors that involves thrashing, frightening screams, and even kicking. It’s really difficult to wake a person who is experiencing sleep terror. Sleep talk or somniloquy can be a feature of another sleep disorder like:

  1. Sleepwalking
  2. Confusional Arousal
  3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome
  4. Nocturnal Seizures
  5. Psychiatric Disorders
  6. Sleep-related eating disorder (SRED)

When does it take place?

Sleep talking occurs during both the sleep phases i.e. Rapid Eye Movement or REM phase and Non-REM phase. It occurs mainly when our body is unable to move smoothly from one sleep stage of non-REM to another that result in transitory partial awakenings, or sometimes during REM sleep as a “motor breakthrough”, a situation in which a person’s mouth and vocal cords get activated and the words are spoken out loud, presumably these words are the words spoken by them in a dream. In both the cases, sleep talk takes place when some aspects of wakefulness interferes with sleep, allowing a person to speak in a variety of modes like gibberish, mumbles or some useless dialogues or monologues. Also, remember that Sleep laughing is a different chapter or a different variant.

As we have already highlighted the fact that somniloquy occurs during momentarily overlapping of sleep stages, the reason behind its occurrence for a short interval (as it lasts for 1-2 seconds) is clear. Arthur Arkin, a sleep psychologist wrote once that sleep talkers usually burst out loud in sleep and get back to a normal silent sleep.


Seeing a sleep specialist is a good idea if it had developed in your adulthood, related to intense fear and violent actions or when your unconscious mumbling is interfering with the sleep of your roommates. If your child is experiencing sleep talking problems, you can consult a paediatrician. However, there are no tests to diagnose this unusual habit. A sleep specialist may order tests like sleep study or polysomnogram (sleep recording) if they feel, you are suffering from another sleep disorder.

There are no specific treatment methods for somniloquy but a sleep expert may advise you on managing some conditions to reduce it. If you think that the frequency of your sleep talk is bothering your family or roommate, you can:

  1. Make sure that you get a proper sleep. Sleeptalkers usually doesn’t talk during sleep when they are well rested.
  2. Try to reduce anxiety and stress levels as they increase the severity of somniloquy. Include meditation or yoga in your daily life as they provide peace to your mind and body which ultimately, help you to sleep well.
  3. Maintain a bedtime habit which will allow you to go to bed in time and wake up in time.
  4. Avoid having a heavy meal before going to sleep.
  5. Avoid the intake of alcohol.
  6. Avoid watching any horror series before going to bed as it may induce sleep terror.
  7. Make your bedroom ambiance peaceful.

Additionally, maintain a sleep diary, if necessary, note down timings when you are going to bed, when you are waking up, medications you are on, time of the day when you need to take those medicines, what type of drinks you had each day and at what time, what exercises you are doing and for how long and other necessary information related to your sleep. All the above-mentioned information will help a sleep expert in identifying your sleep pattern and the root cause of your sleep talking.

Remember: Even though sleep talking doesn’t usually require treatment, there’s a possibility of some hidden sleep disorder which requires immediate treatment.

Sleep talkers are harmless (unless they have other sleep disorders like sleep terrors) and sometimes sound funny to their roommates. Imagine, you are studying late one night due to an exam and you hear your roommate murmuring Thermodynamics formula in their sleep, making you smile for a second and excited to reveal this little funny secret of theirs to everyone.

Gotcha! You can do it here. We know you have a lot of those stories to say about your best friend, roommate or spouse. You can spill the beans here, and we would love to hear about it.

Share your thoughts, stories, and questions about sleep talking with the world. You can comment in the “Leave a reply” section at the bottom of this blog.


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