Everything to Know About Talking In Your Sleep

Spilling secrets in your sleep? Learn the truth about sleep talking and how you may be able to stop it.

By Ashley Little

Apr 26th, 2022

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If you think you may have been talking in your sleep lately, you might be worried about exposing your deepest, darkest secrets or sharing the strangest details about your dreams. Unfortunately, people who do talk in their sleep are completely unaware until someone else informs them and there’s pretty much no way to control it.

What is Sleep Talking?

Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is a parasomnia that is characterized by talking while you are asleep. This habit is very common and is generally not a health concern, though it can lead to embarrassment for the sleep talker or annoyance for sleep partners whose nights may be disturbed.

Fortunately for the sleep talker, what you say while you are talking in your sleep is not considered a product of your conscious or rational mind—usually it’s just complete gibberish with no actual meaning.

In fact, your voice and language could even be completely different from your conscious voice and language that you use. Generally, the deeper the stage of sleep you are in, the more confusing your speech will become, though sleep talking can occur during any stage of sleep.

Sometimes the sleep talking could be as minimal as groans or grunts, as strange as whispers or laughing, or as eerie as holding an entire conversation. Sleep talkers are also notorious for uttering profanities or rude comments.

If you share a bed with someone who talks in their sleep, remember these words are essentially meaningless and you should not be personally offended by any vulgar language that the sleeper may use.

Why People Talk in Their Sleep

The exact causes of sleep talking are not known. Sleep talking usually occurs on its own, but it can be caused by external factors. These factors could include:

Talking in your sleep could also be a by-product of other sleep disorders including night terrors, confusional arousals, sleep apnea, or REM sleep behavior disorder.

Night terrors are most common in children, but adults can also have this experience. In a night terror, people usually scream and thrash in response to a frightening dream and wake up unable to recall what happened. Confusional arousals are also common in children. A confusional arousal is how you describe what occurs when a sleeping person appears to be awake but they are disoriented and unresponsive.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) causes people to act out their dreams, including talking and moving around as if awake. Typically during REM sleep, we go into sleep paralysis to avoid acting out our dreams, but those with RBD are the exception to this.

Who Talks in Their Sleep?

Anyone can experience sleep talking, though it is most common in children and men. Because sleep talking tends to run in families, it is common that offspring of parents who talk in their sleep will also exhibit the behavior.

Studies have shown that about 50% of children from the ages of 3 to 10 routinely talk in their sleep. This behavior tends to go away with age in most cases. In adults, it is more common for men to be sleep talkers than women.

How to Avoid Sleep Talking

Sleep talking is typically short-lived and goes away on its own. If talking in your sleep is becoming an annoyance to you or your sleeping partner, there may be ways you can try to avoid it.

Start by addressing your stress and working to reduce any anxiety you may have built up. Sleep talking could be an expression of this stress and restlessness. You can start reducing stress by exercising more frequently and practicing calming activities at night before bed to help you wind down. 

Next, practice better sleep hygiene habits by following a regular schedule of going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day. Additional steps to improving your sleep hygiene include:

  • Frequently exercising
  • Avoiding technology late at night
  • Avoiding heavy meals or caffeine in the late afternoon and evening
  • Creating a bedtime routine to practice regularly
  • Optimizing your bedroom environment by finding the right mattress, sheets, and other sleep accessories

For bed partners who are bothered by someone else’s sleep talking habits, you may benefit my using earplugs while you sleep to avoid any disturbances. Another option is to use a white noise machine or even turn a fan on to mask the noises.

If your sleep talking persists and it is negatively impacting the quality of your life, you may want to consider speaking with a sleep specialist. Sleep talking could be due to an underlying medical condition such as an undiagnosed sleep disorder or debilitating stress and anxiety. A sleep specialist will help you work through any sleep problems you are encountering.