It can be funny to listen to friends or loved ones talk in their sleep. Usually, their words make no sense or seem like another language altogether, but some people can have whole conversations with you and not remember a word they said the morning after. Are they saying out loud what they are dreaming they are saying? Why does it happen to some people but not others? Let’s look deeper into the science of sleep talking and why it happens.
The Two Stages of Sleep Talking
Sleep talking is called somniloquy and along with sleep walking, bed wetting and nightmares, it is actually considered a sleep disorder. It’s very common, with almost half of all people thought to have talked in their sleep at some point – although this could even be more because people won’t really be aware of the fact that they talk in their sleep unless someone tells them. No one knows exactly what causes us to sleep talk but studies have shown that there are two different types of sleep talking. We can sleep talk before rapid eye movement (REM) and dreaming sets in, and we can sleep talk during our REM cycle, which is when we dream.
During the first stage, rousing someone from sleep to help them stop talking is easy and they’ll be somewhat aware of the fact that they were talking. But in stage two, people will be hard to wake up and when they do they won’t remember what they were talking about or even remember talking at all.
Scientists haven’t been able to prove whether people who are sleep talking are simultaneously talking in their dreams because this would only happen during REM, and people never remember what happened after they have been woken up from this type of sleep.
Some Factors That Might Cause Sleep Talking
Even though we can’t say exactly what causes sleep talking, there are circumstances that seem to cause more cases of sleep talking than others. For example, tales of sleep talking after a wild night of drinking is common, and people are suffering from a high fever are also known to sleep talk. Those taking medications and those under extreme stress are also more likely to sleep talk. Curiously, sleep talking also seems to run in families, and many families will have multiple members who talk in their sleep.
Is Sleep Talking Dangerous?
It can be freaky to watch someone sleep talk, especially when they appear to be so aware and coherent when they are talking but completely unable to remember what they said later. There are times when the frequency of someone’s sleep talking greatly increases and you may think that there may be some underlying medical problem causing it, but the reality is that sleep talking is not dangerous to your health at all. The only issue that sleep talking can cause is possibly disrupting your sleep or the sleep of those around you.
If you have a partner who talks in their sleep it can be very tempting to try to read into their sleep talking and believe that they are revealing thoughts and feelings that they wouldn’t reveal while they are awake. However, experts say that the words uttered during sleep talking aren’t anything to take seriously.
If you are a parent of a child who talks in their sleep, it can be concerning, but again, experts have said that this is nothing to worry about. Many children are frequent sleep talkers, and this is thought to be a result of the child’s brain developing. But as the child grows and their brain becomes more developed, sleep talking usually stops and most children grow out of it.
Unless sleep talking is accompanied with sleep walking to the extent the person is at risk of injuring themselves, sleep talking is really just an amusing, or annoying, completely involuntary behaviour.