Sleep Talking, More Normal Than You Would Think

Sleep talking is pretty common among children, estimates are that a little over half of all children have talked in their sleep before (Wolchover). Sleep talking becomes a lot less common as people age, experts estimate that only 5 percent of adults sleep talk, sleep specialists are not sure why but apparently men sleep talk more commonly than women. (Steinberg).

The science behind sleep talking: “Sleep talking could be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, night terrors, or REM behavior disorder (when an individual acts out dreams by moving or talking).  Sleep talking may also occur when a person experiences a fever, sleep deprivation, depression, stress or consumes alcohol or drugs before bed” (Steinberg). These other factors affecting sleep talking could make for a useful experiment if sleep talking was something that people wanted to get more information on

People that are made aware that they sleep talk by someone, including myself, worry that they will say something embarrassing or strange while they are sleep talking, however this is nothing to worry about. Anything said during sleep is not a conscious thought that the person is having during the day or a secret that the person does not want anyone to know. Words spoken during sleep are usually just spoken conversation from the dream that person is having. I’ve had a few instances where I have kind of known that I was sleep talking. There was one specific instance where I was starting to wake up but still talked in my sleep, in my dream someone had asked me a question and I answered it out loud and realized it. I don’t remember what I was answering or what I said, but it was not anything exciting or abnormal. My roommate freshman year said that he would hear me sleep talking sometimes, but it wasn’t anything crazy, just normal conversations from my dream.

Some questions I would have about this data is where did it come from? There does not seem to be any data reported or collected on sleep talking. It appears as if these percentages are only estimates based on times where people report that they or their partner, child, roommate, brother, or sister are sleep talking. It may not be worthwhile to do a major study on sleep talking because it does not seem to be a major issue, unless it is so bad that someone is being kept up nightly from their partner’s sleep talking and not getting any sleep.

So what’s the big deal about sleep talking? For most people it is not a big deal, and if you are someone that is made aware of your sleep talking, don’t be worried about disclosing your biggest secrets at night. Sleep talking is only a problem if it is affecting your or someone else’s nightly sleep, but some people may enjoy hearing the occasional outburst at night. A woman named Karen greatly enjoyed her husband’s sleep talking and was disappointed when it suddenly stopped, saying, “”I do miss Sleep Talkin’ Man.” “Every once in a while he will grunt in the middle of the night like he would when sleep talking, and I’ll say, ‘Oh maybe he’s going to talk!’ and he never does”” (Steinberg)  It really depends on the person if you will be someone that is going to be bothered by your partner sleep talking, but the take away message is that if you sleep talk do not worry about what you say, even admissions of guilt while sleep talking do not hold up in court!  A person cannot control what they say while they sleep and what a person says while sleep talking should not be taken literally or for fact.

sleep talk

Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/33794-people-talk-sleep.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleeping-angels/200905/why-do-people-sleep-talk

http://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2014.00009

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/03/04/why-do-people-talk-in-their-sleep

5 thoughts on “Sleep Talking, More Normal Than You Would Think

  1. Shunyi Yu

    “A person cannot control what they say while they sleep and what a person says while sleep talking should not be taken literally or for fact.” I like this conclusion. I rarely sleep talking, I only do when I am super tired, and usually during those times I will be super easy to gain energy in a short time because I am in deep sleep I think. Sleep talking is sometimes interesting while others annoying. When I see the replies people said below, I think there can be a study shown whether you get up more tired or not after the sleep talking night.

  2. Brian D Wess Post author

    I think that the point where people should be concerned would be if the sleep talking was related to night terrors or even if the sleep talking was disruptive to that person or anyone else that would be affected by hearing it. I found it very interesting that, “psychiatric comorbidity was about twice as common for people with frequent sleep talking compared to those with infrequent or no sleep talking” in the NCBI study. I think sleep talking could be genetically influenced, the study definitely seems to think that. It’s an interesting topic, that I feel there has not been much studies on.

  3. Brian D Wess Post author

    That is a very interesting aspect that I did not consider or find anything about, Samantha. I was looking at sleep talking more as just a few words here and there, but if someone was talking most of the night that could very well affect the quality of their sleep. I could only tell that I sleep talked before when I was about to wake up and I think my alarm was already going off. I have not noticed being more tired as a result of sleep talking but that could be because I do not know how often or when I was sleep talking. That would be an interesting study or experiment to see if when a person sleep talks they will be more tired the next day, holding everything else constant

  4. Allison C Lightner

    When I was younger, I was obsessed with sleep talking and thought it was cool, so I forced myself to sleep talk, even though I wasn’t. I recently wrote a blog about nightmares and dreams, so your blog about sleep talking correlates with it. They go hand in hand because you are reacting to your dream which could possibly be something that you have experienced and you are reliving it. Maybe it is something you wish you had said during the actual experience. Or a bad experience that you are screaming. My grandma sometimes starts yelling and screaming during dreams and that is frightening. You said that normally these occurrences are not that harmful, but is there a certain point where people should be concerned? Do you think sleep talking could be genetically influenced? I found this one study by the NCBI about sleep talking that might be helpful: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9803021
    And another website dedicated to sleep talking: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/sleep-talking

  5. Samantha Elizabeth Schmitt

    I am known for sleep talking, but only when I am super tired. I can usually tell when I will sleep talk, just by knowing how tired I am. One morning my roommate and I both woke up and she told me all about my sleep talking (something about an alien coming) and she seemed to be entertained by it. I wonder what makes me sleep talk sometimes and what makes me not sleep talk other times, and why I seem to sleep talk only when I am tired. The nights I am told I sleep talk, I often wake up tired. While I am not as extreme with talking in my sleep as this girl (http://www.netwellness.org/question.cfm/82330.htm) this specific example shows that sleep talking can be a sign of issues, and people need to have it checked out to rule out problems.

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