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Sleep Science

How To Stop Sleep Talking

In this article

Talking in your sleep can be either funny or frightening for anyone listening in – and you often won’t remember you’ve even said something! But what causes us to start speaking nonsense while we’re supposed to be unconscious? Well, we decided to dig into the specific type of parasomnia to figure out what causes this abnormal behaviour, and to give you some advice on how you can potentially prevent yourself from sleep-talking in the future.

Young girl sleeping with her mouth open.

What is sleep-talking?

Sleep-talking is the act of talking or making sounds while you’re asleep, and rest assured, it’s not considered to be a medical problem. As we mentioned above, sleep-talking is a type of parasomnia, which is a behaviour that’s normal (but potentially scary) while you are asleep – this includes things like sleep paralysis and sleepwalking.

Generally, sleep talkers will only speak for up to 30 seconds in an episode, but some people will have multiple episodes in a night. It can happen to anybody, but some people might find it happening more often than others.

What are the symptoms of sleep-talking?

As you might expect, the symptoms include talking aloud or making noises that other people can hear. Sometimes the talk can be nonsense, and other times it can seem as if you’re holding a conversation with someone awake. Sometimes it can be very eloquent and other times it can be unintelligible mumbling. They can also shout very loudly, or whisper very quietly – there’s a huge variety to the sounds that sleep talkers can make!

How common is sleep-talking in children?

Half of all kids between the ages of 3 and 10 years old have conversations while asleep, with 1 in 10 children sleep-talking more than twice a week. Girls and boys are both just as likely as each other to talk in their sleep.

1 in 10 children
sleep talk more than twice a week

How common is sleep-talking in adults?

It’s only a small number of adults who sleep talk - about 5% of the population. However, sleep experts do think that sleep-talking can run in families, so if you find that you don’t grow out of your sleep-talking as you grow older, it’s worth checking to see if your parents or siblings are also dealing with nighttime ramblings too.

of the population are sleeptalkers

What causes sleep-talking in adults?

Sleep-talking generally occurs on its own and can happen during both REM and non-REM sleep. It’s not caused by dreaming, despite some of the fantastical things that people may talk about when they’re asleep which leads us to think we’re getting a description of their dreams. For the most part, it’s harmless, however, sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious health condition or sleep disorder that needs to be addressed. 

REM sleep behaviour disorder and sleep terrors are two such sleep disorders that are more likely to cause people to talk in their sleep, normally shouting or crying out. Night terrors often involve a lot of movement and unrest, such as thrashing, kicking and screaming, and it’s often difficult to wake someone from a sleep terror. 

Other triggers for sleep-talking and sleep disorders include:

  • Specific medications
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health disorder
  • Emotional stress
  • Fever

What causes sleep-talking in children?

Children are more likely to sleep talk than adults anyway, but it has been found that children who experience sleep terrors are much more likely to sleep talk or sleepwalk than those who don’t. If your child has a fever, they are more likely to experience night terrors and will show signs such as thrashing, shouting, or mumbling, which can be frightening for both you and your child.

Man sleeping with mouth open.

How to stop talking in your sleep

If your sleep-talking is causing you, your spouse, or your roommate serious sleep problems, then your first step should be seeking out a sleep specialist. If your sleep-talking involves violent outbursts or screaming, you should also seek medical advice from a sleep consultant to find a solution. 

There are no tests that can be run to give you a formal diagnosis of sleep-talking, but you might have to undergo a sleep study or polysomnogram to look for signs of other sleep disorders. There is no known way of stopping sleep-talking, however, there are some things you can do to encourage good sleep hygiene that may reduce the instances of sleep-talking.

How to prevent sleep-talking

These methods may not affect your sleep-talking, but they should be able to help you get a better night’s sleep – you can find lots of help in our guide on the ultimate bedtime routine.

  • Reduce your caffeine intake, especially in the 10-hour window before you go to sleep.
  • Try to eat your final meal of the day at least three hours before you go to sleep.
  • Keep the hour before you go to sleep tech-free to increase your melatonin production.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is optimised for a good night’s sleep – make sure your room is cool, dark and comfortable. 

Our team of Sleep Experts are dedicated to getting you the best night’s sleep possible. If you’re looking for other ways to improve your sleep, take a look at our other articles such as the 6 most effective sleep-enhancing teas to drink before bed.

An image of the author, Jamie Latham, Sleep and Technology Expert Jamie Latham, Sleep and Technology Expert Bio & articles

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