Sleep talking is something that almost everyone has encountered at least once, usually to our great amusement. Maybe your romantic partner occasionally mumbles in their sleep, or you once had a sleepover friend who conversed while unconscious. Many parents witness sleep talking for the first time in their children. But what does it all mean?
Talking in your sleep is one of the most harmless and amusing mysteries of sleep, one that many people have marveled at while listening to a sibling, friend, or romantic bed partner go on about nothing while clearly being fully unconscious. You can't help but wonder if it is a verbal window into their dreams, and if the words (or non-words) mean anything at all. It's only natural to wonder what goes on in the mind during sleep and sleep talking seems like an interesting way to find out.
Somniloquy—The Meaningless Monologue
The medical term for talking in your sleep is Somniloquy, like a Soliloquy only you don't know you're doing it. But don't let the fancy word fool you, most people have very little to say even if they mumble all night long. Some medical professionals refer to it as a parasomnia sleep disorder but, in reality, very few sleep talkers actually suffer from the condition. The only risk is that their roommates or bed partners might have trouble sleeping next to constant mumbles.
Fortunately, sleep talkers also almost never talk all night long or even produce sleep utterances every single night. Somniloquy has been studied extensively, mostly revealing statistics of who talks in their sleep, when, how much, and what they might say. As to why people talk in their sleep, medical professionals are still stumped.
Who Talks in Their Sleep
One thing studies of Somniloquy have revealed is a pattern of who tends to be more talkative in their sleep. Sleep talking is by far the most common in children between the ages of three and ten. This is why parents are the most likely to witness sleep talking and why talking in your sleep is something that often comes up at childhood sleepovers. That said, children who talk in their sleep at a young age are also more likely to talk in their sleep as adults. As children, boys and girls talk in their sleep at an equal ratio.
However, in adults, men are far more likely to talk in their sleep than women. Only about five percent of adults talk in their sleep regularly and outside of extenuating circumstances.
Words, Gibberish, and Conversations
One of the great mysteries of sleep talking is why people say what they say when fully asleep. Most sleep talking is gibberish, just mumbles that don't form words. While these are curious enough, the truly perplexing part is when your sleep partner, roommate, or friend says something coherent. Even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. Sometimes people say one or two words, a phrase, or can even hold a nonsensical conversation with an amused wakeful person nearby.
However, one thing is universal: They never remember the things said in sleep and are not consciously choosing their words.
REM and Words
You are most likely to hear words and sentences from someone who is in REM or the post-REM part of their sleep cycle. This is when they are deeply dreaming and the body is mostly paralyzed by sleep. It has been theorized that the phrases said during this phase might relate to dreams or simple subconscious processing. From crying out "Don't pass the salt!" to uttering the name of a childhood friend, words said in sleep tend to mean little in relation to waking life and, interestingly, have been deemed inadmissible in court.
In some cases, you may even be able to 'converse' with someone talking in their sleep. Or, at least, the sleep talker will respond to things you say or the fact that you are speaking. Sometimes, talking to a sleep talker can calm them down and get them to stop talking while for others, it turns into a nonsense conversation.
When Somniloquy Means Something
The vast majority of the time, sleep talking doesn't mean anything. However, it can reflect some meaning when paired with other symptoms or conditions. Sleep talking is often related to other things that cause delirium or delusions. A high fever, for instance, can increase the chances that someone will talk in their sleep even if they don't normally do so.
Trauma can also cause sleep talking, especially if it is found to be paired with night-terrors. Night-terrors and sleep talking together often manifest as screaming, weeping, or crying out in sleep and it can be difficult to wake someone in this state in order to end the nightmare.
For adults who did not talk in their sleep as children and begin to talk in their sleep after the age of 25, it can be an indication of a mental or even organic condition. An introduction of sleep talking might be mounting stress at work, illness, or a neurological change.
What It Means When You Talk in Your Sleep
If your partner talks in their sleep or has told you that you tend to mumble through your dreams, chances are you have nothing to worry about. The things that are said in sleep are meaningless and often don't even apparently relate to the dreams we have. While it would be great if talking to sleep talkers could reveal the mysteries of the subconscious, mostly it just comes out as gibberish, random words, or occasionally jumbled details of our lives.
There's no need to worry about Somniloquy unless it is disturbing someone's sleep or is paired with other far more alarming symptoms like night terrors. But if you want to get a laugh at sleepovers, simply pretend to be a sleep talker and take the opportunity to say the silliest things possible.Here at Nest Bedding, we're fascinated with all things sleep-related. While we specialize in providing a luxuriously comfortable sleeping experience, we also want to understand sleep inside and out. Stay tuned as we continue to delve into the depths of the subconscious and the great mysteries of sleep. And for tips on how to get the best possible night’s sleep, with or without somniloquy, contact us today!