Why Do I Talk in My Sleep?

talking-in-sleep

Talking in your sleep, or somniloquy, is a strange but relatively common behavior that’s been observed since way back in Ancient Greece. It’s a pretty entertaining one, too. One Reddit user describes a night when her boyfriend sat up in bed and ever so slowly gave her a thumbs up … and then went back to sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation says that anyone can experience sleep-talking, but studies have shown that half of children aged three to ten talk in their sleep, whereas about five percent of adults are chatting away at night. If you occasionally talk in your sleep, most sleep specialists will tell you it’s nothing to worry about. But chronic sleep-talking as an adult can be caused by stress, depression, sleep deprivation, alcohol or fever. It also could be a sign of more serious sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, sleep terrors or REM sleep behavior disorder.

Neurologically speaking, your loose lips are a result of rough transitions between the lighter stages of non-REM sleep, which can accidentally activate parts of our brain that control movement, letting us talk without being aware of it. Sleep-talking also has been known to occur during REM sleep, though when that’s the case you’re most likely channeling Morgan Freeman to give your dreams a bit of exposition, Shawshank-style.

A lot of somniloquists utter brief, mumbled words or grunts, but some tell jokes, converse in different languages or make eloquent, if not absurdist, statements while snoozing away. Don’t give words spoken by slumbering partners any real credence, though—what comes out is usually gibberish. Sleep psychologist Arthur Arkin has written that the sudden utterances of sleep-talkers “reminds one of a seal swimming underwater, surfacing for a cordial, peremptory or meditative bark and deftly resubmerging.”

Both modern science and the law accept that sleep-talking isn’t a product of a rational, conscious mind, and is therefore typically not admissible in court. That said, if you’re super stressed about something that you don’t want your partner to know AND you talk in your sleep, you should probably reschedule your upcoming romantic weekend getaway. Those things have a way of making themselves known. 

While there’s no real treatment for sleep-talking, if you do want to put a sock in your late-night jabber mouth, make sure you’re getting enough sleep to begin with, and try to keep your stress levels low. Then again, you could do nothing, set up a camera by your bedside and post your midnight gibberish on YouTube. It’s really up to you how loudly you want to announce to the world that you’re a sleep-talker.