Causes of Somniloquy (Sleep Talking)

What is Somniloquy?

Somniloquy, also known as sleep talking, is a sleep disorder characterized by unconscious or unintentional talk while asleep. Somniloquy is a type of parasomnia, which is usually uncontrollable such as teeth grinding or sleepwalking.

Somniloquy usually occurs during Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It occurs equally in males and females, and in some cases, it may be hereditary. Somniloquy usually occurs in the dominant language of the individual.

Sleep talk is deemed normal for children after a playful day and adults after an eventful or stressful day. Though sleep talk occurs in healthy individuals, it can be also be associated with an illness such as sleep apnea, night terrors, chronic headache, and it is also sparked by factors like emotional stress and nightmares.

Child Sleeping

Child Sleeping. Image Credit: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock.com

What are the symptoms of Somniloquy?

The main symptom of sleep talking is an audible expression with the person being completely unaware of it. The speech during sleep talking could be understandable, incomprehensible, audible, brief, or long - it varies among individuals, and most of the time, the individual does not remember saying anything. It is reported that 50 percent of recorded sleep talking is incomprehensible. The total episode may involve only a handful of words or a few sentences.

People do not know that they sleep talk unless an observer tells them, or they have a sound recording device that records sound while they sleep. Generally, people experiencing sleep talk are unable to recollect the episodes when they wake up. The duration of sleep talking is usually short and rarely involves long conversations. The content during sleep talking may or may not have any apparent relation to a person’s life. It may even involve recent events or previous discussions.

What are the causes of Somniloquy?

The reason behind sleep talking is still not clear; however, research shows that it is primarily associated with genetics. Children who sleep talk are likely to have parents who did the same or still do the same.

Sleep talking is predominantly seen in individuals with mental health issues or conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Sleep talking can also be associated with nightmares, especially in children. Sleep talking is also found to coexist with sleepwalking, teeth grinding, and nightmares.

Some medications, such as antidepressants, are also found to cause sleep talking. Drugs incite and increase muscle tone in REM, causing parasomnia such as sleep talking and sleepwalking. Another cause of sleep talking is an abuse of substances such as alcohol; a person is found to sleep talk more when asleep under the influence of alcohol.

High fever is also one of the causes of sleep talking. It is common to see a person suffering from high fever sleep talk, and this usually lasts for a longer time than the usual brief sleep talking.

How can we stop Somniloquy?

Sleep talking rarely harms a person. It is usually an issue to the observer of sleep talking person than the sleep talker. There are no specific methods or medicines to stop sleep talking; however, with specific steps, the frequency of sleep talking can be managed and reduced.

Maintaining a healthy sleeping habit can help manage sleep talk. Maintaining a healthy sleeping habit includes sleeping at the right time, for the right amount of time. It is essential to get good quality night sleep.

Sleep hygiene is also vital to control sleep talk and reduce its frequency and severity. The place of sleep should be free from noise Room with dim lighting, dark curtains, a good mattress, and a pillow with clean sheets can also foster quality sleep.

Following a sleep pattern with a strict sleep schedule is also essential. Sleeping at the same time and waking up at the same time can also help reduce sleep talking too.

Since most people sleep talk when they are stressed, depressed, or have anxiety, avoiding physical and emotional stress is critical. It is good to calm down and avoid stressful activities before going to sleep.

Sources

  • Vetrugno R., et al. (2011) Isolated motor phenomena and symptoms of sleep. In Handbook of clinical neurology. 99: 883-899.
  • Alfonsi V., et al. (2019) Sleep talking: a viable access to mental processes during sleep. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 1 (44):12-22.
  • National Sleep Foundation. Sleep talking: what is it (2020). Available at: https://www.sleep.org/sleep-talking/

Further Reading

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2020

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