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Somniloquy

Definition

Sleep talking, known as somniloquy, is a sleep disorder defined as talking during sleep without being aware of it.

Somniloquy literally means “sleep talking”. Although classified as a parasomnia, talking during sleep is generally considered of no medical or psychological consequence.

Symptoms include:

  • speech or utterances during sleep
  • episodes are not associated with awareness of talking
  • polysomnography (sleep recording) shows episodes of sleep talking that can occur in any stage of sleep
  • possible association with psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorders
  • possible association with medical disorders such as febrile illness (fever)
  • possible association with other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, or REM sleep behavior disorder

Sleep talking can occur at any point in the sleep cycle. The lighter the sleep, the more intelligible the speech. In stages 1 and 2, the talking might sound intelligible. In deep sleep, somniloquy may be restricted to moans and gibberish.

Popular myth associates sleep talking with dreams. While it is possible to talk in REM sleep, it isn’t as likely as at other stages. During REM, our body undergoes temporary paralysis: a safety mechanism designed to prevent us from acting out our dreams and hurting ourselves. This paralysis usually includes the jaw and speech mechanisms.

People who talk while asleep have no awareness that they are talking, and speak in an emotionless tone. Somniloquy is not generally considered a serious problem unless other disorders, such as somnambulism and apnea, are involved. Anxiety disorders, stress, and fevers generally make people talk more. Somnilioquy is one of the mysteries of sleep – scientists still don’t know why it happens.

A recent study of toddlers found that over 80% talk in their sleep, a much higher percentage than kids who sleepwalk, wet their beds, or suffer bruxism or night terrors. Older kids and adults of all ages can talk in their sleep.

If somniloquy proves irritating to others in the household, you can try these tips to reduce it.

  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Get enough rest: sleep deprivation increases somniloquy.
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Practice proper sleep hygiene.
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