An Overview of Sleep Talking

  Sleep talking 

Sleep talking is the act of talking while sleeping. It is a parasomnia, or something that only happens during sleep. It used to be called somniloquy.

When a person is talking in their sleep, their speech might be clear or garbled. They might use simple phrases or full statements.

People who sleep talk don’t know they’re speaking and don’t recall what they said.

Sleep talking is not a sleep disorder on its own; however, it can be a symptom of a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea. It can also be accompanied by other parasomnias such as sleepwalking, night terrors, sleep eating, sleep paralysis, Sexson, etc.

This article will cover what sleeping talking is, why it happens, and when you should see your provider about it.

How Common Is Sleep Talking?

Overall, it’s not common—only about 5% of adults are sleep talkers.3 However, up to 50% of children are reported to talk in their sleep,4 and about 66% of adults, both men and women equally, have talked in their sleep at some point.

People are most likely to sleep talk when they’re stressed or sleep deprived.

 Sleep talking also seems more common in people with certain medical and mental health conditions.


  • Dementia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Seizures
  • Sleep apnea

Sleep talking is not the same as acting out a dream, which refers to another sleep disorder known as REM sleep behavior disorder.


Sleep talking can range from sounding like speech that a person would use when they’re awake to senseless babbling or even shouting or laughing.

Sleep talkers do not remember sleep-talking episodes when they wake up.

Sleep talkers can appear to be talking to themselves or be carrying on conversations with other people. Sometimes, sleep talkers whisper or mumble, but they may also groan, shout, or cry out.1

For some people, sleep talking is a short-term problem and can be addressed with good sleep hygiene and by making a few lifestyle changes.11 For others, sleep talking may last a year or longer. In this case, it may become chronic.


Researchers are not sure why some people talk in their sleep. Sleep talking can run in families, which means there might be a genetic component. However, researchers think that external factors are a stronger influence than genes.

Factors that might contribute to sleep talking include:

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Depression and other mental health conditions
  • Fever or a general illness
  • Medications
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stress

Sleep Disorders

Sleep talking can be part of certain sleep disorders, like sleep apnea. People with REM sleep behavior disorder and night terrors may verbalize while asleep.

Night terrors, which are more common in kids, can cause them to cry out in their sleep. They may also have additional parasomnias such as confessional arousal and sleepwalking.

REM sleep behavior disorder (RSD), which is more common in adults over 50, is when a person physically acts out their dreams, usually of frightening content such as being chased or attacked.18 In some cases, they may shout or make loud noises as they move about. This can be a dangerous experience for the sleeper and bed partners, as they can cause injury to themselves or others.

It is believed that the part of the brain that stops movement (including speech), in people with RSD, might not work right, leading them to be vocal when asleep.18 Researchers explain this may be a precursor to more serious neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s, Lewy body disease, and other dementias.


It’s not uncommon for someone to be unaware that they sleep talk unless they have a bedmate who happens to overhear them.

Sleep talking is a sign of a condition rather than a condition on its own. While a person might not be diagnosed with sleep talking specifically, it may be a symptom of a diagnosable sleep disorder.


Sleep talking usually doesn’t need to be treated. However, sleep talking can be part of another condition or disorder that does need to be treated.

The treatment for sleep disorders varies, but often includes lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy.

For example:

Some people who have insomnia or narcolepsy may need to take prescription medications.

People with occasional sleep problems—for example, related to travel—might find over the counter (OTC) medications and supplements (like melatonin) helpful until they return to their regular sleep routine.

For people who have long-term sleep problems, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is sometimes helpful.

A person who has sleep apnea may need to wear a special breathing device to bed to make sure they are getting enough oxygen while they’re sleeping.

When to See a Healthcare Provider:

Sleep talking isn’t usually a serious problem until it starts interfering with your sleep—or the sleep of someone you live with.

If you’re sleep talking is negatively affecting your life and relationships, it’s important to talk to your provider. Once you figure out what’s causing you to talk in your sleep, you can take steps to address it.

You should also talk to your provider if you’ve never talked in your sleep before, but suddenly start doing it as an adult—after the age of 25. In this case, the behavior is usually a sign of an underlying health problem.

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