What You Need To Know About Sleep Talking

What You Need To Know About Sleep Talking

By Jennifer Warner
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, M.D., MPH

"A maxi dress, is that only good for one wear?" said Chris Longstreet, 38, a garbage truck driver in Ephrata, Wash.

Those words, uttered in his sleep, are just the latest example of Longstreet's sleep chatter, something he's been doing for decades. But he wondered, "Why would you put that sentence together?"

His mother first told him about his sleep talking as a child. Now his wife keeps a running log on her blog of some of the more entertaining things she hears him say in his sleep.

According to Longstreet, there's no rhyme or reason to the things he says in his sleep. “It's all over the map and incredibly random,” he said. “Some has a curious kind of logic to it, as if I'm piecing together things that don't belong together from different parts of my day or week.”

For example, he said that this summer was the first time he'd ever heard of a maxi dress, and he didn't know what it was. Then he went shopping with his wife, and she explained the floor-length style dress design to him.

Sleep Talk: More Common Among Kids
Sleep talking, known in medical terms as somniloquy, occurs when you talk out loud during your sleep and don't remember it when you wake up, similar to sleep walking.

It's fairly common among children -- about half of all kids talk in their sleep from time to time. But only about 5 percent of adults do it on a regular basis.

Sleep talking itself isn't necessarily a sign of a problem, said David Neubauer, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore. “The exception," he said, "would be if someone has a sleep disorder that might be triggering it, for example sleep apnea,” a condition, often associated with snoring, that causes your breathing to become shallow or pause frequently during sleep.

Neubauer explained that sleep apnea can trigger arousal in people while they are actively dreaming -- if they don't wake completely, they may sleep talk and say a few words from the dream. In most cases, sleep talking is harmless and does not require treatment, but if the sleep talking is affecting you or a partner's quality of sleep, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about it, he said.

Sleep Talking Triggers
Longstreet said he snores "like a beast" and is pretty sure he suffers from sleep apnea, although he's never talked to a doctor about it.

Sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight. Longstreet recently lost about 55 pounds and, since then, his sleep talking has become less frequent, possibly because some of the pressure on his windpipes has been relieved. He also believes that his sleep talking is related to the quality of sleep he gets. He said he sleep talks more often when his schedule is hectic, and he doesn't feel rested.

"A lot of the time my wife and I have varied schedules, and I have to get up at 3 a.m. to make my lunch and have breakfast before work,” Longstreet said. His wife has a daytime office job, "so when she is headed to bed, I am already exhausted.”

“When I do talk in my sleep, I think it happens more often when my wife and I are in bed talking, and I fall asleep while having a conversation,” Longstreet said. “Things just keep going.”

It also could be that his diet triggers an episode of sleep talking. “When I have sweets before bed, especially dairy like ice cream, it gives me really funky dreams and may trigger my sleep talking,” he said, adding that he's borderline lactose intolerant.

The Meaning Behind Sleep Talk
Although it's a constant subject of speculation, little is really known about the content of sleep talk. As Longstreet has found, sometimes it makes no sense at all, and other times it may reflect recent events or experiences.

Researchers and the law agree that sleep talk is not the result of a conscious or rational mind and is not usually admissible in a court of law.

But Longstreet takes solace in his sleep talk. “Something I like about it is that it's not mean-spirited," he said. "I don't say mean things in my sleep. That is a fear I that I have because my father was not a kind person.”

He thinks sleep talk is probably a mix of both random and true words, but the tone and the feeling in those words may reveal volumes about your personality.

“If there is anger or sarcasm or snideness, that's probably an indication of what your personality is like,” Longstreet said. “But if it is goofy and fun, then there you go.”

"I Talk In My Sleep" originally appeared on Everyday Health

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