How To Stop Sleep Talking

a an sleep talking in bed and keeping a woman awakeThe medical profession doesn’t consider sleep talking to be a serious sleep disorder on the whole.

However, if your sleep talking is waking you up or having an adverse effect on your partner’s quality of sleep, understandably you may want to try to stop it.

You might also be worried about saying something inappropriate or divulging a secret. Or perhaps you’re concerned by your children sleep talking and what it means for their health.

In this article I’ll take a closer look at what causes sleep talking. I’ll also suggest ways that might help you to control it if it’s causing difficulties for you, your partner or children.

What is sleep talking and who experiences it?

The medical name for sleep talking is somnliloquy and it’s classified as a parasomnia sleep disorder. Other parasomnias include sleep walking and night terrors. In fact, it often occurs at the same time or as part of these other disorders.

There’s very little research carried out into sleep talking. I suspect this is in part due to the difficulty of identifying suitable subjects, and because it’s not considered to be a serious sleep problem.

Sleep talking is thought to be partly genetic, and more common in males. Though researchers are still undecided about the genetic causes of sleep disorders. It’s most commonly seen in children and it’s estimated that around 50% of children will sleep talk at some point. Most grow out of it in their early teenage years.

Sleep talking in young children therefore isn’t considered an issue, unless it’s seriously effecting their sleep or associated with regular nightmares.

However, for some people it can continue into adulthood, with around 5% of adults talking in their sleep. And in some cases it can even start in adulthood, though this may be a sign of an underlying medical condition developing.

If you live by yourself you probably don’t even know if you sleep talk. But for some the main issue is disturbing a partner’s sleep, which can lead to tension and embarrassment.

What might I say whilst sleep talking?

Since your brain is effectively unconscious whilst sleep talking, it’s unlikely that you’ll say anything sensible. It’s more likely to be random phrases, even if they’re prompted by past or future events.

cartoon of a man sleepwalking whilst his partner covers her ears with a pillowChildren will often say something based on a recent event, such as watching a cartoon on TV.

In some cases people have reported that what the person is saying appears to be making sense.

They can even appear to have a conversation without them waking up. But more often than not any talk won’t be coherent or relevant.

The scientific reality is that a lot of effort goes into having a sensible conversation.

In addition to the brain needing to decide what to say, it has to take control in a complex and coordinated way of your breathing, throat, tongue and mouth muscles.

When you’re asleep, however, your brain normally relaxes or even disables your muscles. So with reduced muscle strength, sleep talking ends up being very different from normal speech.

Why do people sleep talk?

To help answer this question it’s helpful to have a quick look at the stages of sleep. During the night we go through several sleep cycles, each containing different phases of sleep with varying levels of brain and body activity.

A typical cycle might last 90-120 minutes and consist of a number of stages including: light sleep; deep sleep; back to light sleep again; and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. But as the night progresses the quantity and order of each stage can change.

For example, you’ll usually have more deep sleep in the first third of the night and more REM sleep later on. So there are two main theories as to why you sleep talk, based mainly on which point it occurs during the cycle:

During transitions between sleep stages

When you change from one sleep stage to another, you sometimes have a very short awakening. This can be a full or only partial wakening.

During this brief moment the part of your brain responsible for speech can sometimes be more awake, while other parts of your brain might be entering a new stage, such as deep sleep.

During this changeover you might do or say something, but have no awareness of it because the conscious part of your brain is, well, not really conscious.

The dream break-through

Sometimes sleep talking occurs during the REM stage, which is when you usually have dreams. Not all scientists agree, but some suggest that the speech-controlling part of your brain somehow switches on, and that you repeat what’s being said or occurring in your dream at the time.

In either case the same basic principle applies: part of your brain is switched on when the rest is in sleep mode.

Factors which may increase sleep talking

Following on from those two theories, there are other factors which may influence the chance of you talking in your sleep:

  • If you’re sleep deprived, you may need more deep sleep to recover the lost sleep. It’s believed that deep sleep is the most likely time for sleep talking.
  • If you sleep in an unfamiliar place, or if a child is moved while sleeping. In both of these circumstances your brain may be more vigilant, which conflicts with the need to sleep, making that half-awake moment in the theories above more likely to occur.
  • If you’re ill, especially with a fever, it’s more likely that you’ll sleep talk.
  • Some mental health issues can increase the likelihood of sleep talking.
  • If you’re on certain medication or taking other substances like recreational drugs.
  • If you’re under a lot of emotional stress.

Could it be a different sleep disorder?

There are a few other sleep disorders which are sometimes mistaken for sleep talking. Although simple sleep talking is quite obviously that, some people may find that the following seem familiar:

REM sleep behavior disorder

REM sleep behavior disorder is usually characterized by physically acting out your dreams. It often results in violent behavior in bed, shouting or making other loud noises. You can read more in my article about  REM sleep behavior disorder.

So if you, or someone in your house, are doing this you’ll probably know about it. It doesn’t have to be violent though; I was once woken up by a partner rubbing my stomach. When I asked what they were doing, they said “I’m stirring the soup!”

Night terrors

Usually experienced by children, night terrors are like a more extreme version of nightmares. The child may thrash about in bed or sit up and scream things while still asleep. It can understandably be very disturbing for parents to witness.

Catathrenia

Someone who has Catathrenia, also known as nocturnal groaning, will usually emit a long and/or loud groaning sound. It can embarrassingly sound like a sexual noise.

Ways to deal with sleep talking

Medically there are no magic bullet cures for sleep talking unfortunately. However, if it’s a problem for you then there are some things you could try:

Check it isn’t a different sleep disorder

If you’re showing symptoms of the different sleep disorders mentioned above, you might want to get some medical advice just to be on the safe side.

For example, if you’re screaming in your sleep, waking up in fear, thrashing or moving around violently, you might have a more serious condition.

If you have any breathing problems whilst sleeping it’s important to seek medical advice to rule out potential problems such as sleep apnea.

If it starts suddenly as an adult having never had it before, you may want to talk to a doctor, especially if it persists for more than a few days. You can also find out if any medication you’re taking could be causing your nocturnal talking.

Have good sleep habits

If it’s just simple sleep talking, then sometimes the only solution is the classic advice of having good sleep hygiene. You might try limiting caffeine and alcohol in your diet.

Make sure you get enough sleep, and try to manage any serious stress in your life. For more tips you can have a look at the section about sleep hygiene.

For children, try to make sure they get enough sleep, have a regular sleep pattern and that they sleep in the same bed when possible.

Find a way to block out the noise

If changes to your routines don’t help then unfortunately it may be that the person being disturbed needs to find a way to block out the noise. This may not always be appropriate, for example if you need to listen out for small children.

But if you don’t have any responsibilities like that, then it may be your only option. You could either try some earplugs for sleeping, custom-made sleep headphones with some relaxing music or use a white noise machine.

Keep a sleep log

You may find it useful to keep a sleep log of activities and what food and drink you had on the days when you sleep talked. You may of course need your partner’s help to tell you when you’ve disturbed them by talking or shouting whilst asleep.

screenshot of the sleep talk app dataOr you could use one of the Apps aimed at recording sleep talking. There are some free ones, but if you want to avoid pop-up adverts then a good one is Sleep Talk, which you can find on the iTunes or Android app store.

I used the Sleep Talk App and found it to be very easy to use. You activate it when you go to bed, with the option of a delay before it starts. It only records when there’s noise above a certain level, with three sensitivity settings.

The presentation of data is clear as shown here. You simply click on one of the bars and play to hear what was going on during the night.

It’s clear from some of the reviews of this and other Apps that many of people use them merely for fun. But I think it can also have a serious use in helping you try to find out when you sleep talk and how much.

If you decide to consult your doctor with your problem, then a detailed log of when it occurs might be useful.

Share your story

Do you or someone you know sleep talk? What form does it take? Is it annoying or sometimes amusing? Have you found anything which makes it more or less likely to occur? Please feel free to share your story and thoughts in the comments below.

102 CommentsLeave a comment

  • My sleep talking has been occurring since childhood as my mother talked in her sleep, I am now 48 years old and the last 6 years or so has progressed to night terrors as acting out whaling, kicking, screaming, shouting and talking loudly to name a few of the actions. I once jumped out of my bed hitting my side table and injuring myself. Just trying to find an answer on how to stop the night terrors, it’s embarrassing and I’m afraid to go to sleep when others are in the next room.

    • Hi Tracy
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your embarrassment, but I think it’s good to remember many people have sleep problems, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Have you spoken to your doctor about this to get their opinion? Perhaps they can look into it with you. And you might also find it helpful to look at the tips in this article about night terrors.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I have recently been sleeping in the same room as my sister and she says most nights i do various things that i do not recall in the morning which can include just sitting up and staring at her, speaking to her, sitting up then lying back down but with my eyes fully open (she will walk up to me and close my eyes because this freaks her out), or even using objects properly e.g. computers, apps, clothes, once even doing a plait in my hair. (note i never stand up or walk around, only sit up in my bed.)

    An example of this is last night i picked up my computer which was next to me and put in the password. She asked me what i was doing and if i had been awake the whole time but i just kept responding with ‘i need to do the thing’. In the end i closed the laptop threw it on the floor and simply said ‘oops!’ then went back to sleep.

  • Hi,

    I wonder if you can help me… I have extremely vivid dreams of war, which seem to be recurring. I talk in my sleep a lot and often act out scenes whilst sleep walking. I’ve frightened my partner numerous times in the past by acting out my dream whilst sleep walking/talking.

    I did serve, but nothing in my dreams even remotely relate to anything which happened during my time.

    She’s been very understanding about it, but I feel bad that I’m disturbing her sleep so often.

    I’ve tried keeping food and sleep diaries to see if there’s a pattern but so far it’s been unsuccessful.

    • Hi Andy
      Thanks for your comment. I can appreciate why this would be stressful for both of you. It’s great that she’s understanding of it, but I can see why you’d want to do something about it of course. If you’re regularly acting out your dreams, I’d suggest having a read of my article about REM sleep behavior disorder. It may or may not apply to you, but it’s worth reading to see if it seems relevant to you. And I’d definitely recommend talking to your primary care doctor about it and/or a sleep specialist to see if you can get some professional advice.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Sleep talk happens to me once or twice a week but i wakeup the person who sleeps beside me and tell something which not related to anything nor my dream so what can be done for this and now i feel very weird because of me someone else is getting troubled.

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment. I know it can be stressful to know you’re disturbing someone else’s sleep. I think it’s important to talk to them about it, and let them know that you’re aware of it happening and understand how it affects them. But at the same time, it’s good to explain how it’s not your fault. Try the tips in the article to see if they help, but if not you could talk to your doctor about it for some advice too.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Question, is it normal for the person to apparently sit up with their eyes open and have a full on conversation about something, go back to laying down, and wake up about a half hour later with no recollection of it?

    • Hi Beck
      Thanks for your comment. This is the way some people sleep talk, and I know it can be quite disturbing to see. It’s not usually considered a medical problem, unless it happens very regularly and is disturbing their or other’s sleep significantly.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi! Recently one of my family members came into my room late at night and they saw me sit up, open my eyes, smile, and say, “She has nine of them!” and then I went back to normal. I was wondering if you knew what this was or how to stop it?

    • Hi there
      It sounds like just a case of sleep talking to me. But sometimes people do wake briefly and say nonsensical things before going back to sleep quickly. It’s usually nothing to worry about.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I also tend to become paralyzed in my dream and that is why I tend to call out for help I sometimes feel suffocated or helpless…

  • I’ve always had this problem of making a certain noise when I am having a nightmare..it is very disturbing for the people I am currently living with and its loud enough to wake them up… When I scream for help in my nightmare apparently it comes out as a weird noise whilst I am asleep…I do not know what exactly the problem is and I only hope to fix it ..it has occurred twice in the past two weeks and it tends to happen randomly I think. .. I’m not sure what to do about it..please help

    • Hi Stephanie
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately there’s not a lot I can do to help here. I think following the advice in general aorund this website about dealing with stress and anxiety and maintaining healthy sleep habits is an important thing to do for anyone experiencing these kind of sleep problems. It’s also worth talking openly with your housemates, reassuring them that you’re ok, there’s nothing wrong with you and it’s just nightmares/sleep talking. They can also hopefully assure you that they are ok with it, even if it does disrupt their sleep. It’s good to be open about these things so you don’t add an extra worry on yourself by wondering how they are taking it. And if it’s an issue you feel you need professional help with, then talking to your doctor is the next step.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi there, I have recently started shouting out women’s names in sleep – this is causing my fiancé to mistrust me, and believe there is something going on between me and these women, which there is not – what might have caused this?

    • Hi Stevie
      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’re having to deal with this tricky situation. It’s hard to say what might have caused it – do you usually sleep talk, or is that new too? It’s often things like stress, anxiety, life changes that influence our sleep, but it’s so complicated, it’s very difficult to pinpoint a real cause. I recommend showing your fiance an article or two which talks about how what we say during sleep walking doesn’t mean we’re actually doing those things in real life. That might help to calm the waters.
      Regards
      Ethan

      • Thanks Ethan, I will try that – I had thought of that after a lot of research into the topic.
        Yes, I do usually sleep talk, or at least sleep mumble, and have for many years, but saying names is rare, but not unheard of previously (but many years ago), and I have, by all accounts, said some strange things before.

        My stress levels can be quite high but do vary, and the episodes may well have coincided with periods of unusually high stress.

        Still, very unnerving.

        thanks for the advice

        • Hi Stevie
          You’re welcome! I guess this is something you can use as a warning system that you’re under too much stress, and so could do with taking some action to reduce the stress. If you don’t already, I highly recommend looking into stress reduction techniques, of which there are many effective ones to try.
          Regards
          Ethan

  • My girlfriend says I’ve been talking in my sleep these past 5 months. But this morning she says that I was trying to fold her hoodie while I was sleep. What do you think is causing this??

    • Hi Pamela
      Thanks for your comment. Sometimes people do things while sleeping, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. If it keeps happening though, it’s worth mentioning to your doctor.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • My sister drinks Vodka in the evenings. When she falls asleep she makes creepy loud moaning sounds. She often cries and says violent phrases like, “Don’t! What are you doing?” It is loud and disturbing behavior and I actually become afraid she will hurt me in the middle of the night. Then in the morning she can’t remember she has even done it.

    • Hi Tresa
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand why this would disturb you. But in cases like this, I think trying to stop the sleep talking is possible going to be hard, as the real problem is the drinking. Have you spoken to her about the regular drinking, to see if she is willing to consider reducing it?
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi,
    I started sleep talking about 2 years ago. It has got worse and worse. I never remember anything but my poor husband does. He says I shout, contantly wake him up in fear or to have a go at him, I normally shake him awake and mostly I am coherent and am afraid of something and others times it’s incoherent. I have also been agressive to him in my sleep which appalls me as I am not an agressive person at all! I am going to try to see someone to help but don’t know who. Gp’s arent my favourite people as you know what it’s like trying to get an appointment let alone anything further and I only go to the drs about once every 2 years! Lol.

  • My eldest son suffers from this. It has been found that if we give him half a cup of camomile tea just before bed, it reduces the amount of times he talks out while sleeping. Might need a full cup for an adult.
    I was always under the impression that there was a chemical your brain released while sleeping to keep you from walking/ talking (essentially acting out your dreams) at night while sleeping. Does this mean that this chemical isnt being released with people that have these problems?

    Hope this helps some people.

    • Hi Claudia
      Thanks for your comment. Although sleep talking for some people is a part of a more serious sleep disorder known as rem sleep behavior disorder, in which the body isn’t as shut down as it should be, for most people it’s not serious or considered a medical problem. Stress and anxiety are also thought to be possible causes, so perhaps the relaxing tea is helping by the calming effect it has. It might be interesting to explore that further by doing other relaxing activities in the evening.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi
    I have been suffering from sleep talking for years. It bothers me a lot, my family laughs at me about it. I am not sure what the problem is. I do not afford to seek help because it is expensive. The things I say during my sleep don’t even make sense to my daily life. I seem to have these long conversations in my sleep. I am now 25 years of age. I am a reserved person I hardly share my feelings but during my sleep I seem to say a lot but it’s rubbish.

  • I live alone so I don’t know if I am still having night terrors or sleep talking since going on a CPAP for sleep apnea. But my daughter has recently shared that she is having night terrors and sleep talking/walking that is keeping her boyfriend, light sleeper, awake in the night. She is very upset and concerned about this behavior and the effect it is having on her BF. Has anyone found techniques for sleep hygiene that works to reduce this problem? She has spoken with her doctor, but the doctor’s response is to put her on meds for PTSD without fulling understanding or requesting a sleep study. She doesn’t want to go on meds….had a bad experience with depression meds when she tried to go off. Thank you.

    • Hi Rae
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure that there’s just one sleep hygiene technique that can reduce this problem. The idea is to try all the good sleep hygiene techniques together, in the hope that you can give yourself the best possible chance to sleep well. So my advice would be to recommend she reads up on them, and makes a big effort to implement as many as possible.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I have talked in my sleep my whole life. My parents would constantly tell me about times they heard me down the hall.
    Now I’m 35 and it’s getting more and more active. Sometimes I’ll even walk. It’s getting to the point now though that my husband is getting frustrated because I’m constantly waking him up.
    It’s hard on my as well because nights I tend to talk, the next day I’m so tired as if I got no sleep.
    We’ve tried waking me up90 min after I fell asleep, that actually makes it worse.
    For a while I would take a xanex at night to calm any anxieties I have while sleeping. That worked for a while but recently I started talking even while medicated.
    Yes, my family gets a kick out of it, there have been lots of funny stories that I could probably write a comedy book/movie on. But my poor husband needs a break!

    ANY advice will be good advice for me!!

    -Alexandra

    • Hi Alexandra
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your frustration. Really, the best advice I have is to try the tips in the article, and also to try and get into good sleep hygiene as much as possible. For many sleep problems, the best you can do without taking medication, is to make a concerted effort to follow all that positive advice that’s meant to help us sleep as well as possible.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi my partner always waking me out my sleep telling me i am dreaming sex things and calling men names and doing movement how can i control this

    • Hi Azzi
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your concern – it’s an upsetting thing to hear, and to know that your partner has to hear. I think the main thing is to communicate, and to both read articles like this one which say that it doesn’t mean you’re cheating or doing anything bad. It’s important they understand and believe that. You can try the tips in the article, but if it’s really distressing you both, I think it’s helpful to talk to your doctor about it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Your post extremely cool. I glad to be here. I enjoyed reading your articles. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • Hello,
    My now fiance sleep talks. At first I was scared, he would say things that would scare me, and I thought maybe he was going to turn violent towards me. He is a gentle man while awake, ready to kill while he sleeps. It scares me that he has such horrible dreams and there is nothing I can do but touch and hold him, when I do he moans softly and rests easier. I would like to know if there is something more psychological that is underlying with it. But he won’t open to his past much… For now the best way is just to reach over and touch him to calm him

    • Hi Samantha
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your concern – it can’t be nice for you to have to listen to. It’s impossible to say if there’s anything psychological causing it, especially if he doesn’t mention anything in the his past, or current mindset, that could cause it. Some people do have normal daily lives, yet have terrible sleep problems with nightmares, sleep talking and talking etc. It’s often worse when stressed, anxious or unwell for example. But equally, there’s no real way to know – often it’s the person doing it who has the best insight into whether their daily life and feelings might be leading to worse sleep. Perhaps if he does have underlying issues, counselling might help. But if he doesn’t open up or want to talk about it, perhaps the best you can do for now is to try and remember the real him at night and keep giving him that comfort if it wakes you up.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am 17 and sleep talk have night terrors and Sleep paralysis constantly since I was around 6 and as the years go on they get progressively worse. It’s gotten to the point that if my cousin is in the room I will sleep curse him out I can also have full on coherent conversations with friends or family when sleep talking my mom an I can have full conversations when we sleep talk. And the night terrors cause me to kick and scream I’ve punched my mom slapped my mom and one time I slept walked up to my cousin and slapped him across the face went back to sleep and morning had no recollection of ever hitting him all 3 play a part in making it hard to sleep but when I go for sleep studies nothing happened

  • Hello..My mother does this sleep talking and sometimes even lashes out in the dream. She has even slapped my sister in sleep and doesn’t seem to remember anything when she wakes up. This has been happening for around 10+ years. Can it be cured? Please advise.

  • My wife has been talking in her sleep for almost a year and a half now. It has caused unbelievable problems in our relationship. She is very nasty and says mean and hateful things to me. We have been together for 17yrs and i dont know what to do besides leave because i just cant take it anymore. I have tried recording her but she sleeps with a fan on and the fan just drowns anything she says out. She does not believe me that she is talking in her sleep. She is trying to tell me that i am crazy and im hearing things. Its to the point that she is telling me that i need to go get help mentally. I know it is not me. I know what i hear when she is asleep. I do not hear it any other time when i try and sleep only when i sleep with her. Its to the point where it is about to cause us to seperate and i really do not want that. I love my wife and family and this is just tearing us apart. I need help bad. Any ideas on how to deal with this issue would be much appreciated. If you have any questions please feel free to email me and i will try to answer as best as possible. Please help!!

    • Hi Jay
      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you have this problem. Have you spoken to a doctor about it? Perhaps it’s time to seek some professional advice and support. If your marriage is on the line, then I think it’s important to do everything possible to get help. So if it’s a medical problem, speaking to a medical expert is the right step forwards. And until you do manage to get help, is it possible to sleep in separate beds in the house? There’s nothing wrong with spending some quality time together in the evening and/or morning, but then sleeping separately so you can both sleep well. Many people do it, myself included!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • dear sir,
    my age 40 still i am talk in my sleep for hours every night. It is destroying my relationship with family. every day talk something next day my wife believe that,now i afraid to sleep with family, sir what i will do ? can you help me

    • Hi MOHD
      Thanks for your comment. I do understand your problem, but unfortunately there’s not much I can personally do to help you. Have you spoken to your doctor about it, to see if they can help? The best thing other than that is to try your best to follow as good sleep habits as possible, taking into account the ideas in the article and around this website where I talk about good sleep hygiene.
      Regards
      Ethan

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