What causes sleep talking?

Somniloquie, also known as sleep speaking, is speaking while sleeping. It’s a parasomnia, which means that it is a behavior that occurs while you sleep. In general, speaking while sleeping is a common occurrence and is usually not a cause for concern or a sign of illness.

Speaking in your sleep is harmless, although the content a sleep speaker is talking about can sometimes be very graphic or alarming. Sometimes those who hear sleep talk may find it offensive. It can also result in bedfellows getting the sleep they need.

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Sleep speaking about 5 percent of adults and up to 50 percent of children. Most people sleep talking when they are stressed or sleep deprived. Further research shows that more than 66 percent of people have talked at some point in their sleep.

Sleep speakers generally speak for no more than 30 seconds at a time, but some may speak multiple times throughout the night. Sleep speakers may appear to be talking to themselves, but sometimes they appear to be having conversations with others. Sometimes sleep speakers whisper, sometimes they scream.

Sleep speakers do not remember sleep conversations when they wake up.

Researchers have not yet discovered all of the reasons why people talk while they sleep. However, some research suggests that speaking while sleeping may be linked to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder. It is believed that the region of the brain that stops speech and movement during sleep may not properly on sleep speakers, leading to sleep talk.


It is a popular belief that sleep conversations can only take place while a person is dreaming. The researchers aren’t sure of this, however, as sleep conversations can occur at any stage of sleep.

Sleep talk is usually harmless. In some cases, this can be a sign of a sleep disorder or other health condition.

REM sleep behavior disorders and night terrors can cause a person to scream while they sleep. Night terrors are more common in children than adults and can cause children to both talk and sleepwalk while they sleep.

Sleep conversations can also occur due to:

  • Emphasize
  • depression
  • sleep deprivation
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • fever
  • Medication

Sleep talks can run in families, although external factors are a stronger force. Sleep talk can also be associated with insomnia. There are rare cases when sleep talking in adults is related to seizures or mental disorders.


Sleep conversations can occur at any stage of sleep. In Phases 1 and 2, a person can have an entire conversation in their sleep (unless the sleep speaker is the only one speaking), but in Phases 3 and 4 the sleep conversation can sound more like gibberish.

The severity of the sleep talk and the duration may vary. In mild cases, a person has less than one episode per week. With moderate causes, sleep conversations can occur more than once a week and even keep a roommate awake. Serious episodes usually occur at night and can occur frequently, keeping others awake all the time.

For some people, speaking while sleeping is a short-term problem and a healthy lifestyle can change it. For others, the sleep talk can last a year or more and become chronic.

Sleep talking can also include sleepwalking, night terrors, confusion, and seizures. Or it may be linked to sleep disorders such as REM sleep behavior disorder and obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep that make sleep restless rather than refreshing.


Sleep talking rarely needs treatment. However, speaking heavily during sleep can be a sign of a sleep disorder or a health condition that needs treatment. Anyone who thinks their sleep talk could be a sign of a serious condition should see a doctor.

A person whose sleep talk is frequent, intense anxiety, screaming, violent behavior, or persists from childhood through should speak to their doctor about sleep disorders and testing.

Talking while sleeping in children rarely requires treatment. If parents think their child is having trouble sleeping, they should speak to their child’s doctor.

There are no specific tests to diagnose sleep talk. However, sleep studies and sleep records can help health care providers determine whether a person has another more serious sleep disorder that is causing symptoms.

Sleep diaries

A sleep diary can identify sleep patterns to help your doctor diagnose. It is a good idea to track sleep times, wake up times, medication taken, caffeinated beverages consumption and exercise, and any other activity.

A word from Verywell

Sleep problems are in most cases not harmful and do not require treatment. There is no way to definitely stop sleep. However, avoiding stress, getting a lot of sleep, and avoiding other possible causes can reduce the frequency of sleep conversations. Be sure to consult your doctor if you are a loved one who has sleep-related behaviors.

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