I will never forget the first time my college roommate heard me in his sleep. It was our sophomore year when the four of us had just moved into an off-campus house. At some point in the early morning, the two roommates who lived with me on the second floor started knocking loudly on my locked door and saying my name—or they told me the next morning. When they recalled what happened the night before, my subconscious reaction was to smile with my rehearsal, "Oh, yes, I didn't tell you? I was talking in my sleep!" However, it wasn't until a few minutes later. I realized that they didn't laugh with me. They are scared.
The problem is, I know since I was a kid that I occasionally talk in my sleep. Friends will make fun of me during the night. My family will tell me that they hear me talking nonsense all night. To be honest, I didn't think of anything, because for me, it is no different from the habit of snoring. But for people who are not familiar with this abnormal sleep behavior, witnessing these behaviors can be frightening. Only then did I realize that my roommates did not attract my attention to laugh, but because they really cared about my happiness.
Since then, I have learned that my dream talk is a topic I need to talk to with any future roommate or partner. However, this also prompted me to seek advice from sleep experts who can help me better understand what triggered my dream talk and what I can do to prevent it from happening again. Here is what they said.
What is sleep talking?
According to Meredith Broderick, MD, a triple board-certified doctor in neurology, sleep medicine, and behavioral medicine in Washington, sleep talking—scientifically known as somniloquy—is essentially any type of vocalization during sleep. "Sometimes, people can also express emotions like laughing or crying," Dr. Broderick tells HelloGiggles. "I have even had patients whose primary language is sign language and they sign in their sleep."
Since sleep talking can be expressed in so many ways—full dialogue, mumblings, gibberish, sign language, half-sentences—Dr. Broderick says, "There isn't a clear delineation." And unfortunately, sleep talkers don't have the capability of knowing they talk in their sleep unless there's a witness.
Why do people talk in their sleep?
There are several reasons why someone might talk in sleep. External factors such as stress, medications, medical conditions, substances or other sleep disorders (such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy) are the most popular. Dr. Broderick also pointed out that studies have shown that genetic predispositions exist; nonetheless, excessive fatigue or lack of sleep can have the same effect.
In terms of frequency, there is really no way to tell. "The frequency that people experience varies greatly," she said. "For some people, this situation may be rare, while for others it may be experienced all the time." If you see an improvement in one of the external factors listed above, your dream talk may become less frequent.On the other hand, if you find that you are more stressed than usual, your dream talk patterns may increase or become more regular.
Can sleep talk be prevented?
Whether you have never spoken in your sleep before, have been in sleep for many years, or have just joined the Sleep Talker community (Hi, welcome!), it is important that you know that talking before going to bed alone is harmless, and you can take some precautions measures to take.
"Excessive fatigue or poor sleep hygiene—excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, irregular sleep schedules, or excessive time spent in bed—can lead to more awakenings or sleep phase transitions, which in turn increases sleep talk possibilities," Dr. Broderick explained. "Trying to improve sleep hygiene, sleep quality, and minimizing these deteriorating factors is the first step." If sleep quality problems or daytime symptoms persist, Dr. Broderick recommends talking to a sleep medicine doctor to help find the root cause of your dreams.
Don't be too harsh on yourself! Talking in sleep is completely normal and more common than you think. In addition, making small adjustments to your sleep schedule, such as skipping late-night caffeine, reducing screen time, and organizing bedtime, can make all the difference.