Everything You Need To Know About Sleep Talking

Table of Contents
sleep talking

You may have discovered you talk in your sleep early in life after a slumber party or a camping trip. If you’re lucky, you might even have friends or family who caught it on video for your enjoyment…or embarrassment. Sleep talking is fairly common and may manifest as mumbled nonsense or fully logical monologues — with plenty of other options in between! 

Talking in your sleep doesn’t hurt you in any way, but it could point to an underlying sleep condition. You can start jabbering at any point during the sleep cycle, and plenty of partners, parents, and siblings can attest to it.3 

Long Story Short

  • Sleep talking, or somniloquy, is a harmless sleep disorder in which you talk while you are sleeping.
  • Experts say the condition occurs in five percent of adults and 50 percent of children.
  • Many things can cause sleep talking, including stress, caffeine, illness, fever, and some medications.
  • No treatments exist for sleep-talking in particular, but you can lessen the chatter by practicing good sleep hygiene and treating underlying conditions.
  • If your sleeping partner talks so much in sleep that your sleep is suffering, you can try ear plugs, white noise, or even a temporary sleep divorce to catch up on your zzz’s.

What Is Sleep Talking? 

Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is classified as a parasomnia, a particular type of sleep disorder. This type of sleep disorder covers any abnormal behavior during sleep and includes sleepwalking and nightmare disorder, although sleep talking is the most common.1,2 

As the sleep-talker, you are more likely to be overheard than to notice you’re doing it. Sleep talking can include anything from incoherent mumbles to shouted curses, and some people even answer questions posed to them.3

Symptoms of Sleep Talking

The symptoms of sleep talking can vary a lot depending on the individual. Some people murmur, barely opening their lips. Others let out staccato yells full of profanity. Some people seem to argue in their sleep, their tone upset and harsh. Quiet or loud, clear sentences or confusing gibberish, sleep talking can take many forms.3

“Interestingly, one study found language used during sleep was mostly tense conversation with inaudible others, suggesting conflict,” Dr. Chester Wu, sleep medicine physician in Houston, TX, tells Sleepopolis. “The most common spoken word was no, and profanity featured far more prevalently than in people’s daytime talk!”

Why Do People Talk in Their Sleep? 

“Sleep talking hasn’t been well researched and isn’t yet fully understood by scientists,” says Wu, who explains that many experts believe it is related to the activation of the speech-producing regions in the brain during sleep. Wu believes this most often happens while dreaming or transitioning between sleep stages, although sleep talking happens during all sleep stages

Below are some additional theories about what may cause sleep talking

Memory Consolidation

Though researchers have wondered about and studied the origin of sleep talking over the years, the exact cause has not been proven. One study published in 2022 suggests sleep talking is connected to language and memory consolidation; cementing what you have learned throughout the day.4


Another 2021 study proposes sleep talking can be a form of acting out your dreams or narrating what you see while you sleep. If this is true, and you witness someone talking while they snooze, you may be getting a front-row seat to their dreams.5


Experts have suggested some sleep-talking occurrences could be brought on by stress. One study explored the effects of traumatic situations on firefighters. These subjects experienced persistent stressors, including random alarms, needing to rush to the scene of an emergency, and interrupted sleep, among others. The participating firefighters complain of a myriad of sleep disturbances, including sleep-talking.6


Sleep disorders get passed down in families, much like your grandma’s prominent chin, or your dad’s curly hair, so talking in your sleep could have genetic roots. A study published in Brain Science suggests sleep talking could come from the brain fumbling the transition from one sleep stage to another, which could also have a genetic origin. More studies are needed to flesh out the connection between our genes and parasomnias like sleep-talking.7


Medications that slow you down — sedatives — can also disrupt your sleep cycles.8 Some common sedating medications include9:

  • Ambien (zolpidem)
  • Luminal (phenobarbital)
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)

If you take medication like these, you may notice sleep-talking and other parasomnias.

Illness and Fever

Whether you have a simple cold or you’re coping with a more chronic illness, your symptoms can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Though studies are lacking to prove fevers cause sleep-talking, experts still claim they could contribute. Fevers disrupt sleep, and as sleep transitions get interrupted, sleep-talking can emerge.10

Who Talks in Their Sleep? 

“Sleep talking is relatively common,” Wu says, “affecting up to 50 percent of children and about five percent of adults.” He explains that many children outgrow it as the part of their brains that control sleep mature, adding that the number of confirmed sleep talkers may also be higher when looking at children because they are more likely to be observed in sleep.

“In children,” Wu notes, “sleep talking is as common amongst boys as girls, but amongst adults, it is more common in men. However, occasional sleep-talking episodes can happen to almost anyone, especially under conditions of stress or sleep deprivation.”

One case study involving a patient with dementia, who did not talk during the day, found the patient talked at night in their sleep. This combination was a first in the scientific community, and researchers plan to study the phenomenon further.11

How Rare is Sleep Talking?

The statistics on sleep talking can only ever be estimated because the person doing the talking may never know they do it. Experts report five percent of adults talk in their sleep, but all these adults had to be observed doing it in some setting.3

Adults who live — or at least sleep — alone may never know they talk in their sleep. So, just how rare sleep talking is may never be fully known.

Is Sleep Talking Dangerous? 

Sleep talking is not dangerous.12 One 2019 study found that it does affect your breathing, but not in a harmful way.13 “It can be a nuisance for bed partners or roommates,” Wu says, “but it typically does not indicate any serious health issues.” 

“In some cases, however,” Wu adds, “sleep talking may be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or REM sleep behavior disorder, which may require further evaluations.” If you feel concerned about a possible health problem linked to your sleep talking, let your health provider know.

How to Stop Sleep Talking

Sleep talking doesn’t need treatment from a medical point of view, but you may still want it to stop. “If sleep talking is frequent or disruptive, addressing potential underlying causes (e.g., stress, alcohol consumption, or sleep deprivation) can help,” says Wu.

He adds that if your sleep talking is associated with a sleep disorder, it may go away once you get treated for that disorder. If you want to lessen sleep talking sessions, Wu says the best option is to look at how you’re sleeping in general.

Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene means having a good routine around your bedtime and sleeping space. Good sleep hygiene can include:

  • Avoiding electronics before bed
  • Keeping a cool, dark sleeping space
  • Limiting or avoiding naps
  • No caffeine or alcohol before bed
  • No heavy meals before bed
  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule
  • Using your bed only for sleep or sex

You can also improve your sleep by exercising daily.14 If you find you can’t sleep after about 10 minutes of lying in bed, try getting up and doing something else quietly in another room until you get sleepy and want to try again. This can help reinforce that your bed is for snoozing.

Wind Down Time

Have you ever tried to go right to sleep after going for a run, or after getting home from a fun night out on the town? If you try it, you may find yourself lying with your eyes wide open, heart racing as your brain frantically runs through every decision you’ve ever made.

To calm your mind and body before bed, you can try reading a book, listening to serene music, or doing some simple yoga poses. Unfortunately, screen time doesn’t usually relax you enough to fall asleep, so try to stay away from electronics at least a half-hour before bedtime. 

Get Outside

Our bodies run on a circadian rhythm, which means we understand when it’s daytime and when it’s nighttime. Sunlight lets your body know it’s time to be up and about, and getting out in the sun actually helps your body sleep better when that bright light fades. Getting some physical activity in that sunlight helps even more!15

Create an Inviting Sleep Space

Your body will succumb to sleep much more easily if you are comfortable and cool. Set up a cozy sleep surface with the best mattresses, pillows, and bedding for your needs. Make sure your room stays dark during sleeping hours by using light-blocking curtains or an eye mask. If you live in an environment of sudden loud noises (hello, parents!), try playing white noise while you sleep to minimize interruptions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you learn to be your own therapist. Studies have shown some very helpful effects in those who try CBT, including better sleep. CBT is led by a licensed mental health provider, who focuses on your specific circumstances and thought patterns.16,17

Getting Better Sleep if Your Partner Sleeptalks

Sleep talking often impacts bed partners or roommates more than the sleep talker. If you can’t drift off or stay asleep because of your roommate or partner’s midnight monologues, try wearing earplugs or using white noise to block the chatter out. 

A newer trend in healthy sleep between partners is sleep divorce, which simply means sleeping in separate rooms. Some have found sleep divorce solves the problem of interrupted sleep and that both partners are healthier and happier thanks to the arrangement.

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

Sleep talkers have been the source of a lot of chuckles, and most people are shocked to find out they were jabbering through the night. Talking in your sleep is harmless in and of itself, but may point to other health conditions. If you feel concerned at all, you can speak to your healthcare provider to make a plan. Otherwise, ask your partner to record you, and you can both enjoy the show over your morning coffee.


Is sleep talking normal?

Sleep talking is normal and does not cause harm to the speaker, says Wu. About five percent of adults talk in their sleep, but these numbers are probably underreported because sleep talkers often don’t know they are doing it.

Can sleep talking reveal secrets?

Sometimes! When you talk in your sleep, you don’t know you’re doing it, much less what you’re saying. Some experts believe sleep talkers are narrating dreams, and many sleep talkers argue with invisible opponents. If you are dreaming about a real exchange, you could let secrets slip.

Do sleep talkers remember what they say?

No, sleep talkers aren’t aware of what they are saying, and don’t even know they spoke at all when they wake. The practice is completely involuntary, and sleep talkers can’t remember what they said while they snoozed.

Can sleep talkers have conversations?

Some sleep talkers will answer questions when asked. If your friend or partner is talking in their sleep, try it! You may get an answer of mumbled nonsense, or you might get a clear sentence or two.



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Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy is an RN of 16 years who has worked with adults and pediatric patients encompassing trauma, orthopedics, home care, transplant, and case management. She has practiced nursing all over the world from San Fransisco, CA to Tharaka, Kenya. Abby loves spending time with her husband, four kids, and their cat named Cat.