The Science Behind Sleep Talking


Lulu Shaban

Have you ever spent the night at someone’s house and woke up to them speaking nonsense? Well I’m going to explain to you why it is that people talk in their sleep. Many like to think that sleep talking has some deep meaning from our subconscious that is finally being revealed yet most of the time it’s actually nonsense, gibberish, mumbles or just brief sentences.

Sleep talking, also known as, Somniloquy is caused by something we call a “Motor breakthrough” which is when the speech system in one’s brain is made active during sleep and words are spoken out loud. It is pretty common and not considered a medical problem. Although most sleep talking is harmless there are two other types that could cause people to shout out rather than mumble in their sleep. 

Starting off with sleep terrors, these are less common than usual nightmares. They are episodes of screaming, excessive fear and flailing in sleep and are often affiliated with sleep walking. Night terrors are known as a form of parasomnia; abnormal behavior that takes place in one’s sleep. 

The second form of possible harmful sleep disorders is REM sleep behavior disorder, also known as RBD. People with RBD often yell, grunt, and act out their dreams. It’s also paired with sleep walking and nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED), which is a condition for people who unconsciously eat in their sleep.

Sleep talking may occur naturally or could be caused by fever, mental health disorders, substance abuse, emotional stress and/or certain medications. It is also normal for children between ages 3 to 10 years to talk in their sleep but only about 5% of adults deal with sleep talking, in these cases one should go to a sleep specialist. 

Sleep talking rarely needs treatment unless it is causing separate problems like issues with getting enough rest or mental health issues due to the night terrors.

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