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You have those people who open their mouths as soon as they open their eyes, and don’t stop chattering until they’re back in bed for the night’s sleep. If they could talk in their sleep, they probably would. Surprise: Talking in your sleep is indeed possible. This sleep disorder is also known as somniloquy. And that can be quite annoying, for both the sleep talker and their roommates. But why is it, what can you do about it, and is it hereditary?
Table of contents
There are various sleep disorders, collectively called parasomnia, that are characterized by the display of undesirable behavior while sleeping. Think of sleepwalking and night terrors, but also of sleep talking. The latter expresses itself by mumbling from incoherent words to complicated sentences and everything in between. The lighter the sleep, the more coherence there is in the talk. The person next to it may wake up, but the talker has no idea what has been said. Annoying, because to the other it seems as if you are fully aware. It is not harmful, but if you are ashamed of it because, for example, you no longer dare to sleep with someone else, it can seriously disrupt your night’s sleep.
Talking in your sleep can happen to anyone, 5% of adults and about half of children even do it regularly. It can be stimulated by depression, sleep deprivation , stress, fever or alcohol. In addition, it can be a side effect of panic attacks, narcolepsy and sleep apnea. In general, talking in your sleep is just a little annoying, but no further treatment is needed. However, if you talk in your sleep for a long time and you and/or your housemates suffer a lot from this, you can investigate with a doctor whether you talk in your sleep because of another sleep disorder or serious stress.
Talking in your sleep is not directly hereditary. Yet you often see that children of parents who talk in their sleep do so regularly in adulthood. Like many sleep disorders, somniloquy cannot be directly explained genetically. If you look at what triggers the disorder, you can deduce a few things on the basis of someone’s genes, i.e. the hereditary material. In particular, genes that influence susceptibility to anxiety, depression and stress are passed on from parent to child when they both have a sleep disorder. However, having a higher sensitivity to stress, depression and/or anxiety does not directly lead to having a sleep disorder. The odds are just slightly increased.
Talking in your sleep is mainly a symptom of something else. Addressing that will also reduce or even stop the nighttime gibberish. Most non-serious causes that lead to sleep talking can be remedied by paying attention to healthy sleep hygiene. This consists of fixed bedtimes (including weekends), enough exercise, no caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the evening, no more heavy meals a few hours before bedtime, keeping blue light (phones, tablets) out of the bedroom, a quiet create a cool and dark bedroom with a good bed, mattress and pillow and by following a fixed sleeping ritual. Also tell your housemates that they should not talk back, that can make sleep talking worse. And as long as you talk in your sleep, you can offer earplugs to your roommates. Also check out our article about restless sleep for more tips.
Frequently Asked Questions
Everyone talks in their sleep sometimes. About one in 20 adults does it regularly. It can be caused by fever, alcohol consumption, stress, depression or lack of sleep. Often by removing that cause, the sleep talk can be further prevented.
Talking in sleep itself is not hereditary. However, the risk of sleep talking can be increased by genes that influence susceptibility to, for example, depression.
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