Here’s What It Really Means When You Talk in Your Sleep
Stress is another contributing factor, according to Dr. Dimitriu. This is most likely caused by disturbing the natural depth of your sleep. “Whenever something wakes you, even slightly, you are prone to do something strange—as you are half asleep—sleep talking is one of those things, and sleep walking is another,” he says. Certain medications (either sedating or stimulating), anxiety, or just being really tired can sometimes trigger an episode of sleep talking in some people but not in others, Dr. Dimitriu adds.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, depression, daytime drowsiness, alcohol, and fever can cause sleep talking too. Underlying medical conditions could also cause sleep deprivation, leading to sleep talking. This includes sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep.
The good news in all of this? “There is no danger to random isolated episodes of sleep talking,” Dr. Dimitriu says. However, if it begins to occur frequently, or there are other symptoms, such as insomnia, waking up several times per night, or being sleepy by day, he says it may be worth speaking with your doctor, and considering a sleep study. For most people, though, sleep talking is a short-lived phenomenon and no treatment is really necessary.
So, do sleep talkers tell the truth?
Maybe it’s because we’ve seen too many movies or want to coax secrets out of our loved ones, but many nighttime conversationalists have one burning question: “When you talk in your sleep, are you telling the truth?”
While sleep talking parallels awake talking for semantics, syntax, and turn-taking in conversation, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Sleep,6 it’s not a reliable method of getting someone to spill their dirty secrets. Partly because you are in an unconscious state simply expressing words and noises. However, researchers from the study did discover a few interesting tidbits: The most frequent word spoken during sleep talking was “No,” and an interrogation-type tone was found in 26% of speech episodes.
How to stop sleep talking
If you’re unsure about why you’re talking in your sleep, it might be a bit challenging to figure out how to stop. While no official sleep talking treatment protocol exists, eliminating or reducing the conditions triggering it is a good place to start. And your first order of business if you want to curb your nightly chatter is to overhaul your sleep hygiene (a fancy word for your pre-sleep habits).
“With my patients, I increase their overall sleep and decrease things that are disrupting their sleep—so decrease caffeine, decrease alcohol, decrease stress before bed,” Dr. Breus says. “Those types of things can then really help make the situation literally go away by itself.”
“Regular bed and wake times cannot be underscored in their ability to improve and stabilize sleep,” Dr. Dimitriu says. Also, make sure the bed is comfortable and cool, and the sleeping area is dark. “If anything bothers you at night, it could wake you or cause something strange to occur when you are half awake,” he adds. Being really tired or sleep-deprived can also cause sleep talking to occur, so make sure you get enough sleep (ideally seven to nine hours) consistently.