Somniloquy literally means “sleep talking”. Although classified as a parasomnia, talking during sleep is generally considered of no medical or psychological consequence.
Sleep talking can occur at any point in the sleep cycle. The lighter the sleep, the more intelligible the speech. In stages 1 and 2, people may have entire conversations while asleep. In deep sleep, somniloquy may be restricted to moans and gibberish.
Popular myth associates sleep talking with dreams. While it is possible to talk in REM sleep, it isn't as likely as at other stages. During REM, our body undergoes temporary paralysis: a safety mechanism designed to prevent us from acting out our dreams and hurting ourselves. This paralysis usually includes the jaw and speech mechanisms.
People who talk while asleep have no awareness that they are talking, and speak in an emotionless tone. Somniloquy is not generally considered a serious problem unless other disorders, such as somnambulism and apnea, are involved. Anxiety disorders, stress, and fevers generally make people talk more. Somnilioquy is one of the mysteries of sleep – scientists still don’t know why it happens.
A recent study of toddlers found that over 80% talk in their sleep, a much higher percentage than kids who sleepwalk, wet their beds, or suffer bruxism or night terrors. Older kids and adults of all ages can talk in their sleep.
If somniloquy proves irritating to others in the household, you can try these tips to reduce it.