What Is Somniloquy?
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Somniloquy - The Gossip From the Sleep

Published on May 30, 2023   -  5 min read


Somniloquy is the medical term for sleep-talking. Some people have a habit of talking in their sleep without their knowledge. Read the full article to know more.


Somniloquy is a sleep disorder falling under the category of parasomnias, or abnormal behaviors exhibited during sleep. It is very common for everyone to experience it at least once in a lifetime. It can range from reactions, laughter, and monologues to dialogues. A few episodes scattered over months or years are quite normal, but frequent instances of talking in your sleep signify an underlying sleep disorder.

What Is Sleep-Talking?

Sleep-talking can be defined as talking in your sleep without being aware of it. The duration of your sleep consists of alternating cycles of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. NREM progresses through 4 stages, after which REM takes over. Most parasomnias occur only during specific parts of the sleep cycle, whereas sleep-talking can occur in both NREM and REM sleep.

Depending on the frequency of sleep talking, it is categorized as:

  • Mild: Instances of sleep talking occur less than once a month.

  • Moderate: When you sleep, you do it about once a week, and it doesn't affect other people around you.

  • Severe: Sleep-talking every night with sleep disruption

How Common Is Somniloquy?

Studies point out that at least 66 % of people have experienced sleep-talking. Almost all children between the ages of 3 and 10 years sleep talk though the frequency may vary. It is very common in adolescents too. Adults are less commonly involved in sleep-talking. Exact prevalence cannot be documented since individuals are not aware themselves; it comes to notice through their bedpartners or roommates. There is no gender predilection, and the probability of occurrence is the same in males and females.

What Are the Causes?

Many people assume it happens during dreaming, but you may sleep talk in any stage of sleep. The exact cause behind sleep-talking has yet to be understood. There is some evidence of the role of genetics; some studies suggest that it runs in the family. In twin studies, sleep talking was constantly connected to nightmares, sleepwalking, and teeth grinding. More research is required to establish a concrete relationship between genetics and somniloquy. Generally, sleep-talking is not concurrent with other health conditions and is harmless. However, sometimes it can be part of a more concerning sleep disorder like sleep terrors and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).

  • Sleep terrors, known as night terrors, are characterized by frightened screams, violent kicking, or thrashing. It is difficult to shake someone awake when they are experiencing sleep terrors.

  • RBD involves acting out dreams, yelling, or grunting. Episodes may occur about 1.5 to 2 hours after falling asleep.

  • Parkinson's disease (a neurodegenerative disorder with symptoms like tremors, rigidity, gait abnormalities, etc., due to dopamine shortage) is frequently related to sleep-talking. A study demonstrated that Parkinson's patients are approximately seven times more susceptible to RBD than others.

  • Another condition closely related to somniloquy is PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD increases the chances of RBD and other parasomnias in war veterans. Individuals with PTSD sleep talk twice as much as others.

  • Sleep-talking occurs in sleep-deprived individuals. Sleep deprivation can be both cause and effect for sleep talking.

  • Some medications like antihistamines and sedatives causing drowsiness may be associated with sleep talking.

  • Emotional stress can be a contributing factor.

  • Somniloquy may be related to nocturnal sleep-related eating disorders (NS-RED, affected person binge-eats while partially awake)

  • Sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnoea are also speculated to be of relevance in sleep-talking.

Specialists have not ascertained a definite cause. More scientific research is required to conclude the exact causes, and while the factors listed may be related to somniloquy, they don't have a causal relationship.

In most people, sleep-talking is a normal phenomenon and may not be related to any other mental illness.

What Are the Symptoms of Somniloquy?

The main feature is audible noises that can be sensible words or gibberish uttered without one’s own knowledge. Recordings of sleep talk show that more than half the time, individuals are found mumbling that makes no sense. In these instances, sleep talking was limited to silent speech and lip movements; sometimes, the speech was muffled by pillows or blankets. Other recorded episodes revealed normal conversational speech and were understandable. The speech had a normal grammatical structure and even pauses, much like talking to someone when awake. It was observed that most of the recorded speech had a negative or exclamatory character which leads us to believe that it is due to subjects of conflict in an individual’s brain. Episodes are short. Long-drawn dialogues are relatively rare. An instance of sleep talking may include only a few words or a few sentences at the most.

  • Sleep-talking causes disturbed sleep to both you and your partner.

  • You might divulge embarrassing or sensitive information you might not have said aloud while awake. This might cause friction in your relationship.

  • Sleep deprivation causes increased morning-time sleepiness.

How Can You Stop Sleep-Talking?

There is no particular treatment since it is not an established disease. If sleep-talking is part of a more significant health issue, such as mental or sleep disorders, the underlying condition must be treated. If you feel like somniloquy has a negative impact on your life as well as your partner’s, you can consult a doctor or sleep specialist. There is no diagnostic workup for somniloquy that can be identified based on self-reports or reports from your bed partner or roommates. To assess your sleep pattern and identify the presence of other sleep disorders, your doctor may prescribe a polysomnogram (a sleep study or recording of your sleep).

You can follow a few measures to help you manage your sleep talk.

  1. The first step is to set your sleep pattern right. Sleep hygiene is a crucial aspect of general well-being. Since disrupted sleep patterns are one of the factors for episodes of somniloquy, this is an excellent place to start.

  2. Avoid exercising late in the evening.

  3. It is good to avoid caffeine and other stimulants after late afternoon.

  4. Stay on a fixed schedule favoring your body clock, even on holidays or weekends. This puts your body in a rhythm.

  5. You can maintain a sleep diary to track your sleep pattern.

  6. Avoid alcohol consumption.

  7. Remember to de-stress.

If your partner sleep talks, here are some ways to cope with it and get that undisturbed sleep:

  • You can use earplugs or headphones.

  • White noise machines can block out unwanted noise.

  • Soothing background sounds/music can drown your partner’s sleep talk.

  • If none of the measures helps, consider sleeping in separate beds or rooms.


Somniloquy or sleep-talking is nothing to worry about; it holds no severe implications when it rarely occurs or without any associated sleep disorder. It has no specific treatment; lifestyle modifications can help you cope with somniloquy. You can seek medical help if it affects your or your partner's quality of life.

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30 May 2023  -  5 min read




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