Causes of Sleep Talking

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Sleep talking affects almost half of all children and about 5% of the adult population. In this lesson, we'll take a look at some of the things that can cause sleep-talking events.

What is Sleep Talking?

When Kelly and Adam started dating, Kelly found it endearing that Adam would occasionally talk in his sleep. His words usually didn't make sense, but they'd share a good laugh when she filled him in on what he'd said over breakfast. Adam could never remember their conversations and swore up and down he had no idea he was so chatty at night. However, over time Kelly's sleep patterns became disrupted by Adam's night-time conversations, and she encouraged him to see a doctor to find out what could be causing his bouts of sleep talking.

As the name suggests, sleep talking (medically referred to as somniloquy) is when someone talks during sleep without being aware of it; they have no memory of doing so, even if they engaged in a full conversation. Bouts of sleep talking are usually rare and temporary and are most commonly experienced by children and men. Some doctors believe sleep talking runs in families, meaning if one of your parents experiences sleep talking, there's a higher likelihood you might experience it too. Sometimes, speech may be completely random and nonsensical, while other times it may directly relate to events that occurred recently.

Sleep talking is more common in adult men than in adult women.
sleeping man

Causes of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking can occur at any stage of sleep. It's usually harmless, but may be indicative of a more serious condition. In Adam's case, it was becoming embarrassing because he couldn't control it, and it was negatively affecting Kelly's sleep.

After meeting with his doctor, Adam found out that sleep talking could be triggered by a number of things, including:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep deprivation/insomnia
  • fever/illness
  • day-time drowsiness
  • alcohol or substance abuse
  • certain medications

Because Adam has experienced temporary bouts of sleep talking throughout his life, the doctor was pretty sure one of these causes was to blame, rather than a more serious underlying condition. When sleep talking suddenly appears for the first time in an individual over the age of 25, it can be a symptom of a psychiatric disorder or a sign of nocturnal seizures.

Sometimes sleep talking occurs simultaneously with another sleep disorder, like nightmares, night terrors, sleep apnea, or REM sleep behavior disorder. A sleep specialist can help rule out these other disorders as potential causes.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account