It’s the middle of the night and you’re warm and relaxed. Suddenly, you hear a strange voice, saying weird things. You tense up when you realize that it’s right next to you. It’s…your partner. Again.
A partner’s sleep talking can startle you, scare you, annoy you, keep you up, or even offend you. We’ve done some research to discover five things you can do if your partner is a sleep talker.
1: Understand it
Formerly going by the tongue-twisting name of somniloquy, sleep talking affects people of all ages, sizes and types. However, sleep talking is more common in kids, with about half of all children under ten experiencing sleep talking at some point. A study out of Brazil found no difference in sleep talking children so far as age, gender, or economic status.
Among adults, sleep talking is far less prevalent, with just about five percent of grownups gabbing in their sleep. People that sleep talk might do so just once, sporadically, or over many nights. Most often, sleep talking does not last long term.
What sleep talkers actually say varies from person to person, and night to night. Since sleep talking is not conscious, it can be silly, scary, serious, or even dirty. Sleep talking can occur at any stage of sleep, but where it happens affects how easy the sleeper is to understand. The first two, lighter, stages of sleep are usually easy to understand, but in deeper stages of 3 or 4, the speech is garbled, or reduced to just moans.
Some sleep talkers will speak in their own little world, but others respond to questions, and can carry on conversations. In a given night, sleep talkers usually don’t talk for more than 30 seconds, but some can talk through the night.
No matter how clearly the words are spoken, experts agree that sleep talk does not come from the conscious mind. This may seem like trivia, but the fact was actually settled in a court of law in 2000. During a case of child abuse, the sleep talk of one of the victims was entered as evidence. This was successfully appealed. Dr. Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, said at the time “You wouldn’t want to put a lot of credence to what somebody said during sleep talking.”
2: Investigate it
Sleep talking is largely harmless for the sleeper. However, it may wake up other sleepers. It can also be embarrassing for the sleep talker, as even the most polite person can sleep talk x-rated stuff.
Although sleep talking is not so serious itself, it may be linked to general sleep problems. Sleep talking can be brought on in some cases by:
Some sleep talkers also sleep walk. More serious are links with such disorders as:
- Sleep terrors
- Sleep apnea
- REM problems
- Psychiatric issues
- Nocturnal seizures
- Nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder
3: Treat it
If your partner’s sleep talking also comes with fear, anxiety, or psychological disturbance, then get thee to a doctor. Likewise, if sleep talking is keeping you or others awake and preventing healthy sleep, then it’s time to visit a medical professional.
Your doctor may ask you to keep a sleep diary, in order to better understand the sleep talking. This will usually entail writing down items such as:
- When and how long you sleep talk
- Intake of any drugs or alcohol
- Sources of stress
Outside the doctor’s office, ensuring that you get enough quality sleep, and practice good sleep hygiene may help prevent incidences of sleep taking. De-stressing your life overall may also help, along with cutting down on alcohol and heavy meals before bed.
Sleep talking also leads to blogs and book deals, if your sleep talk is creative enough. This was the case for Adam Lennard, a sleep talker in England. One night, his wife was awakened by the phrase “Enough with the cheese. Enough!” She took to recording his sometimes nonsensical, sometimes vulgar comments in a blog. Readers flocked in droves, and the rest is history. Dan’s sleeping alter ego proved to be more famous than his waking one, and the blog of his sleeping comments was shortly followed by a book: Sleep Talkin’ Man.
Believe it or not, Adam Lennard is not the first famous sleep talker. He’s not even the only one with a book collecting his sayings. Back in the early 1960s, musician Dion McGregor would routinely wake his roommate with strange stories spoken in his sleep. These surreal visions grew increasingly dark, ending in a terrified shriek. His roommate did what any good friend would do: he recorded it. The pair released the recordings as an LP: The Dream World Of Dion McGregor (He Talks In His Sleep), as well as a book of the same name.
5: Block it Out
If your partner’s sleep talk isn’t exciting enough for a book or record deal, then it might be time to block out the noise yourself.
For soft-spoken sleep talkers, white noise can be enough to drown them out. If you don’t want to shell out bucks for a white noise generator, there are some cheap options you’ve probably already got in your bedroom. Running a fan is an easy way to fill your room with white noise. A radio tuned to static works well too.
For louder sleep talkers, you can use ear plugs. But for the loudest sleep talkers, you might have to resort to sleeping in different bedrooms until you find a more long-term solution.