Picture this: a perfect Sunday night, you’re getting ready for bed, you’re brushing your teeth, doing your pre-bed stretching exercises, and then you crawl into bed next to your partner, snuggle and blissfully fall asleep… You joyfully meet your partner for breakfast the next morning – only, you notice they are tired and sleep deprived, with heavy bags hanging under their bloodshot eyes as an indicator. Then they break the news – you’ve kept them awake all night because you were talking in your sleep. You had absolutely no idea.
Granted, it may not be as dramatic as this scenario. Even though it’s usually harmless, talking in your sleep can be kind of creepy and unsettling for the other person, especially if it happens too often. Also, some sleep talkers do complicated monologues or talk gibberish the whole night, making it harder (or impossible) for their partner to go back to sleep.
And you certainly care for the wellbeing of your loved one and your partner’s sleep, so you wonder – how can I stop sleep talking? Is it even possible? Why does sleep talking happen in the first place, anyway?
I’ll try to answer all these questions in this article. Basically, you don’t need to despair – it is possible to stop your sleep talk, and we’re going to go over the tips and tricks on how to do that in the following sections.
What Is Sleep Talking?
Sleep talking, or somniloquy in fancy scientific talk, is a type of sleep disorder (also called parasomnia in the medical jargon). It’s when a person talks in their sleep without even knowing it. Sleep talkers can be very elaborate, doing whole monologues in their sleep, or they might do an imaginary dialogue, continuing a conversation that is already in their head.
Sometimes, they talk intermittently throughout the night and only say fragmented, even unintelligible, gibberish that probably comes out of the bottomless pits of the unconscious.
What Causes Sleep Talking?
Research still isn’t that clear on what the exact causes of sleep talking are. The content of the speech, for example, if it’s intelligible enough, isn’t always (explicitly) connected to what is currently happening in a person’s life or previous conversations they might’ve had with someone in the past.
The Dream Nightmare Laboratory at the Sacré-Coeur Hospital of Montreal finds some links between sleep talk and dreams, but it still doesn’t mean that’s always the cause.
Sleep talking can happen anytime during sleep, and it often doesn’t mean that there’s something more serious causing it.
However, sometimes, it can be a sign of a serious underlying sleep disorder or another health condition.
Possible Causes for Sleep Talking
RBD, short for REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, can be one cause for your sleep talk. This is a chronic sleep disorder that manifests as dream enactment. People who suffer from RBD often yell, grunt, or shout, and may even act out their dreams. Because of the condition, the dreamer’s bodies may actively move during sleep, which means they sometimes end up hurting themselves or their partner without knowing it.
Sleep terrors or night terrors are another type of parasomnia, characterized by reactions similar to a panic attack. This includes rapid heartbeat, sweating, feelings of fear and dread, but also yelling, screaming and trying to speak, although this type of speech is often not very clear. Sometimes, during night terrors, people will also punch or swing, or move as if trying to escape something.
Other parasomnias that sleep talking can be a part of, or the result of, are sleepwalking and also NS-RED, short for a nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder. The latter one, as you may assume from the title, is a sleep disorder in which the affected person eats while they’re asleep, not being aware of it in the morning.
Other mental and physical health conditions can also be the cause of sleep talking. These include substance abuse, emotional stress, various mental health disorders, psychological illnesses such as depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, fever, and taking certain medications.
How Can You Stop Talking in Your Sleep?
Okay, now we’re heading over to the key part of this article: how to stop your sleep talk. Here I’m going to tell you about the best ways you can do this.
Earlier you saw that the exact reasons for sleep talking are kinda hard to find, although there are a couple of usual suspects. Consequently, there isn’t only one magic cure for sleep talk.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Improving your sleep hygiene is one of the most important things you have to do if you want to stop sleep talking. The first thing you have to do is get enough sleep: 7, 8, and sometimes even 9 hours is usually enough for most adults. Make sure you go to bed at approximately the same time. This will improve the quality of your sleep and positively affect your circadian rhythm, a.k.a. the natural sleep cycle your body follows day in and day out.
Because sleep talking is largely connected to various sleep disorders, working on your sleep hygiene is a must.
See a Sleep Specialist
It’s also a good idea to go see a sleep specialist and seek medical advice. If you figure you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, they will be able to prescribe sleep medicine that’s likely to improve your sleep patterns and your overall quality of sleep.
If your doctor suspects an underlying sleep disorder that might be causing your sleep talking, they may ask you to do a sleep study, or a polysomnogram, which is commonly used to diagnose sleep apnea.
See a Mental Health Specialist
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes, sleep talking can be caused by a certain mental illness you’re battling with, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
If you’re suffering from any mental illness, make sure to seek guidance and advice from a medical professional. That way you’ll receive the appropriate help you need and if it turns out that this is the cause behind your sleep talk, you’ll be able to work on that issue as well.
Take Care of Your Overall Health: Eat Healthy and Exercise
Make sure to take proper care of your immune system. Eat healthy foods, drink enough water every day, and exercise a couple of times a week. Even 30 minutes a day of light exercises is enough to improve your health and can positively affect your sleep schedule.
Heavy meals that contain a lot of saturated fats and lots of carbs can cause sleep disruptions and issues with blood sugar levels. Unhealthy food can drain your energy levels and also might contribute to developing insomnia. This is mostly due to the spikes in blood sugar levels due to refined carbs like sugar, white bread, carbonated sodas, cookies, cakes, etc.
Instead, try to implement a varied diet consisting of light meals before dinner that isn’t going to be too heavy on your digestive system or affect your blood sugar too much. Make sure to take in enough protein, healthy fats (like unsaturated fats), beans, fruits, and veggies.
Don’t eat right before you go to bed. Give your body some time to deal with the food you’ve just consumed. Try to eat a meal at least 2-3 hours before going to bed.
Keep a Sleep Diary
A sleep diary is a good way to try to figure out what the potential causes behind your sleep talking are.
The sleep diary can help you accurately track your sleep patterns, like the time you usually go to bed and the time you wake up. In it, you should also write down the current medications you’re taking, or ones you’ve taken in the recent past.
Make sure to include info about whether you’ve drunk any alcohol or caffeine that day in the diary, especially if it was several hours before going to bed. Also, include details about your exercise routine – what time of day you’re doing it, for how long, how vigorous it is, and so on.
Lastly and most importantly, note the nights when you talked in your sleep, and notice how much you talk every night.
Make sure that you keep the sleep diary for at least two weeks so that you can better notice any recurring patterns.
After you’ve gathered a decent amount of data, ask yourself the following questions:
- What defined the nights when you were more likely to talk in your sleep? Did you notice doing anything in particular on those nights, like drinking more alcohol or caffeine?
- Did you notice that you talked more in your sleep when you were taking a particular medication or combination of pharmaceutical drugs?
- Did your sleep talk get worse in the nights when you had disrupted your usual sleep pattern? Or following the days when you exercised more vigorously?
Take into consideration all of these things when you try to figure out the reason for your sleep talking. If you notice an emerging pattern or connection, change something in the habits and activities you do during the day or before going to bed. Keep the diary for at least another two weeks after this to see if there is any noticeable change and whether you’ve stopped talking in your sleep.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
Sure, most of us need that cup of joe to properly wake up in the morning, but too much caffeine can interfere with our sleep, and it may also be a potential cause for sleep talking.
So, make sure that you don’t consume caffeine at least 5-6 hours before you go to bed, because that’s the average amount of time your body needs to deal with caffeine and clear it from your system.
Alcohol can also negatively affect your quality of sleep and mess with your sleep cycle, causing you to wake up several times throughout the night. This, in turn, can make you drowsy, tired, and irritated in the morning. What’s more, alcohol can also negatively affect your mood. It affects the central nervous system, and can easily exacerbate any underlying conditions like depression and/or anxiety, as well as increase feelings of stress.
So, in order to curb your problem with sleep talking, make sure to limit alcohol consumption or avoid consuming alcohol altogether, at least for some time.
Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine
Creating a soothing, calming bedtime routine is critical for getting a good night’s sleep, tackling emotional stress from the daily grind, and getting some long-awaited quality sleep.
What does this mean? Well, first of all, make sure you don’t use any digital devices before going to bed. Try to have at least an hour in between the time you last use your tablet or smartphone and the time you go to bed. The blue light from our digital devices is very bad for our circadian rhythm and it can easily mess with our sleep.
You can also practice some bedtime yoga, or just stretch for 5-10 minutes an hour or half an hour before you go to bed.
If you need some kind of sound to wind down, use a white noise machine that filters out unnecessary sounds from the outside environment. You can also put on some relaxing music playlist that you like, or you can play the sound of rain or waves from the white noise machine to calm you down.
If you don’t like to hear any sound before going to bed, and actually have trouble falling asleep even with the slightest sound around you, make sure you use earplugs. There are plenty of different kinds on the market – foam earplugs, silicone earplugs, wax earplugs, that have different ranges of noise protection. Don’t give up on earplugs if you’re still bothered by noise. Experiment with several of them before you settle on the one that’s most comfortable and also that has the best noise reduction capabilities.
Keep Your Room Cool
Also, very importantly, make sure to keep the temperature of the room somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, i.e. 15 and 19 degrees Celsius, for the best quality of sleep, says neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Christopher Winter for Huffington Post. Anything that’s above 23-24 degrees and below 12 degrees Celsius can disrupt your sleep.
Science says that we sleep better in colder environments, and the fact that our body temperature decreases during sleep is related to that.
According to Dr. Winter, lower body temperature also contributes to “the amount of deep sleep an individual gets during the night, with cooler body temperatures leading to more deep sleep.” Deep sleep is very important for the overall quality of sleep we get throughout the night. If we get more deep sleep time, we are also more likely to wake up fresh and full of energy the next day.
If you notice that the temperature in your sleep environment is higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, try to lower it and see how that affects your sleep and whether it has any effect on your sleep talking problem.
Also, note the humidity in the room. According to Dr. Winter, “high humidity can intensify the effect of heat.” If you generally live in a more humid climate, or you notice your sleep environment has become too humid, then maybe it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality dehumidifier.
Make Sure You Sleep on a Good Quality Mattress
There’s lots of reasons why you should get a good mattress – from better back support to better body heat regulation, a well-made mattress can make a huge difference when it comes to improving your quality of sleep. The same goes when you need to deal with a sleep disorder.
Choose a mattress that will feel the most comfortable for you, but also one that will provide the best support for your body, like a memory foam mattress that can adapt to your body’s natural curves.
If you’ve just bought a mattress, but want to improve it, then consider getting a mattress topper instead.
Sleep talking is no laughing matter, although sometimes it can be pretty funny, you know, when it’s not a symptom of a serious health issue, doesn’t obstruct your or your partner’s sleep, or when it doesn’t creep the hell out of your partner.
If you are talking in your sleep every night or very often, and your symptoms get more serious over time, then it might be a good idea to see a sleep specialist and get some professional medical advice on the issue.
Sleep medicine prescriptions or medicine that will positively affect your mental health can also contribute to better sleep, and so can proper mental health aid from a psychologist or psychiatrist if your sleep talking is caused by an underlying mental health disorder, stress, or any other psychological distress.
Improving your sleep hygiene can also contribute to better sleep. This means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same hours every day.
Whatever it is, it’s solvable. You can deal with this issue and get to a point where you’re sleeping better than ever. It may be a wake-up call (pun not intended!) to sort out your sleep schedule and work on your sleep hygiene.
And hey, who knows – dealing with your sleep talking may actually lead to the best sleep of your life!