The medical term for abnormalities that occur during sleep is “parasomnia.” The Alaska Sleep Clinic says behaviors such as sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep eating, nightmares, night terrors and teeth grinding are all common parasomnias.
According to Dr. Michael Nadorff, Associate Professor of Psychology at Mississippi State University and President-Elect of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, there are two main categories of parasomnias: REM and non-REM.
Nadorff explains nightmares happen during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, while the body is immobilized. Sleep walking, sleep talking, and sleep eating, however, are all non-REM parasomnias which can occur during slow wave sleep. If you’ve been told that you talk in your sleep, here’s what you need to know.
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Why causes sleep talking?
Typically, sleep talking only happens during slow wave sleep, according to Nadorff. He says this behavior is most often observed when people are sleep-deprived or have fallen out of their normal sleep routine.
Sleep talking is far more common in children. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep talking occurs in half of children but only in about 5 percent of adults.
How to stop sleep talking
Nadorff says the first and most important step to stop sleep talking is following a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning can help a number of parasomnias, including sleep talking.
Typically, this parasomnia does not require medical intervention, though it can be treated with medicine in extraordinary cases, according to AASM. This behavior most often presents in healthy adults, but it can be a sign of parasomnias such as REM sleep behavior disorder or sleep-related eating disorder. If you’re worried about sleep talking, you can always bring it up with your doctor.
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Should I wake up someone who is talking in their sleep?
While waking someone up from REM sleep can be easy, waking up a person from deep, slow wave sleep can be difficult. Individuals who awake from this type of sleep can be very disoriented and groggy, so Nadorff recommends letting sleep talkers and sleep walkers remain asleep when possible.
Do the things people say when they’re asleep mean anything?
The things people say while they’re asleep are often gibberish or nonsensical, but even if someone in a deep slumber manages to string together a complete sentence, Nadorff says you probably shouldn’t put too much thought into what they are saying. “It’s just word salad,” he explains.