Somniloquy: Do you do it in your sleep?

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A man once told of his partner, who appeared to be awake and talking to him in their bed at night. However, what she said made no sense to the man. Her words were: Play a job when you eat so you can block out the sun. The man was understandably confused and asked, “What?” at which point she repeated the exact same sentence. The man again asked, “What???” and this time, she responded in a disgusted tone of voice, “Ugh. Never mind.” At that point, the woman rolled over and fell back into a peaceful sleep. The man, on the other hand, said he has never forgotten this little middle-of-the-night episode. In fact, he has always wondered what it was that she was trying to tell him. The likelihood that the woman was actually trying to tell him something is little to none. It’s far more likely that this was an episode of somniloquy.

Somniloquy is the scientific term for “talking in your sleep,” which, it turns out, is quite common. If you have ever witnessed someone talking while sleeping, you no doubt have a good idea of how eery and disturbing it can be. It can also be pretty funny at times. Researchers have been studying this “sleep quirk” for years. They used to think it was some type of brain disorder. Now, the general consensus is that it is a common occurrence. It seems to happen for several reasons, although it has not been 100% figured out, yet. Here are a few things that sleep analysts feel fairly certain about regarding sleep-talking:

Somniloquy often occurs in conjunction with other sleep quirks

There’s still a lot that scientists don’t know about somniloquy. Studies do show, however, that people who talk in their sleep often do other things in their sleep, as well. For instance, if someone you know is a sleep-walker, chances are greater that he or she also talks while sleeping. Other ‘side issues’ that make talking in your sleep more likely are shown in the following list:

  • You have someone else in your family line who is a sleep-talker.
  • The person in question is a child; children talk in their sleep more often than adults.
  • You’re prone to nightmares.
  • You grind your teeth in your sleep.
  • You snore.

As for somniloquy appearing to be somewhat hereditary, researchers have determined a couple of things. First, evidence does suggest that people who talk in their sleep often have relatives who have experienced similar episodes. Next, they have not identified any specific gene or genetic code that is always present in someone who talks in his or her sleep. This means they can’t look at your genetic coding and say, “Ah ha! We have a somniloquist here!” Finally, just because someone in your family is a sleep-talker, doesn’t mean anyone else in the family is. It’s just that it appears to be more common in people who have other family members who have talked in their sleep at some point.

Is somniloquy a one-time thing or a chronic condition?

Because there’s still so much scientists don’t know about somniloquy, it’s difficult to make definitive statements about it. It appears to affect different people in different ways. For instance, some people have one or two sleep-talking experiences in life, then it never happens again. For others, it continues to happen over a period of time. This makes sense when you “connect the dots” to other information sleep analysts have learned in their studies. Researchers believe that somniloquy most often occurs because of a sleep disturbance or disruption.

If you’re a person who suffers from insomnia, you’re far more likely to ‘chronically’ talk in your sleep. A person who is dealing with a lot of stress in daily life is more prone to episodes of somniloquy during sleep. If you have sleep apnea, this condition would also mean that you are more likely to talk in your sleep compared to someone who has no sleep disturbances at all.

Is talking in your sleep a dangerous condition?

For the most part, scientists and medical experts believe that somniloquy is harmless. It’s more important to monitor surrounding issues, such as whether it’s occurring in conjunction with sleep apnea, for instance. Most doctors consider sleep apnea a serious health condition. It often causes extreme daytime fatigue. Surprisingly, it greatly increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It can also have adverse effects on the liver or on a person’s blood pressure.

In other words, if somniloquy is occurring over a period of time, it’s important to assess overall “sleep health,” to check for potentially serious conditions like apnea. It’s quite possible, however, that you could experience a single episode of sleep-talking during a week when you have stress at work or haven’t been sleeping well. It could even happen if there’s too much light shining into your room while you’re trying to sleep or other minor sleep disruptions occur.

What are people saying when they talk in their sleep?

The man mentioned at the start of this post is now going through life trying to decode what the love of his life really meant when she spoke a nonsensical sentence to him while she was sleeping. Many people wonder if listening to a sleep-talker is a way to find out secrets or truths that the person doesn’t talk about when he or she is awake. Studies show that there doesn’t appear to be any connection with somniloquy and “true statements.” Most times, what people say makes little to no sense at all. The most common word that people reportedly say in their sleep is, “No!”

Here are a few other crazy things somniloquists have said to others:

  • “Open the window, Abigail! I’m burning like a meatball!” (These people didn’t know anyone named Abigail in their daily life.)
  • One woman is said to have uttered a “possessed” sounding scream that escalated to a terrifying level, then quieted, before she resumed snoring.
  • A husband sat up and said to his wife, “I see you didn’t bring the bag of leaves, so now I know you’re not serious.”
  • ::Whispers:: “We’re probably not going to need all these parachutes.”

Have you been told that you talk in your sleep? Does someone in your household tend to shout, whisper, laugh, scream or chit-chat while sleeping? What’s the funniest, craziest, scariest thing you’ve ever said or heard during a somniloquy episode?

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