Sleep talking can be funny or embarrassing, but what is the science of sleep talking?
Sleep talking, or somniloquy, surprisingly comes in many forms. It’s most common in young children, who tend to outgrow it by puberty. Yet it continues into adulthood for many.
The science of sleep talking suggests that it most often occurs during the NREM stage of sleeping, a stage where you aren’t sleeping very deeply and typically aren’t dreaming.
If it occurs in deep sleeping, during the REM cycle of sleeping, sleep talking can be seen as linked to other issues, like night terrors or sleepwalking. Sleep therapists call that a “motor breakthrough of dreams,” which means that anything spoken in a dream is spoken out loud in real life as well during sleep.
Typically all motor functions are shut down by our brains when we are in REM sleep. That stops us from walking around or hurting ourselves while we are sleeping. Sleep talking in the REM stage means that our motor functions aren’t completely shut down and can be seen by a doctor as a sign of a REM behavior disorder like sleep walking.
Most sleep talkers talk in 30 second bursts, but could do it multiple times per night. Around 50% of kids between three and 10 will talk in their sleep and around 5% of adults do as well.
Research into the science behind sleep talking also indicates that it is hereditary for many. Adults who talk in their sleep are more likely to have kids who talk in their sleep. But this doesn’t mean that only those with a family history of sleep talking are prone to doing it. Research on sleep talking has also show that, for some people, it can start at any time in life and doesn’t require a genetic predisposition to sleep talking.
Looking into the science of sleep talking is interesting since it’s such an odd — and sometimes funny — thing that so many of us do.
The science of sleep talking can have broader implications, too. Research done on sleep can do great things to help people lead better lives. Sleep studies have shown us cramming may not be the best method to study, how our bodies use sleep to heal, what happens when we are dreaming, and what happens to our brains when we are sleep deprived.