We review some of the data that science has discovered about this behavior, which in no case is indicative of a serious health problem.
We all know someone who talks in their sleep. It's a fairly common phenomenon, which is why the journal Sleep Medicine has suggested that about two-thirds of the world's population has had more than one such episode. If it's happened to you, don't worry: unless you reveal one of your most precious secrets to a bed partner, it's considered neither a disease nor a sleep disorder, but something completely normal.
Sleep talking is included, according to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, in a category of “isolated symptoms, apparently normal variables and unresolved problems” related to sleep, such as snoring or spasms before entering the realms of Morpheus, also known as “hypnagogic jerks“.
About half of everything we say while we are asleep is incomprehensible.
But of course, the fact that it does not betray any underlying health problems does not free it from certain undesirable effects for the person and especially for the person with whom he or she shares a bed. According to an article published in the journal Brain & Development, half of all children talk in their sleep once a year or more, and about a quarter of the general population does so once a week. Most children outgrow this nighttime babbling, although it is also true that it can reappear later, in adulthood, brought on by stress or insomnia.
No, you don't reveal secrets
This is the opinion of Jennifer Martin, Professor of Medicine, in a recent article published in Live Science, which denotes a major problem that is not related to the phenomenon itself, but to the waking life of the person to whom it happens, such as suffering from anxiety or not resting properly. About half of everything we say while we are asleep is incomprehensible, according to a study in the journal Sleep. Interestingly, of all the subjects whose dreams were tracked during the experiment, the word they uttered the most was “no“.
The first thing we think, if someone has been listening to us talking in our dreams, is that we may have revealed some secret (as we said at the beginning of the article). Fortunately, we don't reveal anything personal, since most of what we say doesn't make sense. “It's a myth,” Martin corroborates, “most of what we talk about doesn't relate to what we are dreaming, as our words surface during the phase when we are least dreamy. Sleep talking usually occurs during the stage when our brain is relatively quiet, compared to others such as the REM phase.”
It is more common in children, such as sleepwalking, as the brain is still learning what it should and should not do while sleeping.
And as for direct causes, some studies show certain similarities between the mental processes that trigger speech during wakefulness and sleep. Specifically, researchers suspect that it responds to memory consolidation, since when we sleep our brain processes memories and stores them so that we have long-term memory. A study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews suggested that it may respond to a verbal replay of memories that the brain is processing just at that instant.
“The cause can vary between children and adults,” adds Martin. “Sleep talking and other unusual behaviors during sleep,” such as sleepwalking, “are more common in younger people, and this could simply be because the child's brain is learning what not to do while sleeping.” And, of course, it may be related to the brain development phase typical of childhood. In adults, as we said, it may be due to the fact that we are experiencing a vital moment of greater anxiety, or also due to genetics. But in no case should we become obsessed with this phenomenon, since it is completely normal and has no detriment to our health.
My name is Maggie and I'm a writer for thesilverink.com, a website dedicated to news, culture and lifestyle. I have always been passionate about writing and I decided to make it my profession by becoming a web editor. I work on counterpoint.info and I mainly take care of the lifestyle section. I like to share my discoveries and my favorites with the readers, whether it's about fashion, beauty, decoration or gastronomy.