Sleep problems, including sleep talking, sleepwalking, bed-wetting, teeth grinding, and leg restlessness, are common in children. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 50% of children experience some form of sleep problem, and around 4% are diagnosed with a sleep disorder (1).
Sleep talking or somniloquy is a sleep-wake transition disorder—or simply put, talking in sleep without being aware of it (2). While sleep talking, children may utter complete sentences, gibber, mumble, laugh, or even whistle. Generally, sleep talking is temporary, harmless, and requires no treatment.
Keep reading this MomJunction post to know more about sleep talking, its impact on the child, and management tips.
Why Do Children Talk In Their Sleep?
Sleep primarily consists of two different stages, namely REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). Sleep talking can occur in any stage of sleep. Children do not remember the content of their talks and have no memory of that event (1) (3).
Sleep talking has been known to be genetic, which means it runs in the family. It may also be caused by other factors or conditions (4).
- Sleep deprivation
- Daytime drowsiness
Sleep talking is also likely to be associated with other sleep-related disorders such as nightmares, sleep apnea (interruption of breathing during sleep), REM sleep behavior disorder, and confusional arousals (4). The good news is that children usually grow out of this condition by adolescence (2).
[ Read: Insomnia In Children ]
Stages And Symptoms Of Sleep Talking In Kids
Symptoms of sleep talking can vary depending on the severity and duration of the condition (4).
When sleep is lighter, talks can be understandable. However, they turn gibberish in the later stages of sleep.
- Stages 1 and 2: The sleep is light during these stages, thus making the talking comprehensible. Sleep talkers can often have an entire conversation during these stages.
- Stages 3 and 4:It is marked by deep sleep, which makes it difficult to comprehend the speech. There is some amount of speech restriction that could make the speech sound like gibberish or moaning.
Sleep talking can be classified as follows, depending on the severity.
- Mild: Sleep talking episodes occur less than once a month
- Moderate: They occur more than once a week. The sleep talk doesn’t interfere or disturb the sleep of others.
- Severe: Episodes occur every night and could disturb the sleep of others.
Sleep talking can be classified as follows, depending on the duration.
- Acute: The duration of the condition has been a month or less than a month.
- Subacute: The duration has been more than a month but less than a year.
- Chronic: The condition has persisted for more than a year.
[ Read: Sleepwalking In Children ]
Complications Of Sleep Talking In Children
There are no complications of sleep talking in children. If sleep talkers are loud and the episodes frequent, then it may disturb the sleep of others in the room.
When To See A Doctor?
Sleep talking is a harmless condition. However, if your child shows severe symptoms such as frequent episodes and loud speech, then it may require a visit to the healthcare practitioner or a sleep expert. There might be an underlying condition such as stress, anxiety, or depression in school-aged children.
Treatment For Sleep Talking In Children
There is no known treatment for sleep talking. However, consulting a sleep expert can help you manage the condition. Solving an underlying cause can eventually help cure sleep talking.
Tips To Manage Sleep Talking In Children
- Maintain a regular sleeping schedule, including daytime naps, for your child.
- Set scheduled awakenings in the morning and for daytime naps.
- Make sure your child gets an adequate amount of sleep. Avoid distractions during bedtime.
- Maintain good sleep hygiene for your child. Sleep hygiene is a set of practices that help the child fall asleep better. For instance, keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature and avoid placing lamps with bright light near the bed.
- Avoid fatty, greasy, or spicy food and carbonated drinks before bedtime as these may lead to indigestion and disturb the sleep.
- Ensure that your child’s room has a good amount of sunlight in the morning and darkness in the night. This will help in maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Let the child get regular exercise or physical activity, such as cycling, swimming, or any other sport activity. This might help improve the quality of sleep.
- Ensure that the sleep environment of your child’s room is comfortable. Maintain appropriate temperature and avoid bright lights, cell phones, or television in the room.
Sleep talking is common in children. The condition is harmless, and children usually outgrow this by adolescence. It doesn’t require any treatment. However, if the symptoms appear severe or the condition seems to persist for a long time, seek advice from a sleep expert. This can help diagnose and manage the underlying issues or conditions if any.
Have any tips to share on sleep talking in children? Leave us a comment in the section below.
2. El Shakankiry H. M. Sleep physiology and sleep disorders in childhood; Nature and Science of Sleep
3. Sleepwalking and sleep talking; American Academy of Sleep Medicine
4. Sleep talking; National Sleep Foundation
5. Sleep hygiene; National Sleep Foundation