Sleep Talking In Children: Causes, Treatment, And Remedies

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Sleep problems, like bedwetting, leg restlessness, teeth grinding, sleepwalking, and sleep talking in children, can be frequently seen. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), about 50% of the pediatric population have some type of sleep problem, with just around 4% being diagnosed with a sleep disorder (1). Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is a sleep-wake transition condition in which people talk in their sleep without realizing it (2). Children may be murmuring, mumbling, groaning, speaking in whole sentences, blabbering, mumbling, chuckling, or even whistling while sleeping. Sleep talking is harmless and temporary in most cases and does not require treatment. Continue reading to learn more about sleep talking, its effects on children, and how to deal with it.

In This Article

Why Do Children Talk In Their Sleep?

Sleep talking is more common in children with sleepwalking

Image: Shutterstock

Sleep primarily consists of two different stages, namely REM (rapid eye movement)iA phase during sleep where eyes move rapidly, causing the sleeper to have vivid dreams 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).

protip_icon Research finds
Speech talking is more common in children than in adults. Also, it is sometimes more creative than speech during waking hours (7).

Sleep talking is also likely to be associated with other sleep-related disorders such as nightmares, night terrorsiA night-time phenomenon in children characterized by episodes of screaming and crying in sleep ,sleepwalking, snoring or sleep apnea (interruption of breathing during sleep), REM sleep behavior disorder, and confusional arousalsiA phenomenon of a person waking up from sleep and behaving in a confused and disoriented manner (4). The good news is that children usually grow out of this condition by adolescence (2).

Stages And Symptoms Of Sleep Talking In Kids

Symptoms of sleep talking may vary depending on various factors

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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 into incoherent speech 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: Nocturnal vocalization 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.

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?

According to Texas-based pediatrician Dr. Ella Miller, “Toddlers who talk while they usually grow out of it by adolescence. Parents don’t need to worry too much unless it affects the child’s sleep quality or is accompanied by other sleep problems.”

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 underlying conditions such as stress, anxiety, or depression in school-aged children.

Treatment For Sleep Talking In Children

A sleep specialist may help treat the condition

Image: Shutterstock

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.

protip_icon Point to consider
Medications may be used to treat sleep talking only in rare cases. Seek your doctor’s approval before administering them to your child (3).

Tips To Manage Sleep Talking In Children

The following tips can help you manage sleep talking in children (1) (4) (5).

  1. Maintain a regular sleeping schedule, including daytime naps, for your child.
  1. Set scheduled awakenings in the morning and for daytime napping.
  1. Make sure your child gets an adequate amount of sleep. Avoid distractions during bedtime.
Avoid distractions during bedtime

Image: Shutterstock

  1. 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.
  1. Avoid fatty, greasy, or spicy food and carbonated drinks before bedtime as these may lead to indigestion and disturb sleep.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
Physical activity may help improve the child's sleep quality

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Avoid caffeine and sugar at night.
  1. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it normal for a child to talk in their sleep?

Sleep talking behaviors are common and normal in children and do not always indicate a mental health disorder. Children usually talk in sleep during the non-REM stage of the sleep cycle, where some part of their brains might still be awake (6) (7).

2. Why shouldn’t one wake up sleep talkers?

Experts suggest it is unnecessary to awaken a child who is sleeping, as they may stop talking after a while and go back to sleep. However, if you are concerned about sleep talking being associated with other sleep disorders, it is ideal to speak to your child’s doctor (4).

3. How can parents distinguish between normal sleep talking and a sleep disorder?

Children who are sleep-talking usually do not remember the content of their talks. Sleep talking does not affect the child who is doing it, but it can be disturbing to those around them. However, sleep disorders signify some kind of problems with the quality and quantity of sleep, which may impact an individual’s daily functioning (8).

4. How can parents help their toddlers if they are having disturbing dreams?

If your child is experiencing bad dreams or nightmares, you may offer them comfort and distract them with soothing activities, music, or stories. Let them know that it is okay to be afraid and that dreams can sometimes be very life-like, but in the end, they are just dreams.

5. Is there a link between sleep talking in toddlers and sleepwalking?

Sleeptalking and sleepwalking are called parasomnias. They are unharmful behaviors that happen when you are sleeping. However, sleepwalking and sleep talking can be associated with issues like nighttime sleep issues, PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and neurological injuries (9).

6. Should I record my toddler’s sleep talking and share it with their pediatrician for further evaluation?

You may keep a record of your child’s sleep talking if you notice it becoming more frequent and loud day with each passing day. You can share it with your pediatrician if you think it is causing some disturbances to other family members.

You need not worry much if your toddler is talking in sleep, as it is a common habit among toddlers. Mostly, your child will outgrow this habit as they age. However, sleep talking becomes a concern if it is repetitive and is hindering the sleep of the others in the house. Hence, if the episodes of toddler sleep talking occur frequently or are accompanied by other sleep disorders, it is better to consult a pediatrician and a sleep expert. They can identify the triggering factors and suggest a few tips to help your child sleep better.

Infographic: Tips To Manage Sleep Talking In Children

Sleep talking is a common sleep disorder affecting adults and children. While it is generally harmless and does not require treatment, it can be disruptive to their sleep and to others who share the same sleeping space. So, we compiled a few strategies to prevent or reduce the occurrences of sleep talking. Read on!

tips to manage sleep talking in children (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Children often experience sleep talking during the sleep-wake transition period.
  • Causes of sleep talking include fever, anxiety, stress, excitement, or sleep deprivation.
  • Sleep talking severity can be categorized as mild, moderate, severe, acute, subacute, or chronic.
  • Although harmless, a sleep expert can help manage the condition.
  • Managing sleep talking can be achieved through a regular sleep schedule, adequate sleep, good sleep hygiene, and regular exercise.
toddlers talking in sleep_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Carter K. A., Hathaway N. E., and Lettieri C. F., Common sleep disorders in children; American Family Physician
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
6. Sleeptalking in children and teenagers; Raising Children Network
7. David Peeters and Martin Dresler; Scientific Significance of Sleep Talking; Frontiers for young minds.
8. What are Sleep Disorders? American Psychiatry Association
9. Is There a Link Between Sleepwalking, Sleep Talking, and Mental Health? GoodTherapy

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Dr. Atiqur Rahman Khan is an experienced senior neonatologist and pediatrician with over 20 years of experience. He has been working under the Ministry of Health at Maternity and Children’s Hospital Saudi Arabia for more than 15 years.

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Sagari GongalaBSc, PG Diploma (Psychological Counseling)
Sagari was a math graduate and studied counseling psychology in postgraduate college, which she used to understand people better. Her interest in reading about people made her take up articles on kids and their behavior. She was meticulous in her research and gave information that could be of help to parents in times of need.

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Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with more than a decade of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children.

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