Can talking in your sleep actually be dangerous?


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Sleep talking is a phenomenon that’s fairly common. You may have noticed a partner talking in their sleep at night, or maybe they mentioned hearing you.


Below, we’re digging into all things sleep talking—why do people sleep talk, whether you should be concerned, and what you can do to keep nighttime convos under control.

What is sleep talking?

Sleep talking is a type of parasomnia (an abnormal behavior that takes place during sleep) that happens during specific parts of the sleep cycle. It can occur during both rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.


Non-REM sleep has three stages, including deep sleep; REM sleep happens about an hour after you fall asleep and is when you normally have vivid dreams. You cycle through both of these stages as you sleep.

What are the symptoms of sleep talking?

Sleep talking is characterized by audible expressions during sleep without the person being aware they’re doing it. It’s usually incomprehensible. One study looked at 232 subjects who had 883 sleep talking episodes—59% of those episodes consisted of nonverbal utterances such as shouts, whispers, or laughs.


Other times, people might speak eloquent sentences or use profanity. Some sleep talkers seem to talk to themselves while others sound as if they’re carrying on a conversation.


Episodes of sleep talking are generally short. Most sleep talkers speak for no longer than 30 seconds an episode. The sleep talker might say a few sentences or a handful of words.


Although experts are still researching this topic, there’s a chance sleep talking could be related to the content of the speaker’s dreams. This is called dream-enacting behavior (DE behavior) and refers to a person acting out the contents of their dreams.

How common is sleep talking?

Sleep talking is more common than you might think. Research shows up to 66% of people have sleep talked at one point or another.

Typically, sleep talking is more common in children—in fact, it’s reported in 50% of young children. If you’ve experienced sleep talking at any point in your life, you certainly aren’t alone.

What causes sleep talking?

Why do people sleep talk? While experts aren’t completely sure what causes sleep talking, they think there may be a genetic component. One study found that parasomnias such as sleep talking seem to share a common genetic background. It’s likely that stress, daytime fatigue, and alcohol and drugs can also play a role.


What’s more, sleep talking occurs more frequently in people who have mental health conditions, especially PTSD. Another study found psychiatric comorbidities are twice as common in people who experience frequent sleep talking.

Is sleep talking dangerous?

Sleep talking itself is usually harmless. However, in some situations, it might be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder or health condition. Sleep talking might be an issue you should look into if:

  • Sleep talking interrupts a partner’s sleep, leading to a partner having insomnia
  • Sleep talking happens alongside other parasomnias, which may be signs of a deeper issue
  • The contents of sleep talking are embarrassing, leading to stress between the sleep talker and partner

Your primary care physician can answer any questions you have. If they think your sleep talking indicates a deeper problem, then you might need to see a sleep doctor or neurologist.

Can you stop talking in your sleep?

Since we know so little about the cause of sleep talking, there aren’t any proven methods to help you stop. But working to improve your sleep hygiene might help curb unwanted nighttime chatter. You can improve your sleep habits by:

  • Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening
  • Shutting off screens before bed
  • Adding relaxing activities to your nighttime routine
  • Getting a comfortable mattress
  • Keeping your bedroom quiet and dark
  • Exercising in the morning
  • Not napping during the day

What to do if your partner sleep talks 

Often, sleep talking disturbs the talker’s partner more than it does the talker! If your partner talks in their sleep, your own Z’s are likely interrupted. Try these ideas to prevent your partner from disrupting your sleep:

  • Wear earplugs
  • Use a white noise machine
  • Encourage your partner to improve their sleep hygiene

The bottom line: Sleep talking is fairly common, and although experts aren’t completely sure why some people talk in their sleep, in most cases it’s not a big deal. By working to improve your overall quality of sleep, you should be able to keep the talking in the daytime where it belongs.


Narcolepsy is a serious sleep disorder that can be difficult to diagnose. Read our guide to narcolepsy to learn more about it.


This article originally appeared on  and was syndicated by

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6 TED talks that could actually improve your sleep


If you’re looking for inspiration and research-backed life hacks straight from the greatest thinkers of our time, there’s a TED Talk for just about anything, including sleep.

There’s plenty to learn from sleep experts with decades of experience between them, including Daniel Gartenberg, PhD, founder of the Sonic Sleep Coaching and Consulting Service (who you might remember served as a sleep coach to our content manager, Christina Heiser).

To expand your understanding of sleep and get some better Z’s, add these six TED Talks to your watchlist.


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What it’s about: What’s the future of improving sleep efficiency look like? As Gartenberg explains, of all the stages of sleep, deep sleep is the most restorative stage thanks to long-burst brain waves known as delta waves.

He and his research partner Dmitry Gerashchenko, MD, PhD, from Harvard Medical School, have discovered that playing a gushing, static-like sound during deep sleep can promote the production of these waves, allowing you to get more out of a good night’s sleep. Someday, a personalized device could essentially play you the perfect sleep soundtrack—but it’s not available just yet.

The takeaway: “Our sleep isn’t as regenerative as it could be, but maybe one day soon, we could wear a small device and get more out of our sleep.”



What it’s about: Matt Walker, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that it’s time to replace the “mortally unwise advice” of “you can sleep when you’re dead” with a new adage: “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”

Walker provides a sweeping overview of the “alarmingly bad things” that can happen when you don’t get enough shut-eye, including a significant drop in your brain’s ability to learn, a greater risk of heart attacks and car crashes, zapped immunity, and an uptick in genetic activity linked to cancer, stress, and cardiovascular disease.

The fix for “one of the greatest public health challenges we face,” he says, is to “reclaim our right to a full night of sleep.” Stick with a regular sleep schedule—even over the weekends—and keep your sleep space cool for optimal Z’s, he suggests.

The takeaway: “Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity…There is simply no aspect of your wellness that can retreat at the sign of sleep deprivation and get away unscathed.”




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What it’s about: From horseshoe crabs to humans, the vast majority of living things evolved to have an internal body clock which is “the most underrated force on our behavior,” says science writer Jessa Gamble.

Gamble’s short talk centers on one wild research finding: “When people are living without any artificial light at all, they sleep twice every night,” with a window of “meditative quiet” in between. Amazingly, people who were allowed to live according to their natural sleep cycle in underground bunkers “report being so awake during the day time they’re experiencing true wakefulness for the first time in their lives,” she says.

The takeaway: “We’re living in a culture of jet lag, global travel, 24-hour businesses, and shift work, and our modern ways of doing things have their advantages, but I believe we should understand the costs.”





What it’s about: Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and Thrive Global, experienced a terrifying wake-up call after she fainted from exhaustion at her desk and broke her cheekbone. What followed was a “journey of rediscovering the value of sleep” which culminated in her book, The Sleep Revolution

In this call to action, Huffington explains that men tend to treat sleep deprivation as a “virility symbol” with fewer hours of sleep as a backward form of “one-upmanship.” The reality? Getting enough sleep makes for more interesting conversations, greater productivity, and a more fulfilling life. Changing our culture to prioritize sleep is “the new feminist issue”—and women are going to “literally sleep our way to the top,” she jokes.

The takeaway: “What is good for us on a personal level, what’s going to bring more joy, gratitude, effectiveness in our lives and be the best for our own careers, is also what is best for the world. So, I urge you to shut your eyes and discover the great ideas that lie inside us—to shut your engines and discover the power of sleep.”



What it’s about: If you’ve looked into sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve probably heard of amyloid-beta, sticky waste products that seem to contribute to the development of these conditions when they’re not effectively flushed out of our brains.

In this TED talk, neuroscientist Jeff Iliff, PhD, breaks down the “specialized network of plumbing” the brain uses to address “the problem of waste clearance,” but only when you’re sleeping.

The takeaway: “While our body is still and our mind is off walking in dreams somewhere, the elegant machinery of the brain is quietly hard at work cleaning and maintaining this unimaginably complex machine. Like our housework, it’s a dirty and thankless job, but it’s important.”



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What it’s about: In this expansive, 20-minute talk, Russell Foster, PhD, head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, explains what happens in our brains when we go to sleep, why getting enough sleep is so important for our physical and mental health, and how the link between disrupted sleep and mental illness could provide us with new ways to identify and treat depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

He also debunks some of the most persistent sleep myths and shares a handful of helpful “sleep for dummies” tips.



The takeaway: “Our ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by a night of sleep.”

Listening to the right kind of podcast before bed can help you snooze. These are thebest podcasts for sleep.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by





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