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Sleep Disorders

Talking about other dreams

05/16/2007

Question:

I have been sleep talking at times, but I haven`t for a while. The other night I was sleep talking on the phone and they asked a question about something that happened in the past. The thing they asked about was if I had kissed someone during the first night on spring break. I know that I had not but I had also had a dream about the exact same situation only that I had, but that was in my dream. Why is it that when I was sleep talking I had told them about the dream and not what had really happened?

Answer:

I’m not really sure I understand your question completely, but I will do my best to try and answer you. It’s clear you have a history of sleep talking (also known as somniloquy), though you lost me in the rest of the paragraph. It appears you think you are saying things in your sleep while you perceive yourself to be dreaming, and that you feel what you are saying is not accurate. Is this correct?

Sleep talking is not an uncommon problem, especially in children. While we don’t know exactly how common talking in sleep is, it is estimated to occur in about half of all children and in about 5% of adults.

Sleep talking can range from infrequent quite sounds to full spoken sentences to singing and shouting. Often, the speech cannot be understood and may sound like mutterings or gibberish. The cause of talking in sleep is not entirely known. Most of the time, the cause of this sleep behavior can not be linked to any identifiable underlying problem or disease. And in most cases, the problem is not serious and tends to resolve over time or with aging.

However, in some cases, it has been found to be associated with other sleep-related disorders, such as sleep walking, REM behavior disorder (an unusual disorder in which individuals tend to act out their dreams while asleep), sleep-related epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep apnea, and the nighttime sleep eating syndrome. In addition, in adults who begin sleep talking in adulthood (in other words, they did not do this as a child), there may be a higher rate of psychiatric disorders. However, most adults who talk in their sleep do not have these problems.

As mentioned above, it’s not clear to me from the information you provided if you think you are stating false information from your dreams when you sleep talk. Most individuals who talk in their sleep are not aware of this behavior until they are told they do so by others. It may be worthwhile confirming with others or tape recording yourself to verify what you are saying. It’s also a good idea to remember that dreams are not a completely accurate record of what happened during the daytime and are subject to emotional influence, among other factors, that will affect what you dream about.

If you are concerned about a primary sleep disorder, which by the limited information you provided does not seem to be the case, then it would be worthwhile discussing this problem with your primary care physician. A thorough history and physical examination may help to determine if there are underlying problems that need to be addressed. Referral to a Sleep Specialist or Psychologist may be necessary to help sort out whether any testing is needed. Testing is sometimes required to determine the presence or the absence of some of the conditions mentioned above. Specific treatments for each condition are available and will depend upon the results of the evaluation.

If you would like additional information regarding sleep and sleep disorders, you can obtain it on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. This website also contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so you can locate one near you if need be. Good luck!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University