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Sleep Disorders

There has to be help for these things...

07/15/2008

Question:

My boyfriend says I talk in my sleep. Okay, maybe I do, so what? But he says that I have full-on conversations about other guys who I say I "love". He says he never remembers his dreams, so that makes it difficult enough to explain, but even then, none of my dreams prior to knowing about what I said in my sleep has anything to do with it.

I want to know if there is anything to lessen the occurance of all this, hypnosis? Medication? I don`t know, but eliminating stress is near impossible. Thank you.

Answer:

Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, 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 occurs during sleep or during transitions between wakefulness and sleep. It is part of a group of sleep disorders, called "Parasomnias," in which individuals exhibit unusual behaviors during sleep. It is one of the more common parasomnias. During an episode of sleep talking, it is not unusual to talk about love and sex, among other things.

Depending on their context, parasomnias may result in feelings of guilt or shame or in depression. Sleep talking can be a disturbing condition, and may affect trust in any relationship. Most of the complaints are reported by bed partners who share the room with those who sleep talk, and not by the sleep talkers themselves. Although people with parasomnias may appear awake during their odd episodes, they almost never remember the events that take place during that time.

People who sleep talk, like you, do so during non-REM (non dream) sleep. In non-REM sleep, we retain our ability to move and talk, as opposed to REM sleep where we are practically paralyzed. I would like to emphasize this point: you most probably are not dreaming while you are talking, because dreams occur during REM sleep where we are unable to move or talk. People who act out their dreams in movement and sound have a different sleep problem called "REM behavior disorder".

I understand how stressful this is to you, to your boyfriend, and to the relationship. An evaluation by a Sleep Specialist should be considered since other conditions may mimic parasomnias. Such conditions include psychosocial stressors, obstructive sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder, nocturnal seizures, and psychogenic dissociative disorders. Also, lack of adequate sleep, certain drugs, substances (such as alcohol), and medical conditions may precipitate or may exacerbate many sleep disorders. Further testing will depend on the probability of an underlying condition.

Stress, as you mention, may play a significant part in the development and exacerbation of parasomnias, as well. So, here are some general methods that may help control parasomnia symptoms until you are able to get sleep evaluation:

Additional information regarding sleep can be obtained on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. This website contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so you can find one if you need it.

I wish you restful sleep.

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Ziad  Shaman, MD Ziad Shaman, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University