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Verbal aggression during sleeping



I am a constant sleep talker. I have been doing this since I can remeber being about six years old, but it may have been longer. I have been told that a person can understand everything I say clearly during my sleep. People can also hold a conversation with me during my sleep without waking me. I have also been told that 85% of my dialogue during sleeping is extremely agressive, violent and involves lots of yelling and cursing. It sometimes concerns me when I wake myself up shouting, and am literally angry for a while after waking up. Should I be concerned as the people are that hear me?


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 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 may resolve over time or with age.  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 (did not do this as a child), there may be a higher rate of psychiatric disorders, though most adults who talk in their sleep do not have these problems.  Often times, the most serious consequence of sleep talking is social embarrassment from unintentionally verbalizing thoughts or dream content.  However, in some cases, sleep talking can cause disruption to sleep (as it sounds like it is in your case) or the sleep of a bed partner.  If this is the case, then further evaluation should be considered.  

In addition, the nature of the problems raised in your question could suggest unresolved or underlying psychological issues that may need to be considered.  To determine if there is an identifiable cause for your problem, a thorough history and physical examination are needed.  A referral to a Sleep Specialist by your primary care physician may be necessary to help sort out whether further testing is needed.  Once a history and physical examination have been performed, the Sleep Specialist will decide if additional evaluation by a sleep study or other testing is necessary.  This may be 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, though as mentioned, most cases of sleep talking do not require any treatment.

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

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic.