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What causes sleep walking and sleep talking?

Have you ever gotten out of bed in your sleep? Find out why this happens


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Sleepwalking and sleep talking can sometimes be strange experiences, especially for other people in the room or the house. However, both of these conditions are very common. If this is happening to you, have a look at some of the possible causes and if necessary you can talk to your doctor for support. 

What causes sleep talking?

Sleep talking is any talking done in your sleep, ranging from incoherent gibberish to full monologues or conversations.

How would I know if I had it?

It can be difficult, because you may not realise you’re doing it yourself. Someone else in your home may hear you though and they can let you know.

What causes sleep talking?

There are a few different things that may cause sleep talking, including:

  • stress
  • depression
  • fever
  • sleep deprivation
  • day-time drowsiness
  • alcohol or drugs
  • genetic factors

Should I be concerned about sleep talking?

There’s not necessarily anything you need to worry about if you sleep talk. If you share a bed with someone, they might find it annoying or disruptive, but apart from that, there’s nothing wrong or unhealthy about sleep talking. If your sleep talking is severe and continues for a long period of time, you could talk to your doctor about potential treatments.

What causes sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a disorder which causes people to walk around while asleep, or perform other complex activities. It usually occurs within the first third of the night and lasts around 1-5 minutes, but may be longer.

How would I know if I've been sleepwalking?

Symptoms of sleepwalking include:

  • sitting up in bed and looking around
  • walking around the room or house
  • leaving the house and sometimes driving somewhere
  • sleep talking
  • no memory of what happened
  • difficulty being woken
  • screaming or shouting
  • attacks on the person trying to wake you

You may not be able to identify these yourself, so ask someone else at home to look out for symptoms.

What causes sleepwalking?

There’s no one cause for sleepwalking, but there are a number of factors that can make it more likely to happen. These include:

  • Genetics, meaning that sleepwalking can run in families
  • Environmental factors, such as lack of sleep, alcohol, and stress
  • Medical conditions, such as reflux, sleep apnea, panic attacks and asthma

Should I be concerned?

Sleepwalking can be a dangerous and serious disorder. If you sleepwalk, it’s really important to see a doctor to discuss treatment.

There are also things you can do to limit the risk of harming yourself when sleepwalking, such as:

  • locking up any sharp or breakable objects, including knives and razors
  • putting a gate up at the stairs
  • making sure your car keys are somewhere you can’t reach them
  • locking the doors and windows to keep you from leaving the house

Tell someone you live with to ask you what you’re doing if they see you up at night. If you are sleepwalking, your speech will be confused, and they will then know to gently lead you back to bed.

How to wake a sleepwalker

Sleepwalkers have been known to attack people when someone tries to physically wake them, so you need to be careful. The best thing to do is try to gently steer them back to bed, only touching them gently and as little as possible. Alternatively, you can try to wake them by making loud, sharp noises at a safe distance. Never physically shake them, as this might make them feel confused and attacked.

Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?

If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.

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Published April 26th2015
Last updated July 9th2018
Tags sleep sleep-talking sleep-walking
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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