Sleep Disorder


There are a number of unusual behaviors present in people not only when conscious but also during sleep. Sleep talking, sleep walking, confusion arousals, sleep eating and night terrors are a number of behaviors that people practice while asleep. They are also known as parasomnias or generally non rapid eye movement sleep parasomnias. Sleep talking also known as sormniloquy or sleep speech is just one of the very many unusual sleep behaviors.  According to Sadock, Kaplan, & Sadock ( 2007), sleep talking generally refers to utterance of psychological words while asleep without taking in to consideration the effect of the speech to the observers or basically other people. Further studies indicate that sleep talking can take place in various forms. The act can involve the utterance of some audible words or just mumbling indicating that the person asleep is attempting to speak. The can  also take place when a person produces some other sounds other than speech that convey a particular meaning such as crying, laughing, and humming to mention just a few. At times sleep taking can also mean nonlinguistic utterances without any psychological importance and more often than not associated with changing positions while asleep.  Although sleep talking is a normal occurrence, it is difficult to give the right demographics since it occurs when some one is asleep and even the other people who can report about it are also usually asleep during its occurrence.  Although due to the complication and sensitivity of the behavior only a few methodological studies have been carried out, this essay shall focus more on the behavior and narrow down to the causes and the treatments of the same.

Background Information

According to the studies of Arkin (1981), most people agree that sleep talking is a normal occurrence in the general population and generally affects young children, adolescents and also the young adults. However, it is important to note that there is a high probability that the high prevalence among the younger population is just due to the fact that the observation is often made by the older population who are always awake when the younger ones are asleep.   Although many psychologists who have attempted to study sleep talking term it as an abnormal occurrence some of them note that it can only be termed as normal when it is not accompanied with other sleep behaviors.  Other has noted that it is common in sanguine and to people with nervous temperaments.  Other scholars have also recorded that sleep taking is a symptom of hysterical constitution.  Further studies illustrate that there are other disorder like epilepsy, infection of the central nervous system and other forms of psychopathology which are often the background of sleep talking. As much a as there is difficulty in studying the sleep disorders the available literature from most studies suggest that sleep taking is more common that all the other sleep behaviors that have  been  recorded. The same studies illustrate that in the adult population the prevalence rate of sleep talking is higher that than the total prevalence of the other sleep talking behaviors.

Since during sleep talking other hearing organs like the ears are usually dormant, the voice of a sleep taker is usually different from the voice of a conscious person. At times, the speech can be coherent and the coherency can also change.  The issue of sleep talking is usually strange because in some cases people utter meaningful phrases and can also respond to the questions of the observers while in some cases, they can be coherent and fail to respond to the questions of observers. Speech can clearly illustrate someone’s flow of thought while in some cases; there is actually no flow of thought illustrated.  The content of what is said during sleep talking varies from one person to another.  However, most studies record that though there is no evidence from laboratory experiments, the content of sleep talk is usually emotional and more often than not, it illustrates a fear, regret, a wish or even a desire to name just a few.  The relationship between sleep talk and the meditation of someone while awake remains to be a contentious issue.  This is due to the fact that some studies indicate that there is a relationship between sleep talk and the meditation of a person while awake and other record that there is actually no relationship (Coon, 2009).

Causes of Sleep talking

There are different causes of sleep talking which may range from biological, psychological, and even in some cases hereditary.  But it is important to understand the sleep cycle to be able to know exactly when sleep talking takes place.  According to the studies of Arkin (1981), sleep takes place in three stages. The first stage is known as a slow wave sleep and is closely followed by light sleep which is characterized by rapid eye movement (REM).  The sleep cycle may last for a period of one and a half hours or even two yours and continues to repeat itself thought the whole night.  There are unique brain wave patterns which are unique in every stage. Dreams occur more clearly during the period of rapid eye movement.  At times, the brain can be in a state of wakefulness whiles the other part is in a stage of slow wave sleep due to periods between wakefulness and deep sleep. Consequently, unusual sleep behaviors like sleep talking take place at this stage (Coon & Mitterer, 2008).

Studies which have been conducted indicate that sleep talking results when some one is trying to stay awake due to several reasons hence maintaining slow wave sleep.  Lack of sleep for some time is therefore one of the reasons that lead to sleep talking. When one is deprived off sleep, and is trying to fall asleep, the result is slow wave sleep and the same results to sleep behaviors like sleep talking.  The behavior also occurs when some one is trying to stay awake and it is more common to people who sleep in strange places like hotel rooms and lodgings. Similarly, it is also common during disturbed especially to children who are usually transferred from one sleeping place to another. Studiers have found that the behavior is more common to people who try to protect themselves from harm during sleep and therefore, it is more common in people who leave in less secure places (Coon, 2009).  In addition, it frequency is more in military barracks due to war tensions which contributes greatly to emotional disturbances.

According to the studies of Arkin (1981), there is an association between sleep taking and psychopathology. In a study which was conducted, results indicated that most of the people who can recall their dreams may be sleep talkers while those who cannot recall their dreams are less sleep talkers.  Although some research needs to be conducted to reveal the exact association between sleep talking and psychological problems, further studies illustrate that there is a likely hood that there exists a certain association between the two.

As highlighted earlier, there is a close association between sleep talking and other sleep behaviors as well as with some conditions like epileptic attacks. A certain study conducted to research on the same revealed that some men who were epileptic also suffered from sleep talking. In yet another study, results indicated that sleep talking may run in families.  This is due to the fact that a study which was conducted indicated that most of the sleep takers had people in their family who were suffering from the same problem. It may not be known exactly the exact heredity factor that contributes to sleep talking but the truth it can be passed on from one generation to another through hereditary factors. Although there are other psychiatric problems which have been associated with sleep talking; the available research is only enough to conclude that sleep talking is a sign of severe psychiatric disturbances. This is due to the fact that it has been noted that it is mostly present in people suffering from other psychiatric disorders (Arkin, 1981).

In most cases, when sleep talking is not associated with other disturbances, its prevalence decreases with age since studies indicate that it seems to decrease after the age of twenty five years. However, when it occurs accompanied by other pathological disorders, there is actually no much change even after the age of twenty five years. Bent on that, it is clear that treating and managing sleep talk depends with the cause of the problem.

Treatment of Sleep talking

Many researchers record that there is actually a very small percentage of sleep takers who seek medical attention. This is due to the fact that sleep taking as highlighted earlier occurs when people are asleep and most of the sleep takers can do it for many years without their knowledge. However, it has been noted that when the conditions leading to sleep talk are changed, the frequency reduces or the behavior can disappear altogether. This was reported in the army barracks since after the conditions were changed, the army officers experienced less sleep taking.

As highlighted earlier, this behavior occurs together with other diseases like the epilepsy.  Once such diseases are treated, sleep talking behavior also reduces or is entirely limited. Therefore, people suffering from the disorder are usually treated of other diseases in case the disorder does not occur alone. According to Shneerson (2005), behavioral therapy can also be used to reduce or eliminate the problem. Further studies illustrate reassurance can be a very important intervention. The victim needs to be explained to and to be reassured and since disease is psychological, some improvements are usually noted.

Sleep talking can result from improper sleep hygiene like the deprivation of sleep. Bent on that, victims are usually advised on how to observe sleep hygiene and by so doing, they are able to minimize the problem. For instance, since it affects mostly children, care takers are advised to reduce or eliminate disturbances during sleep which lead to wakefulness.  Any behavior that can lead to arousal during sleep should be reduced. For instance, noise should be reduced and children should not be transferred from one sleeping location to another while asleep. Other factors that affect sleep like too much cold or heat should be taken care of during treatment.  Lastly, there are other medications that can help in sleep disorders usually in the class of benzodiazepines and are used during the treatment of sleep talking.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Study of various researches indicate that sleep talking is a common occurrence to both males and females during the early ears of life but more common in men than women after twenty five years. It may not be a major problem medically but it really affects people close to sleep talking which are known although the research conducted is not enough to make valid conclusions on some causes like the heredity factors. Nonetheless, the few studies conducted have contributed greatly to the field of psychology. Treatment options is also a field that needs more research and has been made difficult by the fact people rarely seek medical attention. No one can negate the fact that it is a sensitive topic and thus conducting laboratory experiments and other methodological studies is quit hard. However, it is time psychologists and other researchers put in some effort since the disorder still requires intervention.

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