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Sleep Disorders

Sleep Talking and Dreaming

12/09/2010

Question:

The last couple of months I dream every night not about anything in particular or bad and wake my husband up talking several times a night. We are both exhusted and I`m reluctant to go to the doctor for sleeping pills. I`m female, 39 years old and I`ve never has disturbed sleep before. Thoughts? Thanks.

Answer:

Thank you for your question. We apologize for the delay in getting your answer to you. The information in your question is a bit vague so it’s hard to identify exactly what the problem may be. Since the title of your question states “Sleep Talking and Dreams,” I will address these particular issues. However, as we will discuss, you should seek the help of a physician knowledgeable in Sleep Medicine in order to obtain a full history and determine the exact nature of your problem.

Sleep talking is usually a disturbing event. It may occur during sleep or during transitions between wakefulness and sleep. Sleep talking is part of a group of disorders called “Parasomnias”. It is one of the more common parasomnias. People who sleep talk, like you apparently do, tend to do so during non-REM (non dream) sleep. In non-REM sleep we retain our ability to move and talk, as opposed to REM (dream) sleep where we are practically paralyzed.

Most of the complaints related to sleep talking 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 or the dreams that take place close to that time.

I understand how stressful this is to you, to your husband, and to the relationship. An evaluation by a sleep specialist is probably necessary since other conditions may mimic parasomnias in general. Such conditions include psychosocial stressors, obstructive sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder, nocturnal seizures, and psychogenic dissociative disorders. Also, certain medications, substances, and medical conditions may precipitate or exacerbate many sleep disorders. Further testing will depend on the probability of an underlying condition being present.

Sleeping pills can be used in the treatment of some parasomnias, but these are not generally considered as a treatment option for sleep talking. Until you are evaluated by a physician, here are some general pointers to help you with your sleep:

Keep a “worry list” by the bed side, and write down your thoughts before you get into bed, so that you can free up your mind during sleep. 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.

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Response by:

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