How to stop walking and talking in your sleep
We’ve all heard stories about people walking and talking in their sleep – but is it really that common? It was recently estimated that in fact around 15% of adults in the UK regularly sleepwalk, while just 5% are estimated to talk in their sleep.
If you or a family member are impacted by either condition, you’ll already know that it can be pretty disruptive. Here we investigate their causes and what you can do to stop them.
What is sleep walking?
Known medically as somnambulism, sleep walking is simply when someone decides to walk or move around while still asleep. It’s much more likely to happen within the first three hours of sleeping and is usually pretty harmless, lasting just a few minutes.
Most will sleep walk around their room before climbing back into bed. For some people, however, it can be a little more dangerous and involve them trying to go downstairs or even leave their house.
How can you tell if you’re sleep walking?
Sleep walkers tend to wake up and have no recollection of their night time adventures. Your friends and family, on the other hand, will be able to tell as you’ll be unresponsive and have a glazed expression as you wander around your home.
Why do people sleep walk?
It’s not known exactly why people sleep walk, however, it’s thought to be linked to several things. These include your genetics — sleep walking typically runs in families — as well as your stress levels and sleeping patterns. It can also be triggered by certain medications, especially those designed to make you feel drowsy.
Sleep walking is most common in young kids but usually something they’ll grow out of by the time they reach their teens. It can additionally be related to other sleep issues such as sleep talking, night terrors and insomnia.
How can I stop sleep walking?
There’s no fixed way of preventing sleep walking but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of it happening:
Stick to a regular sleep pattern — Having an irregular sleep cycle is known to trigger sleep walking. Try to go to bed at the same time every day and get at least seven hours sleep.
Don’t go to bed stressed — Stress and anxiety can trigger sleep walking so you should try to do something relaxing before you go to bed.
Avoid drinking or taking certain medications before bed — Drugs that can affect how you sleep (such as caffeine or sleeping pills) have been thought to be linked to rates of sleep walking.
What is sleep talking?
Sleep talking (known medically as somniloquy) is again pretty self-explanatory. We’ve probably nearly all spoken in our sleep at some point in our lives, however, for some people it can be a regular occurrence. It’s seen more in children, with studies showing that nearly 50% of kids talk in their sleep.
One of the biggest worries people have about sleep talking is that you’ll say something you shouldn’t. Typically, though, what people say when they’re asleep has nothing to do with what they’re thinking about. More often than not, it’s just noises like laughter or whispering rather than actual words.
What causes sleep talking?
When you’re sleeping, the part of your brain that controls sleep is normally asleep too. However, as we sleep in cycles that last from one to three hours each, the speech part of your brain can sometimes be switched on in between and cause you to talk.
There are several factors that are thought to make you more likely to sleep talk, including lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, drugs and alcohol or if you have a fever. Just like sleep walking, sleep talking can be connected to other sleep disorders, too.
How can you stop sleep talking?
There’s no real way to completely prevent yourself from talking in your sleep, but there are a few things you can do to help lower your chances.
De-stress before bed — As sleep talking has links to stress, you should make sure you’re calm before getting into bed. Avoid looking at screens and try soothing activities like meditation or reading.
Get plenty of sleep each night — Irregular sleep can trigger talking so stick to a good routine and make sure you get enough sleep every night.
Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol directly before bed — Sleep talking has been known to be aggravated by caffeine, alcohol and other drugs so it’s best to avoid consuming them in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Keep a sleep diary — While you won’t know yourself if you’ve been talking in your sleep, your bed partner (if you have one) will and they can make a note of it in a diary. This can then be used to help you understand why you might sleep talk more on certain days and monitor the triggers.
How to wake and stop a sleepwalker: Do’s and Don’ts
Do: try and guide them gently back to their bed. Try not to touch the sleepwalker too much as this could startle them. Gently turn him or her to the direction of their bed and walk behind or next to them until they get back under the covers.
Don’t: leave them to their own devices. While it may seem like the easier option to just leave the sleepwalker to their own devices, this increases the risk of them hurting themselves and others – some sleepwalkers have even been known to get behind the wheel of a car!
Do: try and wake them up from afar. Sleepwalkers have been known to attack those who try and wake them, so it’s safer to attempt to wake them up with loud noises from a few feet away. Although this may startle them, it’s better than shaking them awake at close range.
Our quality of sleep can be affected by many things, from our mental health through to our age. The number one way to give yourself the best shot at a dreamy night’s sleep is to make sure you’re sleeping in a bed with a good mattress and soft bedding that’ll keep you comfortable, supported and warm.