A reader writes:

Hi Dr. Rosen,

I was just reading up on sleep talking and I read your article in Psychology Today. I know what I'm doing when I talk in my sleep (I just don't know why, per say) and it is something nobody has mentioned in any reports/articles I've read, so far. But, it should either interest you or tell you something you already know. :-)

The reason I woke up and immediately googled the subject is because, where I've mumbled in my sleep my whole life, I've recently started to speak completely coherently. But, I keep reading that scientists don't know where it really comes from. Mine have absolutely, 100% always happened while I'm speaking in a dream. I started practicing to remember my dreams from a young age. So, when my talking wakes me up, I'm always saying what I'm speaking in my dream, only out loud as well. And, I'm always able to explain what was happening in my dream, that caused me to say what I was speaking out loud. Lol

I'm telling you this because I still haven't found a website that says, this occurs when someone is speaking in a dream and while they shouldn't be actually speaking out loud, they are. But, that's what has caused my sleep talking for about 34 years. 

I'm just really curious if my tension/occipital headache I've been battling for about five days is the cause of my sudden coherent, full stories I'm speaking while I'm asleep, multiple times throughout the night. Normally, I'll mumble a little bit, maybe once a week at the most.  But, I can't seem to find that answer either. I have just always found the brain so very interesting and I wondered if you've ever spoken to someone who knows why they're sleep talking in the way I do. 




Dear Norah,

Thanks for your email. I think that there could certainly be a connection between your headaches and the sudden burst of sleep talking that you’ve been experiencing of late. Sleep talking is one of many forms of confusional arousal, in which part of the brain remains ensconced in deep sleep while another part wakes up, and the behaviors exhibited draw upon both states.

It is well known, for example, that people sleep talk (and sleep walk, and experience other confusional behavior during sleep) when they have fever, or when they suffer from underlying anxiety (which being ill can trigger). I expect, therefore, that your ongoing migraine may indeed be having something to do with this.

That said, dreams can be very vivid, as I’m sure you know, and it is not always easy to distinguish what happens in dreams from reality. This applies to content as well as conversation, laughter, etc.  So it may well be that, although it feels as though you are carrying on full conversations out of sleep, you are in fact speaking less than it seems to you that you are.

Best wishes,



Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Author of Vital Conversations: Improving Communication Between Doctors And Patients, to be published by Columbia University Press in September 2014

About the Author

Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Dennis Rosen, M.D., is a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist who practices at Boston Children's Hospital.

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