Q: I am a 21-year-old man who has been having "sleep shouting" syndrome since I joined the army at the age of 18. I dream as I sleep. In my dreams, I would be in an unpleasant situation and I would shout. At the same time, I would actually be shouting out loud.
Should I be concerned about this?
A: The medical term for this syndrome is somniloquy, which means talking aloud in sleep.
Some patients may mumble while others may shout.
Listeners may or may not be able to understand what is being said.
Somniloquy is very common. Up to 50 per cent of young children have been reported to talk in their sleep with a few continuing to do so into adulthood.
About 5 per cent of adults are reported to talk in their sleep.
Somniloquy can take place in any stage of sleep but it occurs less often during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - the stage of sleep associated with dreaming.
The condition represents a physical breakthrough of dream speech where words spoken in the dreams are spoken out loud.
People who talk during REM sleep may recall their dreams during these episodes after they are woken up.
Somniloquy which occurs by itself is harmless and does not require treatment.
However, people who begin talking in their sleep as adults and during REM sleep can sometimes have certain conditions that result in other sleep problems, which then causes somniloquy.
Somniloquy may therefore be the result of other sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, a mental health problem, a medical condition, drug use or substance abuse.
In such cases, an evaluation by a doctor with expertise in sleep disorders is advisable.
DR CHUA AI PING, Consultant at the division of respiratory and critical care medicine at the National University Hospital