solimnoquy – linguists in your bedroom?

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Solimnoquy or sleep talking is not too uncommon feature of sleep. It is said to be particularly common in childhood, and while most grow out of it by childhood, with some families however it continues into adulthood.

The phenomenon usually presents itself of short bursts of talk of about 30 seconds duration. Researchers are not clear as to whether it is actually linked to events in the dreams of sleeptalkers as it appears that solimnoquy can occur in any of the sleepstates we naturally experience. What does not seem to be discussed is the reasons for the lack of clarity in the production of sleeptalk. We presume this is because the brain is not in some kind of alert, wakeful state and therefore is not focusing on muscle control to produce clear articulation.

What is extremely interesting is sleepchat, where an awake conversational partner can interact with a sleeping one. It seems the sleeper pays attention to topic, even if introduced by the awaker partners, but are prone to rapid topic shifts.

While harmless of itself, solimnquoy might be accompanies by other sleep disorders including somnambulism, sleepwalking, and sleep eating. Solimnoquy often occurs during episodes of night terrors which are frightening for both those sleeping and those who witness it.

Sleep talk like other forms of communication has been the centre of court proceedings. In the US a man was convicted of sexual assault on a ten yr old girl partly on the evidence of what her father heard her say in her sleep. To be clear, there was other evidence, but the admissibility of solimnoquy raised some particular issues. The ten year old was said to have used the man’s first name in her sleep talk, demanding that he get off her. But on waking she did not recall her sleep talker, as solimnoquists rarely do so could not be cross-examined on the veracity or the meaning of the utterance.
The outcome was overturned in the Supreme Court for a number of reasons. Apart from denying the right of the accuser to address all elements of a case under cross-examination, it was argued that in a dream state there is no way of distinguishing truth from untruth since nothing in a dream is factually real. It was also successfully argued that there is no link between dreaming of an event and producing solimnoquy during it to any real events in the world that had taken place.

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