The Link Between Sleep and Speech

The Link Between Sleep and Speech

Having the skills to communicate with clarity and confidence is a special ability that should not be underestimated. Effective communication is an essential life skill that is crucial to succeeding in social, academic, and professional situations. We use speech and language skills every day to solve problems, express our thoughts, feelings, and needs, and properly understand others. 

While practicing and improving these skills through learning and real-life experiences is always important, the impact of a good night’s sleep on effective communication is of vital importance, no matter how strong your communication skills may be. Sufficient and high-quality sleep helps us to feel energized throughout the day, but recent research has proven that sleep has a significant effect on our speech, language, and communication skills. 

In this article, we will explore the effect of sleep on communication, language development, and cognition, as well as how speech therapy can play a role. If you or your child would benefit from speech therapy, getting started is quick and simple, so schedule your free introductory call today! 

Sleep and Communication Skills

When we get enough healthy sleep, we are able to more effectively express our ideas, thoughts, and feelings through speech and other vocal cues. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep can significantly impact our ability to properly articulate ourselves. When we have a sleep deficit, it can be more difficult to form our thoughts into words and carry on a conversation. Insufficient sleep can also affect vocal intonation, making conveying emotions and feelings more difficult.  

Sleep deprivation can also affect communication in the following ways:

Reduced Comprehension – Clinical research has shown that being sleep-deprived can make accurately hearing others and comprehending their speech more challenging. A lack of sleep can directly impact our linguistic and auditory comprehension skills, which decreases our general communication abilities. 

Anxiousness – Perhaps you have noticed that you feel more on edge following a poor night’s sleep. Research has shown that insufficient sleep can increase levels of anxiety by as much as 30%. Anxiety can make communicating clearly more difficult and can increase instances of stuttering, slurring of words, and challenges related to recall and comprehension. 

Problem Solving and Decision Making – Being overly tired can make it harder to articulate oneself, but it can also affect our critical thinking skills. This means that making small decisions can feel like an impossible task, as well as working through problems and properly communicating potential solutions and/or methods of prevention in the future. 

Sleep Quality and Language Development 

Regular, high-quality sleep is even more important for a young child who is developing their speech and language skills. There is a particular area of the brain that is dedicated to speech and language skills. This includes the ability to make connections between pieces of information and put these skills and connections together to form speech and language. As a child’s brain is developing, it is highly important to support that child’s physical and mental wellness as much as possible. 

During the REM cycle, which is the deepest part of sleep, the brain works to organize and process information. It is sorting newly acquired knowledge into different categories as well as cataloging how this information can be understood and combined with other knowledge to make sense of the world around us. This information can include memories, emotions, physical experiences, and perhaps most importantly, new words and meanings. 

When a child doesn’t get enough restful sleep, which includes deep sleep and REM cycles, their brain is unable to properly process and organize any new information. When this is ongoing, it can cause a variety of challenges related to speech and language development and can even be a contributing factor in the emergence of a speech or language delay. 

If you are worried about your child’s language development, speech therapy can help. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

The Relationship Between Sleep and Social Communication

Research has shown that individuals who consistently get enough high-quality sleep are more empathetic than those who don’t. Sleep deprivation does not only affect our ability to use communication to express ourselves, but it can also affect our ability to process the emotions of ourselves and others. This is why we often come across as “moody” or “grumpy” when we are sleep-deprived, which in turn can cause significant challenges when it comes to relating to and communicating with others. 

Sleep deprivation can also make things such as reading others’ body language, interpreting tone of voice, and having the patience and attention to carry on a conversation more difficult. 

Improving Communication Through Better Sleep

When we are in a deep sleep, our blood pressure and heart rate drop, which allows our brain to eliminate anxious thoughts and feelings and bring the body and mind into a state of calm and peace. 

By ensuring we always get a good night’s sleep, we are also ensuring that our speech and language skills are always as sharp and efficient as possible. Adequate sleep helps us to express ourselves effectively, process and comprehend information properly, and regulate our mood and stress levels, making social communication easier. When we sleep well, we are more productive, a better team player, and overall, a better communicator. 

Speech Therapy and Sleep Disorders 

Sometimes, sleep difficulties are caused by a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and can be helped by time with a speech and language pathologist. While treating a sleep disorder caused by disordered breathing patterns is not typically part of an SLP’s scope of practice, improving breathing patterns is. While the primary route for remediating a sleep disorder is working with sleep specialists and ENTs, studies have shown that working with an experienced speech and language pathologist can be an effective approach to improving sleep quality due to disordered breathing patterns. 

If you want to learn more about the effects of sleep on speech and language or to get started on the path to clearer speech, schedule your free introductory call today!