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Swearing in Your Sleep Might Help Protect You in Waking Life

February 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

One theory suggests vulgar sleep-talk toughens you up for reality.

If you talk in your sleep, you’re probably unwittingly working blue, as they say. Researchers find that most people who talk in their sleep tend to utter more curse words and negative phrases than while they’re awake. It turns out that sleep-swearing and the like may actually have real benefit. A new French study suggests all that salty talk could be nature’s way of helping us prepare for the trials and tribulations of waking life.

French scientists from multiple educational, medical and speech-focused institutions recruited 232 study subjects aged 29 to 69, then observed their sleep chatter over two nights. The researchers recorded 883 “speech episodes,” the bulk of which were nonverbal: laughter, whispers, shouts and yells. But among the sizeable sample of intelligible words, they found a notable number of negative ones, particularly when compared with non-sleeping utterances.

The most frequent word was 'no,'” study authors note, pointing out that “negations represented 21.4 percent of clauses.” Nearly 10 percent of utterances included swear words, with the f-word making an appearance at “a rate of more than 800 times than what was spoken while awake,” per Live Science. There was also a preponderance of “verbal abuse” by the somniloquists, “mostly directed toward insulting or condemning someone.” Men spoke in their sleep more often in general than women, and also used a greater number of swear words.

Interestingly, even as they employed menacing and NSFW language, study subjects kept things clean where grammar was concerned. Researchers write that “sleep talking parallels awake talking for syntax [and] semantics… suggesting that the sleeping brain can function at a high level.” They also noticed that while many subjects seemed to be engaged in tense conversations, they still minded their manners to some extent. In the midst of those thorny exchanges, “apparent turn-taking in the conversation respected the usual language gaps.”

Live Science connects these findings to “threat simulation theory,” an evolutionary psychology idea developed by Finnish neuroscientist Antti Revonsuo in 2000. The theory posits that bad dreams and nightmares essentially serve as …read more


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