Created By: Menarker on September 10, 2011 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on August 12, 2014
Troped

Bedtime Brainwashing

Communicating with a person in sleep-like state to influence their dreams or actions

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

The gist of the trope is when a character in a mentally vulnerable state similar to sleep (usually actually sleeping) when another character whispers in their ear in the attempt in order to influence their dreams or thoughts.

Pleasant: The whispering character says something pleasant which makes the sleeper feel reassured or calmed, maybe even delighted.

Troubling: The whispering character attempts to trouble the sleeper's dream by plaguing his/her mind with troublesome thoughts and worries.

Command: The whispering character chants some sort of command or mantra so as to subliminally influence the sleeper's behavior when they wake up.

For example: Alice and Bob are sharing the same bed, and Bob wakes up when he overhears Alice's muttering in her sleep due to a bad dream, visibly upset. Bob tries to whisper in her ear some sort of encouraging message or mantra for which to calm Alice down while she is completely unaware of Bob doing this.

Compare Crashing Dreams (that's about dreams and real life coinciding, like dreaming you're kissing someone while being licked by your dog in real life, this is a Mind Manipulation trope about manipulation by suggestions given to a sleeping subject) as well as Sleep Learning and Subliminal Seduction.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Oruchuban Ebichu. (3:15 to 4:15. NSFW) Ebichu does both Pleasant and Troubling. He does Pleasant to her beloved master (normally depressed and desperate "Christmas Cake") who ends up waking up the next morning feeling completely refreshed and in good spirit. Soon after, she tries to do Troubling to said's master undesirable boyfriend by pretending to be the boyfriend's boss at work and calling him useless and all that. This attempt is subverted by the fact that the target was actually awake the entire time and hiliariously beats Ebichu bloody.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Watch it here. Kenichi's martial artists masters use the Command version of this in the attempt to convince Kenichi to accept the Training from Hell they want to give him to prepare for an opponent he was having trouble with. The actual attempt doesn't work though.
  • In The Slayers Perfect (Slayers the Motion Picture), it's played for laughs as Lina awakens and sees the King and the Queen chanting too loudly at her. The laughs are made even more potent by the fact that Lina already has mysterious dreams, but this one turns to be a fake.

Film - Animated
  • On Dumbo, Timothy whispers in the ringmaster's ear while he's sleeping to plant the idea of using Dumbo on the elephant pyramid routine.

Film - Live Action
  • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Blofeld is using this to brainwash the women at his clinic, so he can use them as couriers for the deadly virus he's developing.
  • In The Sixth Sense, the protagonist does this to his wife in the end.
  • Darby O'Gill and the Little People. While Michael McBride and Katy O'Gill are asleep, King Brian talks to them to influence them into falling in love with each other.
  • The villain of the first Hellboy movie did this to Liz, resulting in Liz burning the entire asylum.

Literature
  • In Brave New World, this effect is called Hypnopaedia. A combination of Pleasant, Troubling and Command (especially Troubling and Command) is used to condition children according to their place in the caste system.
  • In The Centauri Trilogy (novels in Babylon 5's Expanded Universe), while Emperor Londo has a Drakh Keeper controlling him, the Drakh used a more benign (less coercive) variation of a Keeper known as a "Dreamweaver" to implant dreams in Minister (and eventual Prime Minister) Durla during his sleep, encouraging and guiding his ambitions for empire that the Drakh planned to use with the Centauri.

Live-Action TV
  • Friends: in the episode "The One with the Hypnosis Tape," Chandler uses a self-help stop-smoking tape given to him by Rachel to listen to while he sleeps, unknowingly affecting more of his behavior than just the quitting smoking part, because the tape has messages such as "You are a strong, confident woman who does not need to smoke." Joey learns of the tapes and in a Command usage of this trope, adds his own words to the tape in an attempt to influence Chandler in other ways...
    Joey (in monotone, on the tape): Joey is your best friend... You want to make him a cheese sandwich every day... You also want to buy him hundreds of dollars of pants...
  • An episode of Hannah Montana used Command when Lilly and Oliver had discovered that Miley's boyfriend was cheating on her, and Lilly tried doing this to encourage Miley to break up with him.
  • The Doctor Who story "The Macra Terror" features the villains trying this on the Doctor and his companions, mixed with a bit of pheromones for added effect.
  • One episode of Salute Your Shorts had Budnick telling a ghost story about Zeke the Plumber, a custodian who was killed in a gas explosion. The gist of the story is that whoever touches his plunger will be haunted by them in their dreams, and since Telly was one of them, she has a sleepless night which causes her to nod off in the mess hall, after which Budnick comes up and starts whispering in her ear, "Zeke the Plumber, Zeke the Plumber..." Guess who she starts dreaming about?

Music
  • The song "Pet" by A Perfect Circle. The singer/narrator is trying to get their child back to sleep, but all the lyrics are sinister Nightmare Fuel.
    Lay your head down child
    I won't let the boogeyman come
    Count the bodies like sheep
    To the rhythm of the war drums

Mythology

  • Mares are supposed to be supernatural creatures that sit on a sleeping person's chest and cause her or him to have nightmares.

Newspaper Comics
  • Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes does this to Hobbes with the use of a cookie.
  • The Command version was a recurring gag in Outland, with Milquetoast the Cockroach whispering in people's ears as they slept. Opus was usually the recipient, but one strip was all about celebrities' crazy decisions being influenced by behind-the-scenes whispering cockroaches.
  • Foxtrot has one where Jason tries to convince his mother to increase his allowance by getting her to dream of all the ridiculously expensive stuff he's buying for her.
  • In one Drabble strip, Norman whispers into his sleeping father's ear "You will buy Norman a Trans-Am. You will buy Norman a Trans-Am." The second panel, set the following day, shows his father presenting him with a canned ham. Norman then thinks he has to learn to enunciate.
  • In Bloom County, Opus tries to get in to see Steve Dallas after an operation. He is refused because the doctor is "debriefing" the patient.
    Dr. LeGrunt: You will not sue. You will not sue. You will not sue. You...
    Steve: Mmblgh...
  • In one Dilbert strip, the PHB did this to a higher up to try an increase his department's budget while Wally tried to whisper a command for the higher up to kill the PHB.
  • Blondie strip for July 12th 2014. While Dagwood is sleeping on a couch, neighborhood kid Elmo Tuttle whispers "Just wanted to wish you a restful and happy Hot Dog Month" in his ear. When Dagwood wakes up he has a hot dog cookout. Elmo is shown eating one and calling himself a "career button-pusher".

Web Animation
  • Homestar Runner, "A Jorb Well Done". Coach Z keeps mispronouncing the word "job", and all Homestar's attempts to correct this fail. Eventually, Strong Sad loans Coach Z a tape of himself saying "job" hundreds of times, and tells Z to listen to it as he sleeps. The next morning, Coach Z has no trouble saying "job"... but he can no longer pronounce Homestar's name.

Western Animation
  • Wilma and Betty tried this on Fred and Barney on The Flintstones.
  • The Garfield and Friends episode "Jukebox Jon" had Jon trying to hypnotize himself in his sleep into not biting his nails with help of a special device in order to appeal himself to a comic book executive who despises said habit. However, it backfires when Garfield accidentally breaks the record that was playing on the device, so he substitutes it with some Spanish records and old 50's records instead. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Simpsons episode "Duffless" opens with Principal Skinner awarding Bart first prize at the school science fair. The phrase "first prize" echoes until the scene transitions to reveal that Lisa was saying this into Bart's ear while he was dreaming because she was "just screwing with [his] mind."
  • In Adventure Time, "Ignition Point," after Finn and Jake retrieves Flame Princess' scented candle from the Fire Kingdom, they give it back to her while she's sleeping and lit the candles with her hair. Her father, Flame King, appears and starts whispering "evil" into her ear to make such she remain evil after discovering Finn wants to convert her to good. But Flame Princess wakes up surprising him and herself and he quits for now.
  • Kid vs. Kat: In "I'm Okay, You're a Kat", Coop discovers a self-help tape in the House of Swap and uses it to make himself far more cheerful by playing it while he's sleeping. Kat gets annoyed by how Coop's optimism makes it much harder to annoy him and edits the tape to make Coop pessimistic, making him scared of his own shadow and literally cry over spilled milk. Afterwards, Kat uses another self-help tape on Burt to brainwash him into his servant. When Coop finds out, he decides to use a self-help tape to become a tough guy, which turns him into a thug and he almost drops his entire family in a pool of electric eels before he is snapped out of it.
  • In the episode The Dream of a Lifetime from Donald Duck, uncle Scrooge is being sleep brainwashed by his three grandnephews so that he would change the dream setting to fight off the Beagle Boys who have invaded his dream to steal the vault lock combination.
  • In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the culprit disguises himself as the Dreamweaver in order to manipulate his victims in their sleep to do criminal acts in order to have them arrested or be humiliated in public.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In "Fear of a Krabby Patty", Spongebob needs therapy after hallucinating of Krabby Patties. The psychiatrist hypnotized Spongebob to sleep and goes on to do this. Being Plankton in disguise, he subliminally tries to tell Spongebob to explain the recipe of Krabby Patty. But it fails, since Spongebob instead gets a dream where he regains his resolve to make patties again.
Community Feedback Replies: 58
  • September 10, 2011
    GinaInTheKingsRoad
    In Brave New World, this effect is called Hypnopaedia. A combination of all three types (especially 2 and 3) is used to condition children according to their place in the caste system.
  • September 10, 2011
    Grug
    An episode of Dexter's Lab involves Dexter listening to a broken French CD all night. In the morning, he is unable to anything but "Omelette du fromage".
  • September 10, 2011
    TheJackal
    Film
    • In On Her Majestys Secret Service, Blofeld is using this to brainwash the women at his clinic, so he can use them as couriers for the deadly virus he's developing.
  • September 10, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi

    The Dexter example was a record, not a CD. C Ds don't stick in one place like records do.

  • September 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Crashing Dreams, I think.
  • September 10, 2011
    GinaInTheKingsRoad
    ^ That's about dreams and real life coinciding, like dreaming you're kissing someone while being licked by your dog in real life. This is a Mind Manipulation trope about manipulation by suggestions given to a sleeping subject.
  • September 10, 2011
    Psychobabble6

    Hell, those last two panels might even make a good page image.

    ^ Absolutely related, but I think the difference is that that one is from the perspective of the dreamer and this one isn't.
  • September 10, 2011
    Menarker
    @Grug: That Dexter example is actually part of the Sleep Learning Trope. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SleepLearning It would be a trope to contrast with, but it's not the same trope because the subject actually intended to use the technology to modify their thoughts (where it may or may not have gone wrong. Worth mentioning in the article as a compare/contrast though.

    @Psychobabble6: I think the Calvin/Hobbes example is great! ^^ An example that uses the sense of smell.

    @randomsurfer: Crashing Dreams... doesn't fit. In addition to what Gina said, that trope is about when the event causes the sleeping subject to awaken and be aware that what they thought was part of the dream is happening in real life. The trope I'm suggesting does not require the subject to be awake or even aware of the manipulation taking place. It is another trope worth mentioning as a compare/contrast example though, so I appreciate you bringing it up.
  • September 10, 2011
    mtlwriterguy
    Basically, you're talking about sleep-learning, a discredited idea that had a brief bit of popularity in the 50's and 60's. One of the Disney Flubber movies used sleep learning as a major plot point, allowing football players to study while they slept and still practice football during the day.
  • September 10, 2011
    GuesssWho
    Brave New World had sleep-brainwashing.
  • September 10, 2011
    foxley
    We have Subliminal Seduction, which is certainly related if not identical.
  • September 11, 2011
    NetMonster
    In The Sixth Sense, the protagonist does this to his wife in the end.
  • September 12, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
  • July 1, 2012
    Noah1
  • July 2, 2012
    aurora369
    In The Slayers Perfect (Slayers the Motion Picture), it's played for laughs as Lina awakens and sees the King and the Queen chanting too loudly at her. The laughs are made even more potent by the fact that Lina already has mysterious dreams, but this one turns to be a fake.
  • July 2, 2012
    Shnakepup
    • The song "Pet" by A Perfect Circle. The singer/narrator is trying to get their child back to sleep, but all the lyrics are sinister Nightmare Fuel.
      Lay your head down child
      I won't let the boogeyman come
      Count the bodies like sheep
      To the rhythm of the war drums

  • July 3, 2012
    GeminiSparkSP
    The villain of the first Hellboy movie did this to Liz, resulting in Liz burning the entire asylum.
  • July 3, 2012
    CaveCat
    • The Garfield And Friends episode "Jukebox Jon" had Jon trying to hypnotize himself in his sleep into not biting his nails with help of a special device in order to appeal himself to a comic book executive who despises said habit. However, it backfires when Garfield accidentally breaks the record that was playing on the device, so he substitutes it with some Spanish records and old 50's records instead. Hilarity Ensues.
  • July 5, 2012
    NightNymph
    Example below needs more details. Anyone remember?

    Details below wrong (but left for thread continuity) - see below!!

    Type 3 is played with in an episode of Friends where Joey tries to teach himself something by playing tapes while he sleeps. This somehow goes wrong when he ends up with a self-help tape that is instead teaching him how to be an empowered woman while he sleeps. He starts doing things like taking long, hot bubble baths and lighting sented candles to make himself feel good when he wakes up. Flower arrangements might even have been involved.
  • July 6, 2012
    morenohijazo
    ^ It wasn't like that. If I remember well, it was Chandler, who was using those tapes to quit smoking. And at the end of the episode, Joey discovers the reason for Chandler's weird behaviour, then adds his own commands on Chandler's tape. Kind of "Joey is your better friend, you're going to prepare him a sandwich every day".
  • July 6, 2012
    TonyG
    On Dumbo, Timothy whispers in the ringmaster's ear while he's sleeping to plant the idea of using Dumbo on the elephant pyramid routine.
  • July 7, 2012
    NightNymph
    ^^ Thank you, morenohijazo. I was wondering if I had remembered that wrong. And now that you mention it, I do remember Joey's additions at the end... which are definitely this trope. I do remember that the tapes did somehow mention being an empowered woman. I think the tapes were given to Chandler by Rachel who had used them to stop smoking and she forgot to mention the "empowered woman" part when giving them to him. So to revise - with your help. Thanks again. And a little more research - for an example...

    • Friends: in the episode "The one with the hypnosis tape," Chandler uses a self-help stop-smoking tape given to him by Rachel to listen to while he sleeps, unknowingly affecting more of his behavior than just the quitting smoking part, because the tape has messages such as "You are a strong, confident woman who does not need to smoke." Joey learns of the tapes and in a type 3 usage of this trope, adds his own words to the tape in an attempt to influence Chandler in other ways...
      Joey (in monotone, on the tape): Joey is your best friend... You want to make him a cheese sandwich every day... You also want to buy him hundreds of dollars of pants...

  • July 7, 2012
    Duncan
    Type 3 was a recurring gag in Outland, with Milquetoast the Cockroach whispering in people's ears as they slept. Opus was usually the recipient, but one strip was all about celebrities' crazy decisions being influenced by behind-the-scenes whispering cockroaches.
  • August 18, 2012
    DarkerShining
    An episode of Hannah Montana used the third type when Lilly and Oliver had discovered that Miley's boyfriend was cheating on her, and Lilly tried doing this to encourage Miley to break up with him.
  • May 27, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Western Animation
    • The Simpsons episode "Duffless" opens with Principal Skinner awarding Bart first prize at the school science fair. The phrase "first prize" echoes until the scene transitions to reveal that Lisa was saying this into Bart's ear while he was dreaming because she was "just screwing with [his] mind."
  • May 27, 2013
    MetaFour
    • Homestar Runner, "A Jorb Well Done". Coach Z keeps mispronouncing the word "job", and all Homestar's attempts to correct this fail. Eventually, Strong Sad loans Coach Z a tape of himself saying "job" hundreds of times, and tells Z to listen to it as he sleeps. The next morning, Coach Z has no trouble saying "job"... but he can no longer pronounce Homestar's name.
  • May 28, 2013
    Chabal2
    Foxtrot has one where Jason tries to convince his mother to increase his allowance by getting her to dream of all the ridiculously expensive stuff he's buying for her.
  • May 28, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    In The Centauri Trilogy (novels in Babylon 5's Expanded Universe), while Emperor Londo has a Drakh Keeper controlling him, the Drakh used a more benign (less coercive) variation of a Keeper known as a "Dreamweaver" to implant dreams in Minister (and eventual Prime Minister) Durla during his sleep, encouraging and guiding his ambitions for empire that the Drakh planned to use with the Centauri.
  • May 28, 2013
    NotShemp
    • In Adventure Time, "Ignition Point," after Finn and Jake retrieves Flame Princess' scented candle from the Fire Kingdom, they give it back to her while she's sleeping and lit the candles with her hair. Her father, Flame King, appears and starts whispering "evil" into her ear to make such she remain evil after discovering Finn wants to convert her to good. But Flame Princess wakes up surprising him and herself and he quits for now.
  • June 4, 2013
    captainpat
    Please rewrite the description and the examples without the type labels (Type Labels Are Not Examples). They tend to encourage zero context examples
  • June 6, 2014
    BKelly95
    • In one Drabble strip, Norman whispers into his sleeping father's ear "You will buy Norman a Trans-Am. You will buy Norman a Trans-Am." The second panel, set the following day, shows his father presenting him with a canned ham. Norman then thinks he has to learn to enunciate.
  • We're not allowed to have different types in a trope anymore.

    I know there's a Rose Is Rose example, I just have to look through some old funny papers I have, but I know it involved both of Pasquall's parents speaking encouraging, life lessons as he sleeps, while the cat simply instructs him to change the water in the dish.
  • June 6, 2014
    xanderiskander
    The Type Labels Are Not Examples page says we're supposed to avoid separating a trope into different "types". Instead we're supposed to just come up with ways to describe different ways the trope is used in the description.

    The reason being because when we have pages with types like that people end up writing really vague examples saying just "type 1" etc, and the people in the project thread for this issue end up having a real bad time having to clean it up.

    The description should just say something along the lines of "sometimes it's used this way, but it's also used this way and that way."
  • June 6, 2014
    DAN004
    We can have "types", we just don't call them "types".
  • June 6, 2014
    jormis29
    • Kid Vs Kat: In "I'm Okay, You're a Kat", Coop discovers a self-help tape in the House of Swap and uses it to make himself far more cheerful by playing it while he's sleeping. Kat gets annoyed by how Coop's optimism makes it much harder to annoy him and edits the tape to make Coop pessimistic, making him scared of his own shadow and literally cry over spilled milk. Afterwards, Kat uses another self-help tape on Burt to brainwash him into his servant. When Coop finds out, he decides to use a self-help tape to become a tough guy, which turns him into a thug and he almost drops his entire family in a pool of electric eels before he is snapped out of it.
  • June 6, 2014
    Omrega
    In Bloom County, Opus tries to get in to see Steve Dallas after an operation. He is refused because the doctor is "debriefing" the patient.
    Dr. LeGrunt: You will not sue. You will not sue. You will not sue. You...
    Steve: Mmblgh...
  • June 7, 2014
    Arivne
    • Changed "Type"s to descriptive names as per Type Labels Are Not Examples.
    • Corrected spelling (sublimially, visably).
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Changed media section title(s) to our standard style and Blue Linked them.
    • Namespaced work name(s) and Creator name(s).
    • Blue Linked (Training from Hell).
    • Capitalized ("The one with the hypnosis tape").
    • Blue Links: Changed unnecessary double curly braces to Wiki Words in work name(s).
    • Created Film - Animated section and moved Dumbo example to it.
  • June 7, 2014
    partner555
    In one Dilbert strip, the PHB did this to a higher up to try an increase his department's budget while Wally tried to whisper a command for the higher up to kill the PHB.
  • June 7, 2014
    eroock
    Western Animation
    • In the episode The Dream of a Lifetime from Donald Duck, uncle Scrooge is being sleep brainwashed by his three grandnephews so that he would change the dream setting to fight off the Beagle Boys who have invaded his dream to steal the vault lock combination.
  • June 7, 2014
    eroock
    Ready for launch?
  • June 7, 2014
    jormis29
    • The Doctor Who story "The Macra Terror" features the villains trying this on the Doctor and his companions, mixed with a bit of pheromones for added effect.
  • June 8, 2014
    Ominae
    • In Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated, the culprit disguises himself as the Dreamweaver in order to manipulate his victims in their sleep to do criminal acts in order to have them arrested or be humiliated in public.
  • June 8, 2014
    Tallens
    • One episode of Salute Your Shorts had Budnick telling a ghost story about Zeke the Plumber, a custodian who was killed in a gas explosion. The gist of the story is that whoever touches his plunger will be haunted by them in their dreams, and since Telly was one of them, she has a sleepless night which causes her to nod off in the mess hall, after which Budnick comes up and starts whispering in her ear, "Zeke the Plumber, Zeke the Plumber..." Guess who she starts dreaming about?
  • July 7, 2014
    Omrega
    Five hats.
  • July 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Hey, wait...

    • Spongebob Squarepants: in <an episode where Spongebob needs therapy after hallucinating of Krabby Patties>, the psychiatrist hypnotized Spongebob to sleep and goes on to do this. Being Plankton in disguise, he subliminally tries to tell Spongebob to explain the recipe of Krabby Patty. But it fails, since Spongebob instead gets a dream where he regains his resolve to make patties again.
  • July 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Btw, I heard some psychiatrists in Real Life do this to their patients. Can somebody explain more?
  • July 14, 2014
    Arivne
    Newspaper Comics
    • Blondie strip for July 12th 2014. While Dagwood is sleeping on a couch, neighborhood kid Elmo Tuttle whispers "Just wanted to wish you a restful and happy Hot Dog Month" in his ear. When Dagwood wakes up he has a hot dog cookout. Elmo is shown eating one and calling himself a "career button-pusher".
  • July 15, 2014
    Chernoskill
    Mythology

    • Mares are supposed to be supernatural creatures that sit on a sleeping person's chest and cause her or him to have nightmares.
  • July 15, 2014
    Folamh3
    Just on the topic of the description: first, it's spelt "subliminal", and second, I'd suggest removing it from the description altogether. "Subliminal" stimuli are any stimuli that are below an individual's threshold for conscious perception. If you're asleep, you're unconscious, so by definition any stimulus is below that threshold.
  • July 15, 2014
    Folamh3
    Edited the description and laconic description somewhat in keeping with my comment above.
  • July 15, 2014
    DAN004
    Add my Spongebob example plz.
  • August 1, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Five hats. Who's got this?
  • August 3, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Repeat: who's got this?
  • August 3, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ y not u?
  • August 4, 2014
    Skylite
    • Wander Over Yonder: In "The Day", Sylvia cannot wake Wander, so she decides to use his semi-lucid sleepwalking to her advantage by telling him nonsensical things that he reacts to as if they're happening in his dreams.
      Sylvia: Pie monkeys need ballet lessons!
      [Wander begins wackily ballet dancing, and beating up Watchdogs while doing so]

  • August 5, 2014
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television
    • An episode of Danis House has Dani start to suffer from sleepwalking, so she invites her cousin Megaboyd over, as he used to suffer from sleepwalking and thinks he can help. Megaboyd tells Dani to stick headphones into her ears when she's sleeping to stop her from sleepwalking. What she doesn't know is that Megaboyd is subliminally messaging her to treat him like her master, and her his slave.
  • August 12, 2014
    eroock
    ready for launch?
  • August 12, 2014
    DatLonerGirl
    For webcomics: In Sandra And Woo, Woo tried to brainwash Sandra into giving him all the cookies he wanted. Unfortunatley for him, she wakes up in the middle.
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