Created By: AryaAdrianiel on August 26, 2012 Last Edited By: Pichu-kun on December 28, 2015

Sleeps With Both Eyes Open

No, he\'s not dead, he\'s just sleeping.

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Trope
Usually when someone's lying in a prone position with both eyes open, unblinking, they're dead. Well, it's either that or they're sleeping and their eyes are still open for some supernatural reason or because whatever species they are part of sleeps with their eyes open. Creepy, no? A lot of people who discover a character with this ability sleeping think so too.

While there are some people in Real Life who have trained themselves to sleep with their eyes open, it is bad for your eyes because the lack of blinking causes your eyes to dry up.

Not to be confused with Sleep With One Eye Open. For someone who dies with eyes opened see Dies Wide Open.


Advertising
  • The beginning of this commercial featuring an Asian woman going for a world record in keeping her eyes open.

Anime & Manga
  • Misty's Psyduck in the Pokémon did this once, making Misty think he was immune to Jigglypuff's singing.

Film
  • Subverted in City Slickers where the main character thinks this is happening. Turns out, Curly's really dead.
  • A bad guy in The Adventures of Tintin sleeps with his eyes open, not out of training, but because he lost his eyelids. In a card game.
    Captain Haddock: You had to be there!
  • Lampshaded in Major Payne.
  • Invoked in Matilda. As Matilda is sneaking into her parent's room, her mother sits up and stares right at Matilda with huge eyes - then after a second, you realize it's an opaque sleep mask with eye designs. By the time she takes it off, Matilda is out of the room.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf sleeps with his eyes completely open.

Literature
  • In The Lord of the Rings Elves sleep with their eyes open, and Gandalf can sleep with his eyes half-open.
  • Wizards in Sword of Truth sleep with their eyes open.
  • Being artificially made creatures who only possess features their creator deemed necessary, the "Little People" in The Saga of Darren Shan have no eyelids. Their eyes do become dimmer while sleeping, though.

Live-Action TV
  • Xena: Warrior Princess. In one episode, there was a group of mercenaries who slept not only with their eyes open but also in battle ready stances.
  • In an episode of Psych Shawn walked into the chief's office and started talking to her before realizing she was sleeping with her eyes open (her kid had kept her up all night).
  • From Supernatural season 1, episode 18:
    Old Woman In Hospital Room: Ahhh, nonsense. I was sleeping with my peepers open. And fix that crucifix would ya? I've asked four damn times already!
    Sam: *laughs* I was sleeping with my peepers open?
    Dean: I almost smoked that old girl, I swear. It's not funny!
    Sam: Oh man, you should have seen your face!

Machinima
  • Captain Butch Flowers from Red vs. Blue. This is a lampshading of the series' Limited Animation, since the creators can't realistically make it look like a character is sleeping.
    Now to go to sleep, standing up, with my eyes open; as is my custom!

Mythology
  • In Greek Mythology, Endymion was granted the ability to sleep with his eyes open so he could keep watch over his lover, Selene.

Tabletop Games
  • Ars Magica supplement Lion of the North: The Loch Leglean Tribunal. The Scottish hare is so alert that it sleeps with its eyes open.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Ravenloft campaign expansion Masque of the Red Death. Dracula sleeps with both eyes open and sees everything that happens around him while he rests.

Video Games

Web Comics
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Canadian Guy doesn't sleep, he sits in a rowboat in the middle of a pond with a buttonbox concertina and a blank, empty stare. Somehow, this causes a stack of beaver pelts to appear in Commander Badass's office every morning.
  • In Slightly Damned Buwaro manages to fall asleep during a staring contest with Kieri, without her noticing.
  • In one arc of S.S.D.D it looked like Norman might have OD'ed on something when he was just sitting there on the couch with his eyes wide open after bugging Kingston for sleeping pills. Turned out he was just asleep.

Western Animation
  • There was a Disney cartoon where Donald Duck achieves this by reading a book on sleeping with your eyes open.
  • Spongebob: Ever alert, Mermaid Man has trained himself to sleep with his eyes open.

Real Life
  • Fish and snakes sleep with their eyes open due to not having eyelids.
  • Josef Stalin trained himself to sleep with his eyes open, to make potential assassins think he was awake so they couldn't sneak up on him. This was shown in the Made-for-TV Movie World War II: When Lions Roared

Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • August 26, 2012
    OneInTwenty
    It was awhile back, and I don't even know if the source was right, but I think in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, they one-upped this, where a group of mercenaries were not only sleeping with their eyes open, but in battle-ready stances due to a lack of mutual trust... or something.
  • August 26, 2012
    nitrokitty
    • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: Canadian Guy doesn't sleep, he sits in a rowboat in the middle of a pond with a buttonbox concertina and a blank, empty stare. Somehow, this causes a stack of beaver pelts to appear in Commander Badass's office every morning.
  • August 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Real Life: Josef Stalin trained himself to sleep with his eyes open, to make potential assassins think he was awake so they couldn't sneak up on him. This was shown in the Made For TV Movie World War II: When Lions Roared.
  • August 27, 2012
    AryaAdrianiel
  • August 27, 2012
    AryaAdrianiel
    No... it wouldn't be People Sit On Chairs... that would be a trope describing people who sleep with their eyes closed.
  • August 27, 2012
    Rognik
    I think I've seen this more as a comedy trope, where someone isn't paying attention despite both eyes open, but then we learn they were sleeping with both eyes open. I can't remember an instance right now, but I've seen that more than once.
  • August 27, 2012
    Omeganian
    Wizards in The Sword Of Truth tend to do that.
  • August 27, 2012
    SneakySquirrel
    Misty's Psyduck in the Pokemon anime did this once, making Misty think he was immune to Jigglypuff's singing.
  • August 27, 2012
    Rainbow
    Wigglytuff from Pokemon Mystery Dungeon does this sometimes too.
  • August 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons, Ravenloft campaign expansion Masque of the Red Death. Dracula sleeps with both eyes open and sees everything that happens around him while he rests.
  • August 30, 2012
    shastab24
    In City Slickers, the main character thinks this is happenning. Turns out, Curly's really dead.
  • August 31, 2012
    KZN02
    Not to be confused with Sleep With One Eye Open.
  • August 31, 2012
    triassicranger
    There was a Disney cartoon where Donald Duck achieves this by reading a book on sleeping with your eyes open.
  • August 31, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Spongebob: Ever alert, Mermaid Man has trained himself to sleep with his eyes open.
  • August 31, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Theres a related trope somewhere (which may not have a page ATM) where a character will fall asleep but use a pair of glasses with eyes painted on them to try to make it look like he's awake. I've seen that at least on The Simpsons (Homer as a jury member) and a Cover Gag in Archie Comics (Jughead sleeping in class).
  • September 11, 2012
    TheHandle
  • November 7, 2012
    Oreochan
    Bump
  • November 7, 2012
    StarSword
    Literature:
  • November 7, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Live Action TV
    • In an episode of Psych Shawn walked into the chief's office and started talking to her before realizing she was sleeping with her eyes open (her kid had kept her up all night).

    Web comics
    • In one arc of SSDD it looked like Norman might have OD'ed on something when he was just sitting there on the couch with his eyes wide open after bugging Kingston for sleeping pills. Turned out he was just asleep.
  • November 11, 2012
    MorganWick
    @randomsurfer: I think Garfield did that once.

    Oh, and the Laconic makes me think of the Dead Parrot Sketch, and makes me think the title is just a case of Blatant Lies, rather than referring truthfully to a specific situation.
  • November 11, 2012
    JonnyB

  • November 11, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • November 12, 2012
    MarqFJA
    We should mention that training yourself to do this IRL is bad for the eyes, because unless you can train yourself to regularly blink, they will gradually dry up.
  • November 16, 2012
    Tutups
    used to comedic effect in Supernatural Ep 1.18

    OLD WOMAN IN HOSPITAL ROOM: Ahhh, nonsense. I was sleeping with my peepers open. (She laughs, then gestures at the wall) And fix that crucifix would ya? I've asked four damn times already!

    Then in the next scene...

    SAM:(Laughing) "I was sleeping with my peepers open?" Bahahahaha.

    DEAN:I almost smoked that old girl I swear. It's not funny!

    SAM:(Still sniggering) Oh man you shoulda seen your face.

  • November 17, 2012
    dvorak
    Captain Butch Flowers from Red Vs Blue.
    Now to go to sleep, standing up, with my eyes open; as is my custom!
  • November 18, 2012
    NESBoy
    The beginning of this commercial featuring an Asian woman going for a world record in keeping her eyes open.
  • November 18, 2012
    pixelScientist
    All Pokémon did this before Generation V.
  • November 30, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Er, the Tintin example was for the film adaptation, not the comic. I don't know if that same baddie was in the comic, but it'd be best to move it under film, just to be safe.
  • December 11, 2012
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Really? No mention of Major Payne? It was lampshaded in that movie, considering he was an @$$#!ne tough Marine, those guys can fall asleep with their eyes still open.
  • December 18, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    Add "in the games" to "All Pokemon did this before Generation V" to make the example more clear.

    "All Pokemon did this in the games before Generation V."
  • December 19, 2012
    StarSword
    ^Reason being that Game Freak didn't previously bother to draw an extra sprite for a sleeping Pokemon. This was not true in Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Colosseum (assuming it was a Pokemon that actually had eyes).
  • February 2, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Ars Magica supplement Lion of the North: The Loch Leglean Tribunal. The Scottish hare is so alert that it sleeps with its eyes open.
  • February 3, 2013
    Veralos
    • Being artificially made creatures who only possess features their creator deemed necessary, the "Little People" in The Saga Of Darren Shan have no eyelids. Their eyes do become dimmer while sleeping, though.
  • March 26, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    I added the namespace to Lord of the Rings and Sword of Truth and made a slight correction: Gandalf does this but we don't have any clue whether other Wizards do (or if regular Maiar sleep at all).

    Also fixed the folders, several were out of order or mis-sorted.
  • March 27, 2013
    Chabal2
    Gandalf sleeps with his eyes completely open in the film.

    The Matilda movie invokes this: as Matilda is sneaking into her parent's room, her mother sits up and stares right at Matilda with huge eyes- then after a second, you realize it's an opaque sleep mask with eye designs. By the time she takes it off, Matilda is out of the room.
  • October 10, 2013
    zarpaulus
  • October 11, 2013
    DAN004
    For someone who dies with eyes opened see Dies Wide Open.
  • November 19, 2013
    Owen547
    • In {{Literature:Dracula}} by Bram Stoker, Dracula sleeps with his eyes open.
    • In Lookingfor Group Richard sleeps with his eyes open after using up all of his power.
  • July 1, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Launch?
  • July 1, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    Stalin example does not belong to Real-Life section!

    The movie is a historical drama and of course no such stupid fact of real-life-Stalin biography is known. Regardless of what people might think on his historical role, standards and beliefs.
  • July 2, 2014
    TheTitan99
    • In King Of The Hill, Dale once claimed that he trained himself to sleep with his eyes open. More likely, he just was lying awake at night, insisting that he was asleep.
      Dale: "I've recently learned how to sleep with my eyes open. Man, I'm tired..."
  • July 2, 2014
    Arivne

    Major Payne is a Zero Context Example and needs more information about how it's this trope.
  • September 24, 2014
    bejjinks
    Agreeing with NemuruMaeNi on this one. The Stalin example belongs under film, not under real life.
  • September 24, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In Belgarath the Sorceror, Belgarath recounts how his daughter Polgara once cast a spell on some pompous border guards that caused them all to fall asleep with their eyes still open and without falling to the ground, just so that she could get away from them without them following her.
  • September 24, 2014
    FossilsDaDaDa
    It's not just Stalin, there are other people in Real Life who do this. Heck, some do it without even trying.
  • October 7, 2014
    samitv
    Live Action TV
    • Exaggerated in Angel. Illyria appears fully awake, alert and aware even when sleeping.
  • October 26, 2014
    Pichu-kun
  • October 26, 2014
    zarpaulus
  • September 13, 2015
    zarpaulus
  • September 15, 2015
    samitv
    • Sean does this in Scrubs as Elliot speaks to him on the phone
  • December 28, 2015
    MajinAkuma
    • In the anime version of Dragon Ball, Piccolo Daimaou sleeps with open eyes, adding another bizarre and creepy trait to his character, after showcasing that he can drink through using telekinesis and laying eggs with his mouth in the same scene.
  • December 28, 2015
    DAN004
    I don't think Pichu-kun is that active.
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