[[quoteright:261:[[Literature/{{Goosebumps}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/monster_under_the_bed.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:261:Deadly Dreams.]]

->''"Can't sleep, clown will eat me. Can't sleep, clown will eat me."''
-->-- '''Bart Simpson''', ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS4E10LisasFirstWord Lisa's First Word]]"

There's been a string of weird killings lately. The victims come from all walks of life, with only one thing in common. [[SlainInTheirSleep They were asleep at the time.]] [[MustHaveCaffeine It's time to break out the Coffee and Red Bull]] because no one can get a good night's rest until whoever or whatever did this is caught. Depending on whether or not the killer works internally (kills you in your dreams) or externally (just plain kills you) a main character who does succumb to sleep, and doesn't get killed off, might have to fight a BattleInTheCenterOfTheMind in order to defeat the monster once and for all. This isn't necessary for the trope, but it still happens a lot.

This is a [[HorrorTropes horror trope]] where the monster or killer targets people who are asleep or otherwise unconscious, and the main characters have to stay awake to stay alive. The "Killer" is loosely defined here, it can be a disease or inanimate object, what's important to the trope is that the victim is at risk, or at least at a substantially greater risk of death if they fall asleep. Can make pretty potent ParanoiaFuel as it ties in with basic primal fears of the scary monster in the closet or under the bed who's only waiting for the lights to go out and you to fall asleep to come out and get you. As we all know DarkIsEvil, and since we sleep in the dark, it's only a short step to "sleep itself is dangerous." After all, a person is most vulnerable while sleeping, as there is no way to see, and fight their attacker.

See also ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight, YourWorstNightmare, and YourMindMakesItReal. Not to be confused with [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_familial_insomnia Fatal Familial Insomnia,]] a RealLife prion disease that progressively erodes a patient's ability to sleep until they [[InvertedTrope die from not sleeping]].

!!Disclaimer of sorts:

Let's get this out of the way first: regardless of what you might think, here at Wiki/TVTropes ending up on NightmareFuel pages ''[[OhCrap right before bedtime]]'' might not seem that easy, but it ''is''. Cases of people going to bed with their most recent memories of the site being mind-scarring images of angels [[NightmareFuel/DoctorWho (both]] [[NightmareFuel/NeonGenesisEvangelion kinds)]] are ''far'' more frequent than you might ever imagine. You're free to think this is a ShmuckBait, but if this page is the last you've browsed without having seen the aforementioned articles first, then please don't click on those links unless you know you won't have to sleep for two more hours at the very least. Whatever else may be the case, you're still in time to do a favor to your brain by having [[SweetDreamsFuel this other article]] as the very last you browse.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Gaara in ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' is possessed by a powerful demon that gains more power over him as he sleeps. If he should sleep for too long, the demon would take over his body completely and he would no longer exist.
* After he was [[{{Curse}} branded]] during the Eclipse, Guts from ''Manga/{{Berserk}}'' cannot go to sleep at night because of all of the demons and ghosts that are attracted to his brand, and must spend the night fighting them off. [[CueTheSun Only daybreak]] can eliminate them for good.
* ''LightNovel/SwordArtOnline'':
** Some player killers in the death game have figured out how to challenge sleeping players to a DuelToTheDeath so they can murder players in safe zones.
** In the Phantom Bullet Arc, a serial killer [[spoiler:breaks into players' homes and poisons them while they are logged in to Gun Gale Online (and thus functionally asleep).]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/HackSlash'' villain Ashley Guthrie initially had the ability to kill people in their dreams.
* Dr Destiny, who invented a machine that let him enter dreams (later {{retcon}}ned as based on [[Comicbook/TheSandman Morpheus]]'s powerstone) in ''Franchise/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica''.

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* In ''FanFic/OhGodNotAgain'' after returning to Hogwarts to teach Sirius plans to continue the Marauders' reign of terror over Snape, but with more [[ParanoiaGambit subtlety]] than before.
--> '''Sirius:''' It's going to take every ounce of my considerable self-control, but I want to wait until [Snape's] so paranoid he can't sleep before I start in on him.
* The SI in ''FanFic/SleepingWithTheGirls'', is shunted to a different fictional universe, always in a girl's bed, whenever he falls asleep. He can barely get a few minutes of sleep before the girl inevitably notices him and angrily attacks. At one point he fears if he falls asleep, he will end up in [[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon Alma Wade's]] bed and be slaughtered before he has a chance to react. After a few dimension hops, he's a wreck from lack of sleep. [[spoiler: Fortunately, the dimension hops go in a cycle. After befriending the people whose beds he arrives in, they let him sleep when he arrives.]]

* The villain of the ''[[Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet Nightmare on Elm Street]]'' series, Freddy Krueger, possesses the ability to kill people in their dreams, with damage from the dream world crossing over into the real world. The IronicNurseryRhyme sung by [[CreepyChild the little girls]] in the dream world is the TropeNamer, ending with "...nine, ten, never sleep again."
** Although it's the dreams that are dangerous, and not the sleep itself. A drug that completely blocks out dreams is a desperately sought McGuffin at one point.
* The pods in ''Film/InvasionOfTheBodySnatchers'' could only replace people while they were asleep. In the 1978 version, there was a scene where Creator/LeonardNimoy's character tells someone to "get some sleep" and only later do you find out he was a pod person at that point.
* ''Film/{{Dreamscape}}''. Tommy Ray Glatman assassinates people by using his psychic abilities to enter their dreams and kill their dream selves.
* In ''Film/TheLastWitchHunter'', the {{Dream Walker}}s can enter people's dreams, manipulate their memories and even wound or kill them. [[YourMindMakesItReal The last two translate to reality]]. Kaulder mentions that during the war against the Witch Queen, dreamwalkers were Queen's deadliest assassins.
* ''The Alpha Incident'' is about an alien microorganism that causes the brains of those it infects to quickly expand, to the point of making their heads crack open, if they fall asleep.

[[folder:Folklore and Mythology]]
* Vampires in folklore were quite fond of feeding from sleeping people, the most famous example being {{Dracula}}.

* ''LightNovel/ALullabySinister'' has the Surrogate School that students get pulled into when they hit REM cycle. Dying there means dying inexplicably in your bed in real life. To make things worse, the Surrogate School induces amnesia during waking hours, making people forget about its existence until they find themselves back in the location. The only safe way to avoid the Surrogate School is to simply never hit REM. But of course a lack of REM sleep forces your body to induce REM more often.
* The Lethifold from ''Literature/HarryPotter'' targets sleeping people.
* Dreamsnatchers from [[Literature/DoraWilkSeries Dora Wilk universe]] can attack you in your dreams, hurting you in real life. And [[spoiler:Albin's]] charms turn on when infected vampire is asleep, making him/her go out in the deadly daylight.
* ''The Body Snatchers'', the book ''Film/InvasionOfTheBodySnatchers'' is based on.
* ''Literature/GravePeril'', third book of ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', has the Nightmare (aka [[spoiler:Leonid Kravos]]), who kills by entering his victims' dreams.
* The ''Literature/{{Goosebumps}}'' book ''Don't Go To Sleep!'' had the main character be shunted to a different alternate universe whenever he fell asleep.
* Bains, a character from Creator/WilliamHopeHodgson's ''The Hog'', is nearly drawn into a hellish otherworld - source of his chronic nightmares - because he falls asleep while undergoing one of Literature/CarnackiTheGhostFinder's occult experiments.
* ''Perchance to Dream (Asleep in Armageddon)'', a short story by Creator/RayBradbury
* In Creator/UrsulaKLeGuin's ''Literature/TheOtherWind'', the wizard Alder is plagued by dreams of his wife in the land of the dead.
* In ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' epic series, there is Tel'aran'rhiod, the World of Dreams. Careful Dreamers can navigate this world while they sleep to gather information or meet with each other. It's never a safe place though, because any wound or physical damage carries over to the real world, and any object can be created just by imagining it, including weapons. Occasionally ordinary people accidentally pop in while dreaming normally, usually to disappear after just a few minutes or seconds, unaware that they'd been there at all. On the other hand, sometimes hitting the ground in your dreams can end up being fatal after all...
* ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear: City of the Dead'' has Zak Arranda repeatedly plagued by [[SurvivorsGuilt guilty]] BadDreams about his dead parents, sometimes seeing them as zombies, and not wanting to sleep... aaaand then while he's asleep an actual zombie starts trying to pry open his window.
* The H.P. Lovecraft story ''Hypnos'' involves a sculptor and his mysterious new friend using astral projection to explore the universe and other dimensions, though eventually the latter does ''something'' that makes it so that he and the sculptor can't sleep, lest they start prematurely aging and be plagued by unspeakable nightmares. [[spoiler:The friend eventually falls into a permanent sleep, which causes the narrator to faint. When he wakes up, his neighbors and the police inform him that there is no friend, but there is a sculpture of him in the room engraved with the word "ΥΠΝΟΣ" (Hypnos, the Greek God of Sleep)]].

[[folder:Live Action Television]]
* A ''Series/{{Sliders}}'' episode depicts a world ruled by a sinister cabal that can kill people in their dreams.
* ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'': In the ''Film/TheGiantSpiderInvasion'' episode, the host segments featured an extended parody of ''Film/InvasionOfTheBodySnatchers'', with Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo trying to stay awake to avoid being replaced by pod people. Crow has no trouble staying awake, but he nearly overdoses on caffeine and sugar.
* ''Series/TheTwilightZone'' TOS.
** "Ninety Years Without Slumbering". A man is afraid that if his grandfather clock runs down he will die, so he has to stay awake to keep it wound up.
** "Perchance to Dream". A man is afraid to go to sleep because he has a weak heart and his nightmares could give him a heart attack.
* The ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode "Morpheus".
* Inverted in an arc of ''Series/DarkShadows'' where a character turns into a werewolf and kills people in his sleep. He is able to trap his curse in a portrait, but needs to stay awake until it is finished.
* A villain of the week on ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' killed people in their dreams out of [[GreenEyedMonster envy]].
* Inverted on ''Series/KolchakTheNightStalker'', when a walking-weed swamp monster turned out to be a psychic projection from a young man undergoing an experimental sleep-drug therapy. He had grown up hearing ghost stories about such a creature, and the drug gave him the ability to manifest his childhood fear.
* In ''Series/TheXFiles'' episode [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Negativa_(The_X-Files) Via Negativa]] there is a cult leader who projects himself into the dreams of people he meets and kills them through their dreams, which start once the victim falls asleep.
* The ''Series/OneThousandWaysToDie'' segment "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" had a man die of a stroke after staying up for days on end because he was being haunted by nightmares involving someone he accidentally ran over.
* In the ''Series/DoctorWho episode "Amy's Choice" the characters are presented with two worlds, one real, one a dream, but they don't know which is which. Both worlds have a deadly peril, but the real-world one (whichever it is) can kill them while they're dreaming of the other world.
* A rare humorous example: Prior to the start of ''Series/TheYoungOnes'', [[TheEeyore Neil]] decided never to sleep again when he found out that [[CriticalResearchFailure sleep causes cancer]].
* An episode of ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' had a species which attacks ships by putting its crew to sleep and killing them in their sleep. It turns out the aliens themselves are perpetually asleep and finding and threatening their vulnerable bodies is how the Voyager escapes them. At the end of the episode it's implied many of the crew have trouble sleeping because they're worried the victory was just another fake dream given by the aliens.

* Inspired by ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', the Music/AliceCooper song "Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me".
** Also, off the album "Welcome 2 My Nightmare", the song "[[MustHaveCaffeine Caffeine]]", which describes the protagonist drinking coffee, taking drugs and sitting in a cold shower so he won't have to face the nightmare world.
* "Enter Sandman" by Music/{{Metallica}}.
* Vladislav Delay's "Anima" quotes this trope in its ending dialogue: "I might never go to sleep again, I might stay awake forever".

[[folder:Tabletop RPG]]
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons''
** The night hag monster would visit NeutralEvil characters while they slept. The hag would force the victim into the Ethereal plane and ride them until dawn, permanently reducing their Constitution by one point each time.
** ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'' setting supplement ''The Nightmare Lands''. The Nightmare Court and their agents target people who have nightmares or who try to thwart them by sending them into madness-inducing dreamscapes. (The Abber Nomads, the primitive human natives of the place, don't have to worry about this; they don't dream.)
*** The bastellus, a creature native to the Land of Mists, preys on sleepers' life energy.
** Also in ''D&D'', we have a dream larva, a monster born of a god's nightmare that has gained sentience -- which makes it a cross between the Balrog and Freddy Krueger. When one of these breaks free from whatever dimension was meant to hold it, this trope can hit an entire planet.
* This trope is [[PowerBornOfMadness the central premise]] of the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin aptly-named]] ''TabletopGame/DontRestYourHead''.
* ''Shattered Dreams'', a small-press [=RPG=] from the late 90s, was all about this trope.
* ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000'': One Chapter of Loyalist Marines started hearing their victims screams in their sleep. This being less than helpful for restful slumber, they quickly fell to Chaos.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The fifth episode of ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxFreelancePolice: Season 3: The Devil's Playhouse'' is named "The City that Dares not Sleep", which is about a monster, [[spoiler:Max as an EldritchAbomination]], releasing spores [[spoiler:that resemble Max's head in flames]] that feed on the citizen's dreams and make the monster stronger. Which is why the whole city has spent a whole week without sleeping.
* ''VideoGame/{{Catherine}}'' revolves around Vincent, the protagonist, along with many other men, being pulled into a dream world where [[EverythingIsTryingToKillYou everything is trying to kill him]] because he cheated on his girlfriend.
* ''VideoGame/GrandiaII'' features a sidequest with the demon hunters shacking up in Mirumu, a town where people are becoming trapped in their sleep. This is a long sidequest and will take some figuring out: Apparently, a flock of [[{{Oculothorax}} Eyeball Bat]]s are attaching themselves to peoples' faces at night, making them dream of a garden paradise which they never want to leave. The heroes seemingly take out the nest of monsters in the catacombs beneath town -- but the real culprit is the MonsterProgenitor, which is hiding [[spoiler:inside a little girl]].
* Invoked in ''VideoGame/XenobladeChroniclesX'' in the lyrics of the battle theme "Black Tar".
-->"''Stealing their body and breath\\
'Til only a shell is left!\\
Witness to Hell in the flesh!\\
A fight to the death!\\
Screaming "Where's the relief?!"\\
Maybe no more sleep!''"

* Subverted in ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance's'' "KITTEN II" storyline. Riff rescues a girl from homicidal kittens, and then says, "Don't go to sleep, or the kittens will eat you." He then explains that he made that up, but he needed a good dramatic opening line.
* Karkat of ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' warns all the other trolls to stay awake, or else they will have to face the Horrorterrors (who actually aren't malevolent, Karkat's just really scared of them). He himself has refused to sleep for nearly a month, the only rest he's gotten being a couple of occasions where he was knocked out.
* Zeno of ''Webcomic/CharbyTheVampirate'' decides that not sleeping is the best way to avoid the nightmares caused by [[spoiler:The Wraith's]] attempts to [[DemonicPossession take over his mind]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* "DON'T READ THIS YOU WILL GET KISSED ON THE NEAREST POSSIBLE FRIDAY BY THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE." You ''know'' you've read an obnoxious, reposted comment that tends to begin that way. These comments often tell a story about someone who died and now returns every night only to take revenge on those [[{{Irony}} "too foolish"]] to spread their story across the internet. Usually there will also be a reward promised for those who do repost, such as a chance to learn who is your true love (which is often just a trick to get you to close your browser). Sometimes, though, instead of telling a story about a vengeful undead, these comments just say that you will [[NothingIsScarier randomly die at midnight, with no specified method]].
* In Franchise/TheFearMythos blog Blog/TheMindOfTheNightmare, Devin Shaw has been unable to sleep since The Rake visited him one night, causing him to flee for his life. Only half a bottle of Nyquil together with extreme sleep deprivation finally gave him a few hours of rest.
* Eyeless Jack of {{Creepypasta}} fame kills people in their sleep and eats their kidneys, for some reason or another.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''TheSimpsons'' in a Halloween episode spoofing ''Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet''.
** A canonical episode did it as well: ''Lisa's First Word'', where Bart has to deal with Homer's [[NightmareFuel/TheSimpsons infamous]] MonsterClown of a home-made bed, who Bart even hallucinates saying, "if you die before you wake...".
* In the ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' episode "[[Recap/JusticeLeagueS2E5And6OnlyADream Only a Dream]]", Franchise/{{Batman}} and the Martian Manhunter fought the aforementioned Doctor Destiny, forcing both of them to stay awake (particularly trying as Batman had previously spent three whole days awake), catch Destiny, and break the others out of his deadly nightmares.
* During one of the episodes of ''WesternAnimation/XiaolinShowdown'' every time Raimundo fell asleep, a giant jellyfish monster would attack the temple and nearly destroy everything, then disappear instantly when he woke up. After several sad attempts to keep him awake, he falls asleep again, the monster comes back and a sort of BattleInTheCenterOfTheMind ensues.
* Paul Berry's 1992 short animated film ''The Sandman'', in which the titular ghoul sneaks up to a small boy's room while he sleeps, and...let's just say he doesn't give the boy sweet dreams.
* The Sandman, a MonsterOfTheWeek in ''WesternAnimation/MartinMystery'', could trap sleeping people in their dreams.
* The Crackler, a {{Kaiju}} featured in ''WesternAnimation/GodzillaTheSeries'' episode ''What Dreams May Come'', was created when a repressed man underwent an experimental procedure for his insomnia. An embodiment of his rage, it usually showed up when he was about to nod off.
* In ''WesternAnimation/FairlyOddParents'', Timmy's guilt over framing Vicky as the kidnapper of Dimsdale's town mascot, a goat he freed, gets to him so much that he makes outlandish wishes (Like raining ducks) when asleep. His solution? This trope.
''[Cosmo and Wanda FacePalm and grant his wish]''
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Sidekick}}'' ripping-off ''Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet'' had a dream-dwelling ghoul who fed on the fear of his victims; attempts to avoid him via the title of this trope failed rather quickly.
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' had Stewie reminisce about the time he had Willem Dafoe living under his bed:
--> '''Dafoe:''' Hey ''(sliding out from under the bed)'' you asleep yet?
--> '''Stewie:''' Uh, n-no!
--> '''Dafoe:''' ''(slowly sliding back under the bed)'' Just checking.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' episode "It's About Time", Twilight Sparkle gets a cryptic warning from her future self, and grows increasingly neurotic trying to identify and stop the vaguely-defined disaster about which she was trying to warn herself. She eventually resorts to staying up for a week straight trying to "monitor ''everything''" in Equestria.
-->'''Twilight Sparkle:''' There are only three days left until next Tuesday! I can sleep all I want after that!
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSmurfs'' dealt with a recurring villain named Morphio the Dream Demon (related to the Greek god of dreams InNameOnly) who could attack victims in their sleep and inflict them with eternal nightmares, simply ForTheEvulz.
* A variation occurred in one episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheFlintstones''. A doctor saw what he thought was a report of Fred's examination, which showed he had a germ that usually only dinosaurs get. It's harmless to dinosaurs, but lethal to a human who catches it, unless he manages to stay awake for 72-hours. Not wanting to tell Fred to avoid panicking him, Wilma, Barney and Betty try their hardest to keep him awake by taking him out on the town, but after a whole night of this, he can barely stay awake, so Wilma finally tells him. He does panic briefly, [[spoiler:but then he finds out that it was actually Dino's examination, gotten when he took Dino to the vet. (Moral of story: It's best not keep the bad news from someone when you want to help him.)]]
* According to the increasingly paranoid writings in Journal 3, the Author who studied ''WesternAnimation/GravityFalls'' underwent a period of this; That's because he's up against a near-omnipotent DreamWalker who can enter and possess his body anytime he falls asleep. When he appears in the present storyline, he reveals that at one point he had a metal plate installed on his skull to avoid possession without this trope.

[[folder: can't sleep can't sleep can't sleep can't sleep ]]

* Stan from ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'' eventually kills one-hundred people, which causes his repressed conscious to manifest as an altruistic split personality that takes over whenever Stan falls asleep, so Stan feebly tries to stay awake until he can figure out a way to beat "Sleepwalking Stan".

[[folder:Real Life]]
* [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_familial_insomnia Fatal familial insomnia]] is an illness that leaves the victim physically incapable of sleeping. The lack of sleep results in increasingly severe psychological symptoms, rapid weight loss, dementia, and eventually, death. There is no cure.
* Undine's Curse, a disease that makes the victim forget to breathe when they sleep. This can be fatal.
** Similarly, Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome.
** SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, can occur while a baby is sleeping.
* An old wives' tale says that a person who has had a concussion shouldn't be allowed to fall asleep or they could fall into a coma or die.
** Not so much an old wives' tale as a popular oversimplification. People who've had a concussion shouldn't be left alone, sleeping ''or'' awake, because if their brain starts to swell from the injury, they'll pass out and will need someone to rush them into emergency care before their respiration shuts down. Waking them up if they doze off is necessary to determine if they ''can'' be aroused from their unconscious state; it's not because sleep is dangerous in itself. In fact, keeping them from sleeping at all [[JustForFun/TelevisionIsTryingToKillUs can make matters worse as it slows down healing and can even do further damage]]; the accepted rule of thumb is that you only want to keep a concussion victim awake until they get medical attention, at which point you should listen to the experts as to how often you should try to rouse them.
* Typically domestic gas poisoning causes drowsiness. When dealing with it, try as hard as you can to not fall asleep, as you will inevitably die. Same thing with freezing, carbon monoxide poisoning, high-altitude hypoxia, and really a lot of life-or-death situations dealing with hazardous environment. Though it's not the sleep that kills you, it's the environment finishes you off once you stop resisting it and searching for a way to safety.
* SerialKiller Gerald Parker, who earned the nickname "the Bedroom Basher" due to this habit.
* Falling asleep while suffering from hypothermia can accelerate heat loss due to lack of physical activity, [[UnstableEquilibrium and drowsiness is one of the side effects of a drop in body temperature]].
* Goddamn bedbugs! Not fatal, but creepy and uncomfortable.