Catching Some Z's

A Stock Visual Metaphor trope used widely in animated media. When a character sleeps, sometimes a lot of "Z's" are shown near the character, either in the form of a stream of z's coming from the character's mouth or head, or a group of "Zzz's" contained in a Speech Bubble. This trope used to be shown specifically for people who snore in their sleep. While the sound of snoring cannot be represented easily by letters or onomatopoeia (sometimes it's represented as a log being sawed inside a speech bubble), "Z" was chosen for some reason. It may originate from the musical quarter-rest symbol, which looks like a blackletter "z". The letter eventually became indicative of any sleeping person.

The trope is so obvious that people in media and real life use the term "Catching some Z's", or in Britain, Canada, or Australia, "Fetching some zeds" to indicate they're going to go to sleep. Amusingly, it makes no sense; the Z's usually flutter off into space, and nobody catches them.

See Snot Bubble for the anime version of this. Compare: Circling Birdies.

Examples

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     Anime And Manga  

     Comic Books  
  • MAD's parody of Room 222 was titled Room 222zzzz... (with the z's gradually trailing off over a scene showing the class asleep).
  • In one Bash Street Kids strip, Teacher ends up falling asleep and the kids (whom he's spent the entire story bringing into class) complain he's not teaching them anything but the last letter of the alphabet.

     Film  
  • Badly Drawn Roy: Roy does this when he snores.
  • In non-English versions of Meet the Robinsons, where Lizzy originally held up a piece of paper reading "Boring!" in reponse to Lewis' show-and-tell, the paper instead reads "Zzzzz".
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Beard Papa is the guard King Candy has at the entrance to the Kart Bakery in Sugar Rush. When Ralph and Vanellope sneak past his booth, he's sleeping and actual Z's are seen in the air.

     Literature  

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Garfield
    • The titular Garfield is known to have Z's in a speech bubble. Unusually, it's usually only a single Z.
    • In one strip, he stirred in his sleep and pondered that he was wasting his life and needed to add some variety. He achieved this by going back to sleep with a fancy, stylised Z.
  • Aversion: In Blondie, Dagwood's snoring is written as "Skn-x-x-x!"
  • Peanuts used this frequently with Snoopy and Peppermint Patty.
  • The Katzenjammer Kids did it before Charles Schulz was even born.
  • In one strip with Goofy, he is working in a supermarket stacking up tin cans to pyramids all the day, and at night the Z's of his snoring form a pyramid as well.

     Live Action TV  
  • A 1970s Sesame Street sketch had a sleeping Herry Monster. A trail of Z's was shown as he snored.
  • Played with in the Swedish children's learning show Fem Myror är Fler än Fyra Elefanter (Five ants are more than four elephants). As two of the characters learn about the letter Z, one of them (the Wise Guy) notes the letter being used when someone is sleeping in a Tarzan magazine, and the other explains that it's to denote a snoring sound. After this, the first character pronounces every Z he sees as a snore (as in Tarzan's name, for example).

     Video Games  
  • In Patapon, units can fall asleep due to Standard Status Effect with "Zzzzz" coming out of them when sleeping.
  • The Sims
    • Sleeping Sims have Zs coming out of them. Oddly, whenever Simlish is written, it's in a strange Greek/Hebrew/Wingdings hybrid that doesn't seem to actually contain the letter Z.
    • Vampires in the Late Night expansion pack for Sims 3 have V's instead of Z's.
  • In Metal Gear Solid and its sequels, sleeping guards (i.e., knocked out with tranquilizers or already asleep when you come across them) have Z's floating around their heads. Beating them unconscious leaves stars instead.
  • Dozing non-player characters in The Lord of the Rings Online have the trail of Z's.
  • This is used in City of Heroes to indicate the "sleep" Standard Status Effect; it's also available for players to use as an "AFK" indication.
  • In Prehistorik Man, sleeping characters (Check Points, the hero if left alone) snore big red Z's that pop once above their heads.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the Sleep Standard Status Effect in the Final Fantasy series switched from Snot Bubble to Z's.
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Dream spell in Runescape results emitting letter Zs.
  • It happens in Earnest Evans when the main character falls asleep.
  • Sleeping dwarfs in Dwarf Fortress are shown with a blinking 'Z'. In Adventure Mode, you go to sleep (or wait around) by pressing 'Z' (case-sensitive).
  • The "Test Your Luck" mode of Mortal Kombat 2011 has a random condition called "Narcoleptic", which will cause the character it's applied to to randomly fall asleep during the fight, Zs and everything. Funnily enough, they keep their fighting stances while asleep.
  • Used in Persona 3 when cutscenes show someone (usually the Protagonist) asleep.
  • Pokémon
    • Sleeping Pokémon snore on their turn, while a few Zs float up from their head. Also, the move Snore has big spiky Zs in its animation in the third gen games.
    • In Pokémon X and Y sometimes Pokémon will be found fast asleep after launching up Pokémon Amie, complete with little "Zzzs" coming from it. No use in playing with a sleeping Pokémon, so it's gotta be woken up.
    • The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series also makes use of this. Sleeping Pokémon in Gates of Infinity have Zs coming out of them, be it because of enemy status attacks or just far too lengthy exposition. The series also has traps that put Pokémon to sleep represented with Zs on it.
  • In Toejam And Earl for the Genesis, if you remain idle for a certain amount of time, or open up a School Book present, your character will lie on his back and start snoring, complete with little "Zzzz.." coming from him.
  • Used in World of Warcraft to indicate sleeping mobs; moving too close will wake them up, but usually slowly. This behavior is exploited for several puzzles.
  • The infamous Bart's Nightmare gives you a health bar composed of Z's, indicating how deeply Bart is sleeping. Waking up is Game Over.
  • Used for the Hermit Gunsmith in Cave Story. In fact, he'll even say "Zzzz..." in Nicolas's translation of the game (that is, Wiiware version, Cave Story 3D, Cave Story+, etc.).
  • In Super Smash Bros., Mr. Game and Watch, being a flat and two-dimensional fighter, will do this when he is put to sleep.
  • In Bayonetta 2, when Bayonetta is equipped with the unlockable Chain Chomp and stays in place, the Chain Chomp will look around for a while before going to sleep with some large Zs coming out of it.
  • Xenoblade has "sleep" arts be represented with a Z symbol. Sleeping enemies or party members also are represented with a Z on their name tag.

     Webcomics  

     Web Animation  

     Western Animation  
  • Looney Tunes have the Zzzz stream happening quite a bit. One short is even titled From A To Z-Z-Z-Z.
  • In the opening of the early Van Beuren Studios sound cartoon "Dinnertime", the bird is sleeping like this until his alarm clock wakes him up, and the dog catcher in the same shirt is doing this before he's awakened.
  • One episode of The Simpsons had Homer Simpson by a Phonics Frog toy, and at one point he is sleeping with the toy, with it constantly saying "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z..."

     Real Life  
  • The "Life In These United States" humor feature of Reader's Digest once told the reportedly true story of an airline passenger who fell asleep in his seat, his laptop in front of him, with a finger stuck on a very appropriate key. As the passenger slept, the screen on his laptop filled with "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."