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The Sleepless
Who needs sleep?
Well you're never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
Tell me, what's that for?
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you're getting, there's a guy who's been awake since the Second World War!

Let's face it, sleep is inconvenient. It leaves you vulnerable to your enemies and it wastes a huge portion of your day that you could use for all sorts of stuff.note  Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to sleep?

Maybe.

In Real Life when normal people don't sleep they develop a host of physical and mental problems up to and including death. Surprisingly, fiction is usually quite aware of this and takes the time to either handwave the problem or make the effects a plot point.

Subtrope of The Needless. Contrast The Insomniac, who really ought to sleep but doesn't; people who cannot sleep might actually fall under both. The Triple Shifter will be one or the other, either implicitly or explicitly.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Chevaliers of Blood+, who do not need to sleep.
  • Only once is L from Death Note seen sleeping, and even then he slept while sitting at his computer, in his signature crouch/sit. He also has huge bags under his eyes, but seems to suffer from no serious side effects beyond a certain eccentricity.
  • Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist discovers that his artificial body is incapable of sleep. At one point he claims the greatest reason for wanting his real body back is that he gets so lonely at night. Envy also comments upon the supreme weirdness of seeing the old man sleeping. The regular homunculi don't appear to be incapable of sleeping, but also don't appear to actually need it based on their work schedules and things; none of them are ever actually seen to engage in sleep.
  • In Gate 7, Sakura cannot sleep unless he has "skin contact and human warmth" since the day he has no longer an oni.
  • Gaara of Naruto was like this for a long time, partly because if he did fall asleep Shukaku would take over his body. This almost certainly contributed to his mental instability (though he had a few other issues too).
  • In Heaven's Lost Property, Ikaros says that she and other angeloids do not sleep. She slightly regrets this because she cannot have dreams.
  • The two main girls in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo are afflicted by this, for similar reasons:
    • Mashiro because of her tendency to work heavily on her art into the night, so she goes to bed very late and usually has to be woken up by someone else.
    • Nanami mostly because she's overworking herself by studying and working several jobs (so as to pay for her voice acting training). This catches up with her in episode 6.
    • Sorata suffers from this trope occasionally due to Mashiro sleeping in his room, and especially during the School Festival arc where he was working long hours to ensure his project would be done in time.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler's Hayate sleeps less than an hour a night: He goes to sleep at 4 AM, and is dressed and preparing breakfast at 5 AM. He's apparently been like this since he was six. Apparently justified due to having to work jobs repeatedly to pay off his parent's debt.

    Comic Books 
  • Malus Darkblade, a dark elf Villain Protagonist of one of Warhammer comic series cannot afford to fall asleep due to being a demonhost (if he loses consciousness, the demon will take his body for a ride). He solves the problem by keeping himself constantly awake through magical means but isn't above drinking a sleep potion if he is facing serious odds.
  • In ElfQuest neither Savah nor Winnowill require sleep.
  • The same unspecified Tibetan masters who taught Batman how to meditate, astral project, and resist mind control also taught him how to replace a full night's sleep with half an hour of meditation. This allows him to maintain his playboy lifestyle and crime-fighting activities. The only time we really see him sleep is when he's been severely injured.
  • The Sleepwalkers are a race of aliens that inhabit the Mindscape, and are tasked with protecting the minds of sleeping humans from demons and nightmares. They never sleep, and as a side effect of this they're immune to anything that would put another race to sleep, like sleeping gas, songs that induce hypnotic trances, etc.
  • Doctor Strange foe Nightmare is terrified of the Gulgol because it never sleeps and thus never dreams, making it immune to Nightmare's powers.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The titular badger from The Urthblood Saga, a Redwall fic.
  • After Paul gets empowered in With Strings Attached, he no longer needs to sleep when he's at high power, and barely needs any at low power. He takes full advantage of his condition to practice with his overwhelming strength until he can sort of function with it.
  • In A Piece Of Rebellion, Good Cop/Bad Cop doesn't need to sleep at all due to their condition. As a Deconstructive touch, this probably has a lot to do with Good Cop's regular panic attacks; without sleep, he's never really able to recharge and escape the stress of their job.

    Film 
  • The Big Bad of Die Another Day, thanks to the interference of Bond.
  • The protagonist of Phenomenon acquires this feature as well as some other paranormal abilities. At first it seems as if he was given these features by some aliens. Later it's discovered that his new features are actually side effects of a brain tumor which eventually kills him.
  • Samara from The Ring. On the tapes of her in observation, she never sleeps over several days. This is revealed to show why setting her free wasn't such a good idea.
  • In John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) the whole cast ends up staying awake over three or four days, probably not wanting to go to sleep out of fear of being vulnerable to assimilation. Naturally things get horrific when this mixes with the mass paranoia...
  • In The Avengers it's implied that those Loki controls with his staff aren't allowed to sleep because that would break the hold he has over them. Hence why Natasha breaks the hold on Clint by knocking him unconscious.
  • The kid in X2: X-Men United who can change channels by blinking.
    Wolverine: Shouldn't you be asleep?
    Mutant: I don't sleep.

    Literature 
  • Vampires in Twilight.
  • Evan Michael Tanner from a series of novels by Lawrence Block, suffered a shrapnel wound in the Korean War that removed both his ability to sleep and the need to do so.
  • Vetinari of Discworld probably sleeps sometime, but no one ever catches him at it. No matter what time you come by his office, he'll be working in there. This is part of why many characters believe him to be a vampire. He is seen sleeping when under attest in The Truth when he is safe inside a Watchhouse.
  • One of the short stories in Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart is about a man who loses the need for sleep.
  • Beggars in Spain involves genetically upgraded humans called the Sleepless (of the "cannot-sleep" variety), and the repercussions of these Born Winners on society. X-Men meets genepunk.
  • Harry of The Dresden Files usually sleeps like any normal person would. However, during the books of the series he is usually on a very short deadline to save the city/world from some impending supernatural doom. This typically results in Harry spending (or trying to spend) two or three days in a non-stop blend of combat, investigation and fleeing. Predictably, this results in one very tired wizard trying to save the world. In addition, after the fourth book, he starts to get increasingly pissed off when people point out that he looks like he could use some sleep. He knows. It also explains his constant pursuit of coffee, Coke, and high-sugar snacks. He has a small Healing Factor, so after the dust settles, he can take a few days and heal up from whatever side-effects his famed showdowns have caused him.
  • According to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, after Palpatine/Darth Sidious killed his Master, Darth Plagueis, in his sleep, he became paranoid that the same thing would happen to him. Palpatine vowed to never repeat his Master's mistake, and never slept again, presumably relying on The Dark Side to sustain himself.
  • One of the stories in Changing Planes concerns a world where, out of fears of impending war, a nation genetically engineered a group of children to no longer require sleep by early childhood. (They still slept in infancy, after the first test revealed that sleep was necessary for newborns to survive.) Their hope was that this would create geniuses; unfortunately, it turned out that sleep was a key component of sentience - the children couldn't even pass the "mirror test", and ended up being no more sentient than some lesser primates. (One of the "failed" subjects, a girl who slept about a fourth as much as an ordinary human, was effectively autistic. This was the best they got.) All of their descendents are still sleepless after infancy, and are sequestered to an island, where they are studied rather like Goodall's chimps.
  • A woman from a Haruki Murakami short story finds one day that she doesn't need to sleep and has more energy. She spends her "sleep" hours reading and drinking expensive liquor.
  • In Charlie Huston's SF/noir novel Sleepless, insomnia is an infectious disease affecting about a tenth of the population; the sleepless die painfully after about a year as their body slowly degrades.
  • The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds features a woman named Jane, who had the misfortune of falling prey to one of the villain's booby traps: a mechanical scarab attached to her neck that will kill her if she falls asleep (it will also explode if anyone comes near her, thus preventing attempts at removing it). She’s been forced to use powerful drugs to keep herself awake, which by the time the novel starts has been for eleven years straight.
  • The narrator of FredricBrown's Letter to A Phoenix had some rare endocrine disorder and then got irradiated during a nuclear war. Now he stays awake about 30 years, then sleeps about 15 years in some hidden shelter and then emerges with a new identity. Thus he ages 1 day per 45 years. To avoid suspicions he pretends to sleep several hours every day.
  • One Babylon 5 novel, "Clark's Law", featured the Tuchanq, a sentient race whose brains were not wired for sleep. They have a longstanding enmity with the Narns, and thus, upon their arrival on the station, a riot breaks out, and the security forces respond by stunning them. The Tuchanq don't respond well to this...
  • Rose Thorburn, in Pact, has this as one of the reasons she considers herself Ambiguously Human-in addition to the fact that she doesn't breathe and lacks a heartbeat, and exists only in reflections. She puts it to use by catching up on her reading while she'd normally have to sleep.

    Live Action TV 
  • Jack Harkness of Torchwood.
  • In an episode of Angel, Lorne temporarily had his need for sleep removed. It didn't go well.
    • Similarly, Buffy is said to barely sleep during season 7. It doesn't help her decision-making.
  • As part of his inverted Pinocchio Syndrome, Cavil from Battlestar Galactica has engineered away his need for sleep.
  • Max of Dark Angel at least claimed she didn't need to sleep. She did seem to be awake at all hours, but it was never really verified.
    • In the second season, one of Manticore's former Psych Ops uses poorly-explained neurological powers to make Max forget the last few minutes and be as tired as possible, to get her out of the way. The next day, Max complains that she slept for four hours, and thinks she is getting sick.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Hitler is a guest at a boarding house incognito (and in full Nazi regalia) as Mr. Hilter - the hostess explains that his short temper is due to not sleeping since 1945.
  • Cameron "I never sleep" Philips of The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • An SCTV sketch has normally relaxed, affable fishing-show host Gil Fisher (John Candy) driving his musical guests to a fishing spot for four days nonstop, living on coffee and cigarettes. At a roadhouse stop, he's wired and dazed, picks a fight with a little guy, and gets his butt kicked - and has to watch it all on the film made for the show.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • The (genetically engineered) Tosk race.
      • The genetically engineered Jemhadar. Althought never directly stated, Word of God has it that the Tosk were also created by the Dominion.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Android Data, before his dream-program kicked in. Interestingly, Data was still subject to the standard watch cycle of Starfleet (8 hours on duty, 16 hours off), implying that species that are The Sleepless (or need significantly more or less than 8 hours per 24-hour cycle) are uncommon in Starfleet, or else there would be rules in place to accommodate (or take full advantage of) their physiology.
      • Q is an alien being, a trickster whose abilities seem god-like to humans, and apparently, Q's species never sleep. When Q temporarily became a man (he chose this lifeform when he was expelled from his species as a punishment), he was deeply toubled by sleeping. He did not understand what a weird state it was and described it in terms similar to death.
  • In season 6 of Supernatural Sam no longer sleeps due to his lack of a soul. It doesn't seem to have had any particular effect on him; his behavior has changed, but it's attributed to the soullessness rather than the permanent wakefulness.
    • In Season 7, Sam in unable to sleep because of constant hallucinations of Lucifer. This time, however, he almost crashes his car and later ends up in the hospital because of it, which conveniently places him for the case of the week.
    • Castiel also mentions in 8.08 that he (and presumably all other angels) doesn't need sleep
  • The X-Files:
    • Agent Mulder, who is of the 'cannot sleep' variety. but he can function fairly well. His partner Scully or his boss Skinner often tell him that he should get some sleep. When he does sleep, it is often on a couch with a television turned up loud. Or he looks agitated while sleeping and is troubled by nightmares.
    • The first case Mulder worked with Krycek on was in an episode entitled "Sleepless" was about soldiers of the 'cannot sleep' variety.
    • The Super Soldiers from season 6 or 7 can't sleep as it would have been a weakness.
  • In 30 Rock Kenneth refers to a bedroom as the place you "wait patiently for the next day to start-I mean sleep".
  • The mini-episodes "Night and the Doctor" reveal that the eponymous Doctor Who appears not to need sleep. While his companions are resting, he's off having more adventures.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation likes this. Both Grissom in the original and Mac in CSI NY are prone to it. They're both workaholics and Mac likely dreads the lonliness and probable bad dreams of the loss of his wife and other bad past events.
    Stella: Shouldn't you go home and get some sleep?
    Mac: What's sleep?

    Brass:What do you do after work?
    Grissom:More work.
  • Cole and other Cirronians on Tracker don't need sleep, possibly due to being Energy Beings.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE: since their evolution into gaseous Antidermis, the Makuta do not have to eat or sleep, among other things.

    Music 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert once tried to impress a potential employer at a job interview by claiming that he's such a workaholic, he makes himself ill by never pausing to eat or sleep for days at a time. They rejected his job application because he "wasn't hungry enough".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Eberron the Warforged cannot sleep at all.
    • In one of the 3rd Edition D&D novellas, Mialee regrets her own elvish inability to sleep, as she's got a terrible hangover and wishes she could sleep it off like a human. (Trance is usually a sleep-analog, but not for this purpose.)
    • Drow and Eladrin from 4e can also trance, but the elf sub race have lost this ability.
    • The Tattooed Monks from Dungeons & Dragons get to choose from a variety of Power Tattooes, one of which, The Ocean, keeps them from needing sleep, food, or drink. They still can do those things if the choose to, but they never need to.
    • Thri-kreen cannot sleep naturally, though in some editions they can be put to sleep with magic (a traumatic experience). They refer to humans and other races that need to sleep with the name drajna/drasna, and find it very difficult to relate to their bad habit of "lazily lying on the ground". Thri-kreen can get exhausted and may need to rest their bodies, but their minds do not naturally ever fall asleep. In the original Dark Sun setting, elves (natural food/enemies of thri-kreen) also don't need to sleep, making them Not So Different.
    • Elan (no, not that one) are a race of Psychic Humans who can spend a small amount of psychic energy to support their body without the need for food sleep or drink.
  • In Steve Jackson Games In Nomine, the vessels used by celestials (angels and demons) don't require sleep, although they can go to sleep if they want to travel the Marches. Undead also don't need sleep and unlike celestials, CAN'T sleep.
  • Part of the premise of Don't Rest Your Head. People who have gone too long without sleep, for whatever reason, gradually start to become aware of the Mad City, a Dark World version of reality that lies hidden behind normally invisible doors and windows. Once they've "awakened" to its existence, such people can never risk falling asleep again, or the Nightmares that roam the Mad City will come for them.

    Video Games 
  • Most video games that have time passing, such as many Zelda games result in this when there's no need (and often no mechanism) to sleep. While many of these start with the character sleeping, once the game begins, said character can go the rest of the game without resting.
    • Justified in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, where the entire game consists of a three-day time loop. A long time to stay awake, but not inconceivable when the world is at stake. Also, it's one of the few games where you CAN take a nap if you want - by listening to an exceptionally boring story.
    • And in Majora's Mask, there's a mask that makes you unable to sleep, allowing you to earn a heart container by staying awake through said boring story. And apparently, that mask was originally a torture device.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Link does sort of sleep for seven full years in the Chamber of Sages.
  • According to side material, complete magicians in Touhou no longer need to sleep. They still can, they just don't need to.
  • Some Pokémon have abilities that prevent them from falling asleep, namely Vital Spirit and Insomnia, either from enemy attacks or from their own moves like the recovery Rest.
  • Danny, the player character in Crush, agrees to be an experimental subject for the C.R.U.S.H. technology to try and cure his insomnia.
  • Kaidan Alenko starts having trouble sleeping in Mass Effect 3:
    Kaidan: You know what, though? I feel good about our chances. Helps me sleep better at night.
    Shepard: You not sleeping, Kaidan?
    Kaidan: Maybe a little restless....
  • In Tales of Symphonia, losing the ability to sleep is the second step in Colette's angel transformation, and thus an early warning sign of how much suffering it causes. Supplementary material translated by fans says that the Seraphim are the same way.
  • In Fallout 3 you don't technically need to sleep, but doing so has several bonuses, such as healing you and giving you a 10% bonus to XP gains. In Fallout: New Vegas hardcore mode not sleeping will give you penalties to endurance , intelligence and agility. Two weeks without sleep can kill you.
  • In The Sims Medieval, Wizards may either choose to sleep or meditate, which is why their homes don't originally contain a bed.
  • The Elder Scrolls games typically give the player a small experience bonus for sleeping and no penalty for not doing so, leading many players to go weeks or months in-game without sleeping.
    • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you need to sleep to gain levels, so you need to do it sometime, but it can be for as little as an hour every few in-games days or weeks.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, becoming a werewolf removes the experience bonus, giving the player no reason not to go entirely without sleep. The Realistic Needs mod requires the player to sleep periodically or face severe penalties.

    Web Comics 
  • Zimmy of Gunnerkrigg Court cannot sleep, though it's the least of her problems. Her best friend does not have this ability, but she tries to stay up with Zimmy anyway. There's a reason she walks around like a zombie.
  • November's inability to sleep is a driving plot point in No Rest for the Wicked.
  • Zeetha of Girl Genius knows Skifandrian mental exercises that let her go for days without sleep, no problem. They're hardly ever taught to outsiders. Oh, and the Baron knows them (and taught his son).
  • Tina of Wapsi Square does not sleep, being a collection of demons occupying an empty shell of a body. However, she often does put her body into a "standby mode" at night, though this is mostly so she can feel a little bit more human.
  • Canadian Guy from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things doesn't sleep. Instead, he sits in a rowboat in the middle of a lake with a lantern and a buttonbox concertina and an empty stare. It is unclear whether this is an actual sleep substitute, a hobby done while everyone else is sleeping, or some arcane man-ritual.
  • In Homestuck, sleep is still required to some extent but not as much as normal because players have dreamselves that wake up whenever they sleep. Karkat went almost a full month without sleeping once.
    • Not coincidentally, one of Karkat's defining features is the pair of enormous bags under his eyes.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Xykon mentions that, as an undead, he cannot sleep. This, plus the fact that he can only craft magical items a certain number of hours per day, is part of why he's always so bored.

    Web Original 
  • There are a couple character in Worm with variations on this trope. Miss Militia technically does not sleep, but instead remembers past experiences in perfect detail whenever she closes her eyes.
    • After augmenting himself with cybernetics, Defiant only needs fifteen minutes of sleep per day.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy is sick of bedtime and wishes it out of existence; the inevitable "catch" is that people still get sleep-deprived.
  • In the episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" of Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang, stressed out by the prospect of his upcoming battle with the Fire Lord, is having terrible nightmares every time he tries to go to sleep and thus decides to stay awake for 3 days straight. In the process he becomes a nervous wreck and begins hallucinating like crazy.
  • Topsy from King of the Hill claims to be the guy the Barenaked Ladies were singing about.
  • On Gargoyles, Goliath no longer turns to stone (the equivalent of sleep) when he's using the Eye of Odin. Given that Fox was running around the city in werewolf-form all night when under its influence, it's possible the same is true for her and the Archmage.
  • The Sandman from The Powerpuff Girls is tasked with putting people around the world to sleep, and can't go to sleep himself until he finishes the job, however since there are always people needing to be put to sleep round the clock he never gets any himself, and unlike most on this list he clearly wants to and needs it.

    Real Life 
  • Fatal familial insomnia is an extremely rare genetic disorder which progressively destroys a person's ability to sleep. Several months after its onset, sleep becomes totally impossible, with insanity and death following shortly after.
  • Are you in full-International Baccalaureate classes? You will, eventually, become accustomed to borderline no sleep.
    • However, graduate students might consider such statements "adorable."
      • Really many other university programs also cause this plight upon their students.
  • It is not quite sleeplessness, but humans can adapt to relatively small amounts of sleep. Long-distance solo boat racers will typically sleep only twenty minutes or so every few hours, totaling two or three hours a day, for months at a time. Paul Erdos, the Crazy Awesome mathematician, slept about the same amount for many years, although this may be attributed to amphetamine use.
    • It's known by many as the Ubermensch sleep schedule, and what isn't mentioned is that it pretty much drives you insane. Anyone can do it but that doesn't mean they should.
      • In fact, any extended level of insomnia or general lack of sleep will result in the following (not necessarily in this order): irritability, hunger, irrational anger, increase in violent response, hallucinations, insanity, and death. In other words, GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP.
    • As people age their daily activity levels decrease and their growth and recovery mechanisms slow down or stop. As a result, the amount of sleep required decreases as a person enters and progresses through senescence. The sufficiently old or infirm may appear to not sleep at all due to being sedentary when awake.
  • Thomas Edison only slept for about 15 minutes at a time. Since he worked with electricity, logic states that he should have electrocuted himself, but he didn't.
    • It might have something to do with the fact that he worked exclusively with direct current, which is very difficult to electrocute yourself with, and fanatically opposed alternating current, supported by Nikola Tesla, which you can be electrocuted with, but makes more sense as a large-scale distribution mechanism.
  • People are now using drugs (notably Modafinil) to lower their need for sleep.
  • According to his trivia page on IMDB, H.P. Lovecraft could stay awake for insanely long periods of time, going as far as 60 hours at least.
  • One Vietnamese guy has not slept for 33 years.
  • Have you ever tried to hitch-hike far away in a hurry? When you absolutely have to arrive in some place at right time, and draw no lucky hitches? That's what you do: you cease stopping for a night, and if you're fortunate, get an hour or two of sleep during the day when your driver allows you that.

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