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Fell Asleep Crying

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A (often young) character left in a lonely and miserable situation cries himself to sleep to indicate how lonely and miserable he is.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Clevomon on Jul 20th 2013 at 8:08:25 PM
Last Edited By:
Miss_Desperado on Mar 14th 2019 at 10:32:09 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Adopted by Miss Desperado after five years unedited, formerly titled Cried Himself to Sleep


What is sadder than anyone crying until they're sleep? For one thing, it means the character is upset enough to be crying — crying until the prerequisite consciousness is lost. In addition, it means that the character is presumably a very lonely person. Nobody comes to comfort the crying character (even though that's most people's instinctive reaction); the character is left to self-console.

The phrase is often used in order to indicate a really upsetting past, and it usually will imply in such a case that it was something the person did repeatedly. Less often do you see anyone actually cry themselves to sleep. If this is shown, it's also likely that the character doing it is The Woobie.

Clumsy use of this trope may leave the audience calling Wangst.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In a Superman comic called "The Unknown Super Deeds", Superboy surmises as he picks up a boy who fell into a well that he cried himself to sleep while Superboy was getting there.

    Film — Animated 
  • In An American Tail, Fievel cries himself to sleep after giving up on finding his lost family and taking up residence in a dark, rainy alley.
  • In Shrek Forever After, Rumpelstiltskin gives Shrek a deal that he could become intimidating again for a day, but a day needs to be taken from his life in exchange. Rumpelstiltskin tricks Shrek into letting him take his birthday, which leads to, among other things, not having met Princess Fiona so she escaped the Dragon's Keep on her own. While telling Shrek off, Alternate Fiona says, "Did you cry yourself to sleep every night?!".

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Mrs. Doubtfire, the ex-wife says that when she was married, she was so unhappy with her married life that she would cry herself to sleep.
  • Josh cries himself to sleep on his first night as Tom Hanks in Big, and no wonder. Nobody knows who he is, he's staying in a fleabag hotel in the Big Rotten Apple, and somebody just got shot in one of the other rooms.

    Literature 
  • Realm of the Elderlings. In The Liveship Traders, Brashen Trell remembers how he did this on his first sea-voyage after being disinherited and discovering the brutal hardships of being a sailor. Then, another sailor tried to molest him.
  • The Time Traveler in The Time Machine is so distraught when he discovers his machine is missing, leaving him trapped in the distant future, that he falls and cries until he wakes up the next morning.
  • Mentioned in one chapter of Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, in a chapter where he explains the unbridgeable distance between men and women's thought processes: Eileen offhandedly mentions they've been dating for six months, sees Roger lost in thought and makes a bunch of assumptions (Am I being too forward with this? Does he really want the same thing out of this relationship as I do?), building up from them regarding their relationship and ends up crying herself to sleep after a conference call with all her friends because she thinks she's being a horrible person to Roger. Roger, on the other hand, was lost in thought because he remembered it'd been at least six months since he'd gotten the car checked, and of course has no idea what Eileen is getting upset over in the first place.
  • Ender's Shadow. During his first night at the Battle School, Bean overhears a kid crying himself to sleep. Bean, who at this point is an extreme rationalist, dismisses the kid as stupid because crying won't fix the situation. Having grown up on the streets, Bean had no parents and thus is extremely emotionally stunted due to having to fight for survival every day of his life.
  • In the first book of the Venus Prime series, Sparta often cries herself to sleep during the months that she spends training to become a Space Board Inspector, because the training is brutal and she is incredibly isolated.
  • Intrigues: When Mags is driven from the Collegium due to psychic pressures and depression, he cries himself to sleep at least once.
  • In My Side of the Mountain Sam Gribley's first night living off the land in the New York Catskills doesn't go as well as he had hoped:
    (After describing the winds going through the valley right to where he was, the cold wet ground, and the sound of a bird keeping him awake) Well, anyway, the whole night went light that. I don't think I slept fifteen minutes, and I was so scared and tired that my throat was dry. I wanted a drink but didn't dare go near the stream for fear of making a misstep and falling in and getting wet. So I sat tight and shivered and shook—and now I am able to say—I cried a little tiny bit. Fortunately, the sun has a wonderfully glorious habit of rising every morning.
  • In The Girl The Dog And The Writer In Provence, the titular girl Freja sometimes falls asleep sobbing because she misses her mother Clementine and is worried because Clementine is ill.
  • In Mansfield Park, little Fanny cries herself to sleep every night after she gets adopted by her wealthy relatives, because she misses her family and nobody is particularly kind to her. After a week her cousin Edmund finds her crying and comforts her. Since then she's calmer and happier.
    "The little girl who was spoken of in the drawing-room when she left it at night as seeming so desirably sensible of her peculiar good fortune, ended every day's sorrows by sobbing herself to sleep."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Classic The Twilight Zone episode "Two", the woman cries herself to sleep after her hostility, left over from pre-apocalyptic days, has driven off the only other person on Earth.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jadzia Dax talks about how she had some bad times while training to host The Symbiote, one of them being crying herself to sleep.

    Music 
  • The song "Don't Laugh at Me" by Mark Willis, which about how kids that get bullied feel, contains the line "And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep...".

    Web Video 
  • Brought up in complete irony in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Abridged, when Jonathan completely denies getting completely beaten by Dio, being abandoned by his friends and completely denies crying himself to sleep that night. As in the source material, it is meant to show the drastic turnaround Jonathan's life has taken now that Dio was part of the family.

    Western Animation 
  • A variation from South Park:
    Blaneologist: I can show you how to make your true self appear. Let me ask you all something: do you consider yourselves to be happy?
    Butters: I don't think I'm very happy. I always fall asleep to the sound of my own screams.
    Blaineologist: [pause] Right. See, the reason that you are...
  • Implied in the Adventure Time episode "Crystals Have Power" when Finn gives a Suspiciously Specific Denial stating "You didn't even make me cry silently into my pillow last night for thirty minutes."


Feedback: 81 replies

Jul 20th 2013 at 10:14:01 PM

  • Brought up in complete irony in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Abridged, when Jonathan completely denies getting completely beaten by Dio, being abandoned by his friends and completely denies crying himself to sleep that night. As in the source material, it is meant to show the drastic turnaround Jonathan's life has taken now that Dio was part of the family.

Jul 21st 2013 at 9:27:07 PM

Jul 22nd 2013 at 9:15:20 PM

  • In An American Tail, Fievel cries himself to sleep after giving up on finding his lost family and taking up residence in a dark, rainy alley.

Jul 23rd 2013 at 7:27:18 AM

  • The Time Traveler in The Time Machine is so distraught when he discovers his machine is missing, leaving him trapped in the distant future, that he falls and cries until he wakes up the next morning.

Jul 25th 2013 at 5:16:42 AM

I'm not sure that the use of Sleep Cute in the description is correct, since Sleep Cute actually involves two characters falling asleep leaning against each other, and the person crying themselves to sleep would, as you said, usually be alone.

Feb 14th 2014 at 10:35:26 AM

Is anyone looking after this?

Feb 15th 2014 at 12:53:52 AM

Mentioned in one chapter of Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, in a chapter where he explains the unbridgeable distance between men and women's thought processes: Eileen offhandedly mentions they've been dating for six months, sees Roger lost in thought and makes a bunch of assumptions (Am I being too forward with this? Does he really want the same thing out of this relationship as I do?), building up from them regarding their relationship and ends up crying herself to sleep after a conference call with all her friends because she thinks she's being a horrible person to Roger. Roger, on the other hand, was lost in thought because he remembered it'd been at least six months since he'd gotten the car checked, and of course has no idea what Eileen is getting upset over in the first place.

Feb 15th 2014 at 2:23:49 AM

^^ The OP Clevomon has clearly forgotten about it. Since it's been more than two months since they last edited or posted to this, it's Up For Grabs.

Feb 15th 2014 at 5:47:40 PM

I guess I'll take it then.

Feb 15th 2014 at 6:26:30 PM

A variation from South Park:

Blaneologist: I can show you how to make your true self appear. Let me ask you all something: do you consider yourselves to be happy?
Butters: I don't think I'm very happy. I always fall asleep to the sound of my own screams.
Blaineologist: [pause] Right. See, the reason that you are...
Butters And then I always get woken up in the morning by the sound of my own screams. Do you think I'm unhappy?

Feb 15th 2014 at 8:49:10 PM

Music: The song Don't Laugh at Me by Mark Willis, which about how kids that get bullied feel, contains the line "And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep...".

Feb 16th 2014 at 2:15:27 PM

  • Ender's Shadow: During his first night at the Battle School, Bean overhears a kid crying himself to sleep. Bean, who at this point is an extreme rationalist, dismisses the kid as stupid because crying won't fix the situation. Having grown up on the streets, Bean had no parents and thus is extremely emotionally stunted due to having to fight for survival every day of his life.

Feb 17th 2014 at 1:30:24 PM

In Mrs Doubtfire, the ex-wife says that when she was married, she was so unhappy with her married life that she would cry herself to sleep.

Feb 21st 2014 at 11:06:53 PM

It says that in these cases no one comes to comfort the individual, but looking around I found a few examples where someone cried themselves to sleep as someone was holding them.

Mar 14th 2014 at 9:37:26 PM

In The Twilight Zone episode "Two", the woman cries herself to sleep after her hostility, left over from pre-apocalyptic days, has driven off the only other person on Earth.

Mar 14th 2014 at 10:02:33 PM

Literature

  • In the first book of the Venus Prime series, Sparta often cries herself to sleep during the months that she spends training to become a Space Board Inspector, because the training is brutal and she is incredibly isolated.

Mar 28th 2014 at 9:49:38 AM

Josh cries himself to sleep on his first night as Tom Hanks in Big, and no wonder. Nobody knows who he is, he's staying in a fleabag hotel in the Big Rotten Apple, and somebody just got shot in one of the other rooms.

Mar 28th 2014 at 7:50:38 PM

In a Superman comic called "The Unknown Super Deeds", Superboy surmises as he picks up a boy who fell into a well that he cried himself to sleep while Superboy was getting there.

Mar 28th 2014 at 11:41:38 PM

Western Animation:

May 21st 2014 at 10:07:24 PM

Needs Wangst link. This trope like any other can be done poorly

May 21st 2014 at 11:10:59 PM

Let me guess, an improperly launched trope?

May 22nd 2014 at 2:30:35 AM

May 22nd 2014 at 7:52:53 AM

  • In one episode of Scrubs, J.D. is claiming that some of Dr. Cox' insults actually cause him to do this.

May 22nd 2014 at 8:13:49 AM

Intrigues: When Mags is driven from the Collegium due to psychic pressures and depression, he cries himself to sleep at least once.

Jun 19th 2014 at 9:53:38 AM

This was improperly launched.

Jul 8th 2014 at 10:24:26 PM

So, what does it need still?

Jul 9th 2014 at 7:42:40 AM

To be properly launched.

Jul 9th 2014 at 10:11:24 AM

^ S/he asked.

I'd say, if you're going to edit this one more before launching it, what most needs work is the description.

Jul 9th 2014 at 2:18:05 PM

Wait a minute, "the phrase"?

Jul 9th 2014 at 2:18:58 PM

^ Huh? Oh. It could be an event just as much as a phrase.

Jul 9th 2014 at 4:09:03 PM

^ then delete that part plz.

Jul 10th 2014 at 3:11:47 AM

^ then just grab it. :P

Jul 10th 2014 at 7:01:04 AM

Fanfic: Mentioned in chapter 2 of Harry Potter: the Other Child (a Wrong Boy Who Lived fic, with Harry naturally neglected in favor of his brother).

Jul 31st 2014 at 10:19:39 AM

Anne Of Green Gables did this for her first night at the eponymous house (read here).

Dec 10th 2018 at 3:35:43 PM

In My Side of the Mountain Sam Gribley's first night living off the land in the New York Catskills doesn't go as well as he had hoped:

(After describing the winds going through the valley right to where he was, the cold wet ground, and the sound of a bird keeping him awake) Well, anyway, the whole night went light that. I don't think I slept fifteen minutes, and I was so scared and tired that my throat was dry. I wanted a drink but didn't dare go near the stream for fear of making a misstep and falling in and getting wet. So I sat tight and shivered and shook—and now I am able to say—I cried a little tiny bit. Fortunately, the sun has a wonderfully glorious habit of rising every morning.

Dec 12th 2018 at 2:01:16 AM

In the Friends episode "The One With Phoebe's Rats" Ross and Rachel hire an attractive nanny. In front of Rachel Ross has to pretend that the nanny isn't hot, but once Rachel leaves he admits that she's "so hot I cried myself to sleep last night."

Dec 18th 2018 at 5:12:36 PM

It's not Always Male and you might want to separate animated and live-action films and put it in alphabetical order.

  • In Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Dax talks about how she had some bad times while training to host The Symbiote, one of them being crying herself to sleep.
  • In Shrek Forever After, Rumpelstiltskin gives Shrek a deal that he could become intimidating again for a day, but a day needs to be taken from his life in exchange. Rumpelstiltskin tricks Shrek into letting him take his birthday, which leads to, among other things, not having met Princess Fiona so she escaped the Dragon's Keep on her own. While telling Shrek off, Alternate Fiona says, "Did you cry yourself to sleep every night?!".

Dec 20th 2018 at 11:58:28 AM

Honestly though this should be made gender-neutral. Cried Themself To Sleep for starters.

Dec 20th 2018 at 2:39:03 PM

^ D'oh! I wish I'd thought of that before tossing my hat in.

Dec 29th 2018 at 10:54:50 AM

Idea! For a gender neutral title, how about Fell Asleep Crying?

Dec 29th 2018 at 1:03:50 PM

Who's in charge of this draft?

Dec 29th 2018 at 5:57:51 PM

"Themself" isn't a real word. "Cried Themselves to Sleep"? Also, I like Fell Asleep Crying.

Dec 30th 2018 at 1:47:49 AM

^ "Themself" might be becoming a real word. I hate watching the related Flame Wars, so that's why I suggested Fell Asleep crying.

Dec 30th 2018 at 2:07:55 AM

Minor trivia:

The usage for "them" for referring a singular person of unidentified gender is first recorded in Shakespeare's plays.

Dec 30th 2018 at 4:36:39 AM

Fell Asleep Crying might be a workable title, but "crying yourself to sleep" is so often used term for this that making it into the title would greatly increase readability. Maybe have both "himself" and "herself", one redirecting to another? Or have "yourself" in the main title as to be both gender neutral and avoid the "themself" flame war, and have "herself" and "himself" redirect there?

Dec 30th 2018 at 10:51:06 AM

Unfortunately, "yourself" would technically violate the stockphrase rule...

What about theirselves?

Cried Theirselves To Sleep?

Eh... doesn't sound super great in all honesty.

Dec 31st 2018 at 4:37:12 AM

I prefer Themselves then.

Dec 31st 2018 at 4:48:52 PM

Maybe we're overcomplicating things. Why not cut out the word and just say Cried To Sleep?

Dec 31st 2018 at 5:26:53 PM

Fell Asleep Crying for me. Accept no substitutes.

Jan 11th 2019 at 7:53:02 AM

Who's in charge of this draft?

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:03:15 AM

Jan 20th 2019 at 2:08:29 PM

Looking at the history, this was last edited in 2014. I'm grabbing it.

Jan 20th 2019 at 5:10:53 PM

^ Cool, thanks for adopting this draft, it seems like a good trope to have.

Fell Asleep Crying works as a title, though I'd probably prefer Cried Himself To Sleep and Cried Herself To Sleep as its redirect.

Literature:

  • In Mansfield Park, little Fanny cries herself to sleep every night after she gets adopted by her wealthy relatives, because she misses her family and nobody is particularly kind to her. After a week her cousin Edmund finds her crying and comforts her. Since then she's calmer and happier.
    "The little girl who was spoken of in the drawing-room when she left it at night as seeming so desirably sensible of her peculiar good fortune, ended every day's sorrows by sobbing herself to sleep."

Jan 21st 2019 at 9:40:54 AM

^ That's exactly what I'm planning to do with the titles.

Jan 21st 2019 at 3:00:07 PM

Honestly, most of the time this appears is right after the event that caused them to be lonely and miserable, so it's not exactly used as a device to show that... it's just a way to end the scene less awkwardly, repeated, and sometimes make it easier for transition to a new day.

Throwing themselves on the bed dramatically as an outcry of emotion might be more tropeworthy.

Jan 21st 2019 at 4:19:59 PM

^ The former isn't a problem though?

Jan 22nd 2019 at 7:23:10 PM

^^ What about all the instances where it's not shown at the time but later revealed as having happened?

Jan 25th 2019 at 12:28:29 PM

Might need to add folders.

Feb 1st 2019 at 12:32:14 AM

I don't like "Fell Asleep Crying", doesn't really roll off the tongue. I prefer Cried Themself to Sleep, but since singular "they" appears to be a concern here (even though singular they is perfectly grammatically correct so I don't get the problem but... whatever) how about "Cried Self to Sleep" for a gender neutral name? "Cried Oneself to Sleep"?

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:32:25 PM

"Fell Asleep Crying" rolls just fine off my tongue. I'm already planning to use all the "Cried Xself to Sleep" variations as redirects.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:44:06 PM

Aren't multiple trope names (as redirects) currently discouraged? I think so. (But I could be wrong.)

Feb 11th 2019 at 2:40:57 PM

Hatted. Trope pages are gender-neutral unless otherwise required; fix the pronouns.

Feb 15th 2019 at 9:34:56 AM

Does the character have to be alone? One could have people around them and still cry themselves to sleep.

Such as this example.

  • In the Fairy Tail fanfic The Spirit Doll after she has been returned to her normal state from being changed into a doll, Lucy finds herself in the company of a couple of her friends. Natsu being one of them. This causes her to go into a panic attack. She has been absent from the Fairy Tail guild for seven years. In this story when Fairy Tail reformed a year after it had been disbanded she did not rejoin. Not being aware of it due to being constantly on the move looking for Aquarius's key, with the daughter she had conceived with Natsu the night before he left. So, suddenly being in his presence after so long causes the panic attack where she breaks down into tears until she falls asleep.

Mar 4th 2019 at 1:27:11 PM

Hmm, I'd say instances of someone falling asleep crying in the presence of other people would be an overlapping instance of both this and Alone In A Crowd. Does that make sense?

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