This is a romantic trope where one half of the couple or potential couple falls asleep and the other one winds up watching them. Sometimes they initially consider waking the sleeping person up, but decide against it upon seeing just how cute and peaceful they look. Very often a soft, tender smile passes over the watcher's face, giving the viewer a hint of their affection towards the slumberer. Hair and/or skin-stroking may also ensue, as well as a Comforting Comforter.
Not to be confused with the type of behavior stalkers frequently partake in. If it's played for a creepy, disturbing effect rather than a sweet and romantic one, it does not belong here. (Although with some works it can be hard to tell.)
- The unanimated end of the seventh chapter of Asteroid in Love sees Ao falling asleep in Mira room, probably from her exchange with Misa earlier. Mira then notices Ao has a "nice sleeping face," and attempts to nap next to her, only to be pulled back to study by Moe.
- Attack on Titan:
- On many occasions, Mikasa watches over a sleeping Eren, and one such occasion leads Hopeless Suitor Jean to leave the room looking defeated.
- Subverted and parodied with Bertolt, via Noodle Incident. Jean mentions their classmates used to like to watch him sleep, on account of how bad he looked — his bizarre postures while sleeping were used to predict the next day's weather.
- In Battle Royale, Shuya is shown to watch Noriko while she sleeps here. Of course, she likes him more than he does towards her at this point... but nonetheless, he still has a crush on her.
- In Berserk, Jill (the village girl from the Fairy Arc) does this to Guts when she finds him sleeping in a wrecked, abandoned house. She ends up sitting next to him, watching him sleep until she falls asleep on his lap more in a Daddy's Girl style than romantic, considering she never gets a good night sleep with her real parents.
- Later post-Conviction Arc Guts strokes Casca's head◊ while she's sleeping by their campfire promising he'll always protect her.
- Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler. Subverted in that everyone seems to like watching him sleep, so it can be taken in a non-romantic way as well.
- There's a scene in which Yoruichi lays her head on Sui-Feng's lap, with red petals and during the full moon. They're both girls.
- In the UNMASKED comic, Orihime says she watched Ulquiorra nap. She watched him sleep because she didn't know he could.
- Code Geass: Rolo once watched over Lelouch while he slept. Part of this is because monitoring Lelouch is his job, but also because he has a surrogate-little-brother complex.
- Invoked in Darker Than Black when Amber deemed the scene of Hei watching his sleeping sister romantic-looking. Then again, for Amber he looks as romantic as possible in any situation.
- In Volume 3 of Demon Diary, Eclipse watches Raenef sleep briefly after he starts reminiscing about the past and feeling uncharacteristically sentimental.
- In Detective Conan, according to his girlfriend, Wataru Takagi looks really adorable when he's asleep. This Running Gag subtly implies that Takagi and Satou are sexually active.
- Dragon Ball Z: Bulma watched a sleeping Vegeta suffer through nightmares with concern as she nursed him back to health. It is implied that this (and seeing through his act of a jerkass) eventually led to their Relationship Upgrade during the Time Skip.
- Hilariously subverted in Fairy Tail. In episode 172 (chapter 293) Ichiya, the most handsome man in the series, uses this trope as an attack against Bacchus and Rocker in the Grand Magic Games arc. He was clearly going for Cuteness Overload. The result is.... Well, you know how one picture is worth a thousand words? Still, his opponents were stunned, Natsu was impressed by his strength and the audience... was eager to move on to the next battle. Erza fainted at the start?
- Happens twice in Boys' Love Genre FAKE. First when Ryo falls ill and Dee watches him sleep leading to a Dude, He's Like, in a Coma! moment. The second time is when Dee is ill, falls asleep and Ryo watches over him. Ryo says to himself that he thinks Dee is "pretty hot too".
- Fruits Basket:
- Shigure watches Akito sleep in a slightly creepy way.
- In a more platonic sense, Tohru watches Kisa, Hiro, and Momiji all sleeping together on the floor.
- The final opening of Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood has Winry watching Ed sleep, bathed in sunlight. Compared to his near constant anger in his waking state, he's smiling as he dreams.
- Full Metal Panic!: Happens how many times to Sousuke? First, apparently Tessa got into a habit of creeping out of her bed and watching him happily while he sleeps. And then, Kaname gets her turn when she's giving him a haircut, and he falls asleep. Instead of waking him immediately, she stares longingly at him (er, his lips, that is). And then it's implied that a whole group of guerillas that used to be his comrades did this to him while he was sleeping - he was so pretty, apparently all of them were watching him and getting close to jumping him. This includes Zaeid, who is shown in a flashback to have been lovingly watching Sousuke as he sleeps.
- I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying has a variation. When Kaoru wakes up from a Flashback Nightmare, she spends a few seconds staring at Hajime lying in bed because it reminds her that she isn't alone anymore.
- In episode 15 of I'm Gonna Be an Angel!, Raphael explains to Mikael that the reason he didn't wake him up was because he got lost in admiration of his cute sleeping face.
- InuYasha and Kagome both see each other sleeping at one time or another. Each one remains surprised at how peaceful/beautiful/defenseless/whatever the other looks no matter how many times they see each other asleep... Guess some people are just that cute when sleepy.
- In Itazura Na Kiss As her co-worker Moto-chan notes, Kotoko really looks sweet when she's sleeping. It's why Naoki secretly kisses her when she falls asleep in the woods.
- In chapter 140 Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Shirogane comments that the currently sleeping Kaguya is as beautiful as Kanna Hashimoto (who plays her in the then recently announced live-action movie).
- In Last Order: Final Fantasy VII after Tifa is cut down Cloud carries to safety and then gently strokes her hair causing her to wake up and be overjoyed to see her childhood sweetheart again.
- In an extra chapter of Natsume's Book of Friends, a girl from Natsume's middle school comes across him inexplicably sleeping on the steps of a shrine. She gets close enough to notice that the (supposedly) disturbed boy from her class is quite pretty. And then he wakes up and freaks the hell out.
- In Ouran High School Host Club Haruhi finds Tamaki asleep in the music room, exhausted by his new after-school activity of learning about the Suoh family business. She watches him sleep, pushes his hair out of his face, and thinks his sleep talk is cute.
- In chapter 13 of PandoraHearts Gilbert watches Oz sleep.
- The Quintessential Quintuplets: Fuutarou sometimes ends up sleeping with Ichika (the eldest quintuplet) watching him. At one point she even rested his head on her lap (and took a photo of him sleeping to blackmail him over it).
- Rosario + Vampire: Kurumu certainly thinks Tsukune's a Beautiful Dreamer.
- In one of the volumes of The Roseof Versailles, Oscar falls asleep on André's shoulder. He notices and is about to wake her up, until she does so herself and declares that she won't marry anyone.
- In the Sailor Moon S movie Usagi comments that she likes to watch Mamoru sleep, Luna then later thinks about Usagi's statement as she watches Kakeru Ozora - who she has developed a crush on, despite her being a cat and he human - sleep.
- In Sakura Gari, Masataka ends up falling asleep on Souma's shoulder during their carriage ride back to Souma's residence. Due to Masataka being a Beautiful Dreamer, Souma instructs the coachman to take the long way, since he suddenly doesn't feel like going back.
- Sword Art Online: In Episode 11 of Season 1, Asuna watches Kirito as he sleeps, while the two are in the house they purchased to live together after marrying (in-game), and she thinks about how he's usually so bold, yet now he looks naive and innocent, almost like a child. And all of a sudden it strikes her that he might actually be younger than her (and she's right).
- Tanaka-kun is Always Listless: Part of the reason Tanaka's friends give him a pass on his sleepyhead tendencies is because he's just so damn peaceful and serene when he sleeps that they can't bring themselves to disturb him.
- Toradora!: Ryuuji watches Taiga sleep multiple times because the tiger is less ferocious at this time.
- This occurs frequently with Kaoru in ...Virgin Love and its sequels because he can only sleep well when Daigo's around, leaving Daigo to just watch him.
- In Wild Ones, Sachie sees Rakuto sleeping a couple of times and comes closer to realizing her genuine affection for him.
- At the end of Wild Rose Mikhail falls asleep on Kiri's shoulder which shows he's changing from his old, distant self.
- In episode 6 of Your Lie in April, Kousei watches Kaori sleeping while she's accompanying him practicing piano in the school's music room. While covering her with his jacket, he mutters that she looks like an angel...as long as she's quiet.
- In chapter 109 of Yona of the Dawn, Yona finds Hak napping after he stayed up the previous night on nightwatch and giggles to herself about how cute he is. The scene provides an adorable parallel to her usual insistence that he's "not cute".
- One comic has Thugboy describing the way he comforts Elissa when she's having a nightmare as he does it.
- Somewhat subverted in another comic. Sistah Spooky is sleeping with her girlfriend, the blind and mute telepath Mindf**k (yes, it's spelled like that in the comic). She discovers that the reason Mindf**k had put off staying overnight previously is that she often has vivid nightmares about her brother (an even more powerful telepath) forcing her to render herself blind and mute, and that when she's asleep, she can't help broadcasting that nightmare to anyone nearby. Sistah Spooky reassures her that's she's seen worse and tells her to go back to sleep. As she watches Mindf**k sleep, she's terrified, but determined to suffer through the shared nightmares so her girlfriend won't have to sleep alone anymore.
- Played with in the Catwoman miniseries When In Rome (the conclusion to The Long Halloween). Selina is rendered briefly comatose after being frozen by an ice gun stolen from Mr. Freeze. The Riddler (whom she brought along to help piece together the mystery of her parentage) watched her the whole 3 days she was unconscious, which Selina initially thought was very kind of him, until he adds, "Of course, getting you out of the outfit was hardly unpleasant."
- There is one point in a run of Teen Titans when Beast Boy resists the urge to wake Raven because of this. She admits that she liked it, but she's still not interested. Yeah, sure.
- Spoofed in an early issue of Deadpool. Deadpool watches his X-men girlfriend Syren sleep through her bedroom window. He thinks how what he's doing used to be considered romantic, but nowdays is considered "stalking" and generally frowned upon.
- Two instances in the LDD-fanfic, Bridge to Terabithia 2: The Last Time.
- Early on in part 1, Jess reunites with Leslie the night after five years of the latter being presumed dead, and Leslie ends up falling asleep while crying into Jess' arms. As she sleeps, Jess can't help noticing how she looks a lot prettier than she was back when he last saw her when they were kids, after growing up into a teenager and briefly contemplates on giving her a kiss until he decides against doing that.
- Halfway through part 2 have Jess getting drunk in a high school post-finals party and passing out, resulting in Leslie and her new friend, Caitlyn, helping to bring Jess back. As Caitlyn drives her two friends back, Leslie and Jess on the other hand sits together at the back with Jess resting his head on Leslie's shoulders in a Sleep Cute moment. Caitlyn from the driver's seat even comments, "Is he cute like that?".
- Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Kaitō Kokoro Kikuwhile in Clouded Leopard Formthought of Feliciano as one.
"Rrr..." Piercing ebon orbs remained locked onto the human, taking in every feature of the one they observed: limpid brown eyes that were windows into a bright soul, rich caramel locks which appeared silky to the touch, smooth cheeks that had a healthy red color to them, full supple lips which looked to be as soft as petals and morphed into the most brilliant of smiles, a chest that held such a warm heart, a slim frame hidden behind the covers...piercing ebon orbs took all of that in.
- Mackenzie does this to a sleeping Brittnay in this The Most Popular Girls in School fanfiction.
- A Crown of Stars: Shinji and Asuka do this several times to each other while they are healing their emotional scars:
- In chapter 7 Shinji is watching Asuka as she sleeps, feeling guilty because he knows she is hurting but he does not know how helping her.
- In chapter 19, after hugging her as she slept, Shinji can not help to think that "She was beautiful in rest, when the nightmares didnt seize her."
- In chapter 24 Shinji opens her eyes, finds Asuka is holding him as she sleeps and he -wrongly- thinks it is a dream, so he spends a long while gazing at her.
Shinji woke up, opened his eyes, and was then absolutely certain that he hadnt done either. He could not possibly have woken up, for several reasons. Number one, that he was still alive. Number two, this was exactly like other dreams hed had in the past, so it must be one. Number three, it had to be a dream, since the likelihood of him actually being awake, alive, and having Asuka not just in his arms but also smiling in her sleep must have been astronomical. That he was in fact holding her tightly against him and looking at the impossibly beautiful smile on her sleeping face from a few inches away, pre-dawn light giving her a surreal pale glow, was so unlikely that he must still be asleep. Q.E.D.
Right. Had to be. So, since this was one of the nice dreams, he might as well enjoy it. He cuddled Asuka closer and took a deep breath of the scent of her hair. Strawberry Balsam, it never failed to make him think of her. Gods, she smelled good and felt so warm. He could feel her pressed against him all the way down his body. This was a very nice dream.
- In chapter 44 Asuka wakes up after their first time and spends a while gazing at Shinji as he sleeps.
- Advice and Trust: In chapter 1, after sleeping in the same bed for first time, Shinji wakes up and spends a while staring at Asuka.
He stood by the bed for a moment, burning the sight into his memory.
- The Child of Love:
- In chapter 2 Shinji contemplates Asuka as she is sleeping, and he thinks she looks like an angel.
Shinji is looking down at Asuka. She has a dreamlike smile on her face.
Shinji (to himself):"When she wants, she can be a real little angel..."
- In chapter 9 Shinji hesitates about waking Asuka up because she looks cute as she is sleeping.
- In chapter 2 Shinji contemplates Asuka as she is sleeping, and he thinks she looks like an angel.
- Evangelion 303:
- The One I Love Is...: After her Mind Rape Shinji and Asuka sleep together. During the night Asuka wakes up due to a nightmare and stares at Shinji for a while, thiking of how beautiful he looks and how much she loves him.
- The Second Try: Done by Shinji and Asuka several times in the post-End of the World chapters when they start sleeping together.
- Chapter 6 begins with Shinji looking at Asuka as she sleeps and thinking of how much he enjoys staring at her beautiful face.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: In chapter 19 Shinji gazes at Asuka as she sleeps and he marvels at how peaceful she looks and thinks he could spend hours watching her.
Turning his head, he saw that he and Asuka were mostly still in the same position they'd fallen asleep in; her head wasn't on his shoulder anymore, but her arm was still draped across him.
She looked so peaceful, a far cry from her state during most of her recent waking hours. He felt like he could've watched her for hours.
- There is a non-romantic example in Hope for the Heartless. After the Horned King saves Avalina from drowning and is left in a painful state due to the water inside him, Avalina uses a prayer to the Fates to transfer his pain into herself. He's forced to hold her still and sedate her in order to prevent her from hurting herself from trashing around in pain. Before she recovers, he finds himself marveling the new sensation of holding in his hands a living being that he's not going to hurt in any way and suddenly feels himself unworthy of such (because of her fragility and purity, his monstrosity and his hurting of her through his anger for weeks). After Avalina wakes up and they reconcile, she falls asleep against his chest, exhausted but content. The Horned King is touched by the fact that the girl feels safe to sleep in his presence and swears to himself to protect her, making his Papa Wolf status towards her final.
- A nonromantic example in At Gates Edge. As a ghost, Edward doesn't need to sleep but he would find it soothing to watch his friend Roy sleep. Roy admits that he would have found it creepy for anyone else. Since its Edward, who he knows is harmless, he just finds it cute.
- In chapter 10 of Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Asuka sleeps next to Shinji. He spends a while contemplating her and thinking what she looks beautiful:
He looked over at Asuka. It was then that the image of the redhead's body fully struck him.
There was hardly any light in the room, but he could clearly distinguish her slender contour under thin sheets that barely managed to cover down to her knees, leaving her exposed from the top of her calves to the tip of her toes. Though she had her back to him, he could still see the profile her sharp features made in contrast to the white pillow on which her head rested, amidst an ocean of red locks.
She looked so peaceful now, so far away from everything, and yet she was lying right here next to him. And so close, in fact, that he could smell the perfumed scent of her hair, along with the clean, familiar essence of her musk. And he could most certainly feel her heat.
Asuka's mouth moved gently, a soft moan escaping her parted lips.
- Avengers: Infinite Wars features a scene where Bariss Offee finds herself watching Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Ahsoka Tano while considering Peters role in finding the cure for the blue shadow virus that almost killed the two Padawans, and then tries to focus on the Jedi mantra to avoid facing her feelings for her 'dear friends'.
- Shadow and Rose gives the trope a playful Take That!, when Alistair notes, "I probably shouldn't watch her sleep. It's kind of creepy."
- Tangled Up In You has a fairly brief one, when Marinette notes that Adrien is "so adorable when he's asleep" but lies down to sleep herself soon after, not really lingering on him.
- Corrin Reacts: Corrin thinks this of Flora when he finds her asleep on his shoulder during the Festival two-parter. He lampshades the weirdness of watching her sleep and muses that Azura would never let it go if she caught him.
- Orchestrating The Silence: When Asuka and Shinji begin sharing a tent, the former stares at the latter's sleeping face every morning.
I think I stare at him every morning now. Without motion on my part, just staring, head propped up on one hand as I gaze over across the cold remains of last night's fire and at his peaceful face.
- The Little Mermaid:
- This happens after Ariel rescues Prince Eric. She smiles at him and strokes his hair affectionately before he regains consciousness.
- A non-romantic example is Sebastian watching Ariel fall asleep in the palace and softens a little, having previously been very disapproving of her various antics.
- Howl of Howl's Moving Castle watches Sophie sleep after a hard day's work cleaning. Of course, he's also motivated by the fact that it's the only time the aging spell cast on her by the Witch of the Waste wears off, revealing her true age.
- Happens in Disney's Enchanted, when Robert is about to call a cab and get Giselle out of his apartment, but changes his mind when he sees her sleeping serenely on his couch. After he hangs up, he watches her a moment longer, and can't help smiling warmly.
- In the movie The Painted Veil, Kitty stumbles upon Walter who has fallen asleep at his desk. This marks the point in the movie where she does start to feel affection towards him. The scene isn't in the original novel, however, and there's generally less of an indication that she has any feelings for him in the novel.
- Pictured above: In The Terminator, Kyle Reese gently strokes Sarah Connor's hair and watches her while she's sleeping in his arms.
- Slightly averted in Blade Runner, when Deckard, fearing Rachael was killed by Gaff in her sleep, cries and kisses her when he hears her breathing.
- What a Girl Wants has a (hopefully non-sexual) scene in which Colin Firth sees Amanda Bynes sleeping.
- Sunshine has a scene in which Capa wakes from a nightmare to find Cassie in his room, presumably having been watching him sleep. (Deleted scenes stated that Capa and Cassie were in fact sleeping together, which would give a better reasoning for her being in his room watching him.)
- Wimbledon has Kirsten Dunst watching Paul Bettany sleep.
- The Break-Up has Gary find his now ex-girlfriend Brooke asleep in their condo's living room. He watches her for a moment, smiles, and then makes his exit instead of waking her up.
- In The Ice Pirates when Jason first sees Princess Karina she is sleeping. He leaves her asleep after being rudely interrupted just as he was about to grope her breasts, then comes back for her before the pirates leave her ship.
- In Don Juan DeMarco there's a sweet little bit where Dr. Mickler keeps watch over the peacefully slumbering 'Don Juan'.
- In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Hellboy and Abe are gazing on a sleeping Liz after they've had a beer or three, and getting rather maudlin about it.
Hellboy: Look at her. She's it, Abe. She's it. She's my whole wide... You know?
Abe Sapien: Yeah. Yeah.
Hellboy: I would give my life for her. (grumbling) But she also wants me to do the dishes.
Abe Sapien: I would die and do the dishes.
- Played for creepiness in Animal Kingdom. Pope carries the teenage girlfriend of his brother to bed, then lingers and stares at her as she sleeps. The brother catches him looking at her, prompting Pope to hastily leave.
- The Avengers: Used humorously rather than for romance when Captain America hears the following from his biggest fanboy, Agent Coulson:
Coulson: I watched you while you were sleeping. (beat) I mean, I was present when you were unconscious from the ice.
- A short and platonic version occurs in The Thin Red Line: Sgt. Welsh spends several seconds watching the peacefully sleeping Witt, betraying that he does harbor affection for his men and is not as cold-hearted as he seems.
- Colombiana. This causes trouble for Cataleya when her boyfriend takes a photo of her sleeping and shows it to a friend, who decides to run a check through another friend in the police department to find out who the mystery girlfriend is, right when the FBI are trying to match a security camera shot of an unknown female assassin.
- In Miao Miao, Ai finds the titular character sleeping and takes to chance to put fake whiskers on her face, take pictures with her, and cuddle. It's Less Disturbing in Context.
- Ingrid Goes West: Played for disturbing effect; on day two of their friendship, Ingrid takes dozens of pictures of her Instagram idol while she's sleeping for no reason but to satisfy her idolatrous love.
- Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.: Hornblower has an opportunity to admire the beautiful Lady Barbara when she's sleeping, ill and feverish. He nurses her and takes a vigil.
- Subverted in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Elizabeth Swann as a girl strokes the unconscious Will's face when she first meets him, this causes Will to wake up and startled grabs her hand forcing Elizabeth to calm him down. There's subtle Call-Back to this in the sequel, as after Jack knocks Will out on Isla Cruces Elizabeth strokes his face to wake him up, this time Will just smiles at her remembering.
- In Plan B, Bruno and Pablo fall into the habit of sleeping together in the same bed. It's totally platonic and just them being really good friends... except for the part where the man who wakes up first stares silently at the other man's half-naked body for a while.
- Twilight tries to invoke this trope with Edward sneaking into Bella's house at night to watch her sleep, but since he's actually sneaking into her house at night to watch her sleep, the effect sort of backfires. It fits better with this after Bella and Edward are actually in a relationship, and she allows him to snuggle with her every night and watch her sleep.
- The protagonist of Beggars in Spain who doesn't sleep ends up doing this multiple times. Her boyfriend jokingly accuses her of having a fetish for it.
- Katsa admires Po this way at least once in Graceling. Of course, after making sure he's really asleep. This being because while he's awake he can hear her thoughts.
- Bones from the Night Huntress books thinks that Cat is cute when she's sprawled on the bed snoring with her mouth open and hogging all the covers.
- Star Wars Legends: Luke Skywalker, in Vision of the Future, watches Mara Jade sleep while trying to convince himself that he can't love her. Three guesses how that turns out! In an earlier book, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, he wakes up while camping with Leia and looks at her while asleep, tempted to kiss her. Fortunately this ends differently, and he vows instead to protect her from everything.
- Happens in The Trumpet of the Swan. The eponymous character watches his love interest sleep, and contemplates what song to play to wake her up. He picks Beautiful Dreamer, the trope namer.
- There's a charming scene in Gaudy Night in which Harriet Vane watches over Lord Peter Wimsey after he falls asleep in their punt. In the narration, author Dorothy L. Sayers even points out that one must love someone for the sight of them sleeping to inspire tenderness rather than mockery.
- The last book of Artemis Fowl Artemis watches Holly while she's unconscious, but she was knocked out earlier and isn't actually sleeping. It either case, it doesn't go anywhere.
- In The Hunger Games Peeta tells Katniss that he likes watching her sleep because she doesn't scowl.
- In Rogue Sorcerer, Aiden watches Claron sleep after she rescues him from the Tower, taking solace in her peaceful appearance.
- A non-romantic example occurs in Wings of Fire. RainWings' scales are constantly changing color. So, Queen Scarlet captures a RainWing, she treats her like a living piece of art- to be admired even during sleep.
- Use of Weapons. Cheradenine Zakalwe falls for a female poet for a brief time, and waxes lyrical on this trope.
- Rek and Virae in Legend by David Gemmell.
- Underplayed in The Witchlands - when Iseult sees Aeduen unconscious, she notes that he looks far less terrifying and actually likeable when he's not on his guard, and she keeps watching him until he awakes (though from a safe distance).
- In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom watches Becky drowsing off to peaceful slumber when they are lost in the cave.
- Journey to Chaos: Tiza suffers a Power-Strain Blackout during a mission and so Nolien carries her into an ally's airship to rest. He tucks her into bed and strokes her hair, coaxing a rare smile from her sleeping face. He delays rejoining the others and this prompts Kallen to ask how long they've been dating.
- Forbidden: Lochan and Maya watch each other sleep at different points in the book.
Maya: He is sound asleep, taking those long, deep, rhythmical breaths, his face turned toward me. Its not often that I have him so near-not since we were young. It is strange to observe him at such close range; I see things Ive barely noticed before.
- Ursula K. Le Guin wrote an entire essay about this trope (and sleep in general) called "Staying Awake". She goes beyond the romantic connotations and argues that people are more innocent when they're unconscious (being unable to act or express themselves), noting the taboo many cultures have against killing a sleeping enemy.
- In The 100, in the opening scene of "Bitter Harvest," Clarke sketches a portrait of Lexa as she sleeps on a couch in Clarke's room.
- In the Alias episode "Salvation," Sydney wakes to Vaughn watching her sleeping while they are both being held under quarantine.
- An important part of Minbari courtship in Babylon 5, and something of a final test: The female watches her prospective husband while he sleeps, to see what he is like when at his most peaceful and vulnerable. If she doesn't like what she sees, she can end the relationship right there. Naturally, the way we learned about this was when Delenn explained it to Sheridan. She liked what she saw.
- In Being Human (UK), Nina wakes up in one episode to find George watching her. He confesses that he loves watching her sleep. Nina replies that that was sweet, though creepy.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Angel manages to watch Buffy sleep both in the cute way and in the stalkery way, albeit on different sides of a FaceHeel Turn.
- Spike watches Buffy when she is asleep in his arms in the episode "Touched". It was very heartwarming and had major character development. When this happens, Buffy has been chased out of her house by her friends and her own sister. To comfort herself, she let herself sleep in the arms of the guy with which she had a self-destructive purely sexual relationship not more than a year prior that ended up in her being almost raped by him note . To make it even more poignant, during this time, Willow was having sex with Kennedy, Xander was having sex with Anya and Faith was having sex with Robin Wood.
- Buffy does the exact same thing the next morning in "Touched"; she wakes up before Spike does, and spends a few moments tenderly stroking his hair and watching him sleep. Awww.
- Medicine student Georg Tischendorf in Charite sketches Ida, a young woman who's a patient of the university hospital, when she's sleeping after her surgery. Afraid to have offended her, he gives her the sketch later when she has recovered and they know a bit better, and Ida decides to keep it.
- On ER, Carol's Bland Perfection Disposable Fiancé admits to doing this when describing to her how much he loves her.
- Horatio Hornblower, "The Frogs and the Lobsters": Hornblower watches Mariette (his French crush for the episode) sleep. There are two French Royalist soldiers who seem very eager and want to have their way with her, so Horatio throws them out and offers Mariette to stay. She agrees, they kiss and she goes to sleep, but innocent Horatio just watches her from a chair.
- Despite the rampant amount of Ho Yay in the show, it is actually the Platonic Life-Partners Merlin and Guinevere who end up doing this to each other. In an early episode Gwen nurses Merlin while he's in a fever, and Merlin later repays the favor by lending her his bed after her father is killed and stays all day with her, just watching and waiting as she sleeps off her exhaustion.
- Toward the end of series four, Guinevere is injured in the forest; once again Merlin stays by her side all night, watching her sleep.
- In a late season two episode, the entire kingdom is put under a sleeping spell. Arthur finds Guinevere on the floor, moves her to a bed and watches her for a few moments. Extra points for brushing a curl off her face.
- Tristan watches Isolde sleep after she's been injured in a sword-fight.
- Our Miss Brooks: At the end of "Wake Up Plan", Mr. Boynton falls asleep on a chair in the hall. Miss Brooks doesn't wake him up, but sits beside him. Mr. Boynton whistles in his sleep!
- Pushing Daisies has an instance where they're already a couple - Ned watches Chuck sleep in the bed next to his, and when she wakes up she asks if he was watching her sleep, and he says watching her sleep and wake up is like seeing her come back to life again. However, it turns out that this is a Dream Sequence, and when Ned actually wakes up and sees Chuck wake up, she asks him if he was watching her sleep. He dodges the question because he doesn't want to repeat dialogue from the dream.
- The Rise of Phoenixes: Zhi Wei falls asleep beside Ning Yi's bed. Ning Yi wakes up before her and watches her sleep for a while. Then she starts to wake up so he pretends to be asleep.
- In the Scrubs episode, "My Nightingale" Dr. Cox realizes he likes his ex-wife again when he catches himself watching her sleep.
Dr. Cox: I like you...again. There, you win. You can ahead and do your victory dance or slaughter a goat or whatever it is you do when you're happy.
Jordan: You don't like me.
Dr. Cox: I watch you when you sleep.
Jordan: Well that just gives me the heebie-jeebies.
- There's a nice moment in the 1980s Sherlock Holmes where Holmes has returned from his apparent death in Switzerland, and asks if he can sleep in Watson's office as he has been on the run and is exhausted. Watson looks over him fondly, and tucks him in, showing that he doesn't resent Holmes for letting him believe he was dead for a few years.
- In episode "Fever", Chloe watches Clark sleep. It's paired with an Anguished Declaration of Love.
- In "Abyss", Clark returns the favour when he carries her unconscious form to the Fortress as Brainiac is slowly destroying her memories. He even kissed her on her forehead before Jor-El restores everything except his secret.
- Dean Winchester of Supernatural has made his opinion on this trope very clear: he calls the Twilight example "rapey" and refuses to let Cas watch over him while he sleeps.
"Dammit, Cas, how many times I gotta tell you? It's just creepy!"
- The Vampire Diaries:
- The X-Files: Used fairly frequently when one of them was in the hospital (which happened often) and the other kept a vigil at the bedside. Definite Ship Tease.
- The following quote is from "Redux II" when Scully is in hospital, dying of cancer, and Mulder watched her sleep.
Mulder: I came by last night, but I... I didn't have the heart to wake you.
- At the end of episode "all things", Scully falls asleep on Mulder's couch while they talk; he looks lovingly at her for a moment before tucking a lock of hair behind her ear and covering her with the blanket on the back of his couch. Adorable.
- The following quote is from "Redux II" when Scully is in hospital, dying of cancer, and Mulder watched her sleep.
- "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (also known as "The Armageddon Theme Song") by Aerosmith is about this.
- The Trope Namer, "Beautiful Dreamer", written by Stephen Foster.
- Queensrÿche's "Silent Lucidity".
- R.E.M.'s "You Are the Everything".
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer's acoustic ballad "Watching Over You". It's a pretty generic take on the subject (what else would one expect from Greg Lake?), so it can easily apply to either guy-love interest or parent-offspring. The second interpretation seems slightly less prone to causing Fridge Squick.
- The song "En Sólo Un Segundo" by Amaral.
- "Song for a Sleeping Girl" by Devics.
- Pet Shop Boys' Liberation is from the POV of a person who has their Love Epiphany as they watch their beloved falling asleep on their shoulder.
- Tom Waits' "Innocent When You Dream" from Franks Wild Years.
It's such a sad old feeling
The fields are soft and green
It's memories that I'm stealing
But you're innocent when you dream
- This line from "Last Kiss" by Taylor Swift.
So I'll watch your life in pictures
Like I used to watch you sleep
- The 1975 released an album in 2016 called I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, which was also the name of one of the songs on the album.
- The stalker narrator of Lordi's "My Heaven Is Your Hell" enjoys watching his crush sleeping.
- "Under Your Scars" by Godsmack.
Wish you were here right beside me
So I could watch you sleep
Hold your body closer, breathe you deep
- In Classical Mythology, Selene, the moon, loved the way Endymion looked when he was sleeping in a cave so much that she asked Zeus to give him eternal youth. Zeus gave him eternal sleep.
- In the Torchwood radio drama "The Dead Line", Ianto watches over Jack while the latter is in a coma and reminisces about how he likes to watch Jack smiling in his sleep in his monologue.
- Persona 3:
- Aigis (Robot Girl) watches the male main character sleep at more than one point. She doesn't just watch him sleep, she picks the lock of his room (and has gotten good enough to time her improvement) and watches him all night; making sure his pillow is fluffed, etc. It would be creepy if she weren't utterly and completely innocent.
- At the very end of the game, it looks like the story is going to invoke the trope in the most basic form... but the sleep he's falling into is final.
- Note that all of the above is also applicable to the female protagonist in Portable. Les Yay ahoy. A New Game+ will let you choose who gets to be with you at the end, for both genders.
- Dragon Age: Origins:
- If Leliana is successfully romanced, the scene after she and the PC consummate their relationship will have her doing this.
- Happens in a romance with Alistair. After he and the PC spend their first night together, there is a brief shot of the PC sleeping and Alistair watching her with a look of tender affection.
- In Xenogears, Elly tells Fei that she watched him sleep through the whole night after their love scene.
- Breath of Fire IV features this briefly at the beginning of Act 3, where a very exhausted Ryu sleeps with his head on Nina's lap. Made jarring, however, when you learn why Ryu was like that in the first place...
- If you romance Aerie in Baldur's Gate II (and provided you don't screw it up), there'll come a point where she'll admit to having watched you sleep the night before and how it made her feel safe doing so.
- Katawa Shoujo:
- Hisao has a moment like this in Lilly's route, after Hanako's birthday party. He notices that when she's asleep, she no longer has the confident facade she does when she's awake.
- Hisao watches Rin when she sleeps on her desk. Then Rin kinda cries in her sleep...
- Little Busters!: As protagonist Riki has narcolepsy, several times he wakes up to find a person watching him and waiting for him to wake up, but the only unquestionably romantic example is when he falls asleep while on a date with Kud.
- When Rean catches the chronically-overworked Student Council President Towa napping in one of the classrooms in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, he puts his jacket on her and lets her rest until she eventually comes around. It happens again in Cold Steel II, but this time she wakes up almost right away, and laments that he always seems to find her this way.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, Tharja tells the Avatar that he turned over 12 times in his sleep during their first support conversation.
- In the Mystic Messenger Christmas special content, at the end of Jaehee's route the main character travels to where Jaehee is working at the office, having fallen asleep from exhaustion. On choosing '(Go to her and tell her your feelings)', the only possible option, the main character stands beside her and kisses her cheek, and has the option to say either 'Merry Christmas...' or 'One day... I'm going to tell you how I truly feel...' Jaehee then says in a solo chat that she dreamed the MC was there and hugged her warmly, and that when she woke up, she found the files and also a cup of hot chocolate waiting for her.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, at one point Princess Zelda falls asleep on Divine Beast Vah Naboris while Urbosa keeps her comfortable. Link, who has had trouble getting along with Zelda at this point, comes across Zelda sleeping in Urbosa's arms, and Urbosa gently brings up the various reasons Zelda has resented Link for being able to fulfill his own destiny in the fight against Calamity Ganon.
- Cyberpunk 2077: V can do that to Kerry or Judy in the "Path of Glory" epilogue.
- This happens in chapter fifty of Orange Marmalade when Jae-min uses Ma-ri's lap as a pillow and falls asleep. He wakes up as she starts stroking his hair and he kisses her.
- Eerie Cuties, with Brooke falling asleep on Aceford's shoulder. Blushes abound.
- In season two of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Barriss Offee and Ahsoka Tano are trapped aboard a Meat Puppet-infested starship in "Brain Invaders." Barriss is herself taken over and turns against Ahsoka, who can not bring herself to kill her friend. When Ahsoka finally manages to subdue Barriss, she cradles her in her arms and holds her unconcious body until Ahsoka passes out as well and lies with her.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy finds Heloise in hibernation. He's desperate to wake her up, and finds a book about kissing the fair maiden to wake her. He looks at Heloise for a moment...then tosses the book aside, muttering "Can't believe everything you read."
- The Legend of Korra: This happens between Mako and Korra while she's recovering from being kidnapped by Amon. One morning, you see him sitting by her bedside while she's resting and place his hand over hers. It's not treated as an "aww, look at how cute she looks" thing in the show (as he seems rather troubled while doing it). He was more likely thinking about all the danger she had been in and trying to receive some comfort from her presence. Later on, we find out that that whole worrying experience had made him realize he loved her, so he was likely going through that as well.
- Steven Universe has a more comedic example, with Pearl, who doesn't sleep herself, admitting that she likes to watch Steven sleep.
Pearl: I like to watch you sleep sometimes. And by "sometimes", I mean "often".
- Briefly mentioned in The Amazing World of Gumball during a musical montage of living objects around Elmore in "The World": a pillow on a bed creepily mentions that "I like to listen to your dreams."
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Parodied in "Canderemy", where Candace thinks this applies to her boyfriend Jeremy, who sleeps like this.◊
- In "Just Our Luck", a sleep-deprived Agent P is too tired to stay awake and stop Doofenshmirtz. Fortunately, Doof thinks his sleeping nemesis is adorable and totes him around for the rest of the episode. (Naturally, Agent P wakes up at just the right moment to thwart Doof's latest evil scheme).
- In an episode of Adventure Time, Finn admits watching Jake sleeping.