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Cannot Dream

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The Nameless One: I... don't have dreams, actually.
Kesai-Serris: Truly? How sad! Even fiends and devas dream, you know. Are you certain you don't?
The Nameless One: Quite certain. No dreams, at all.

For whatever reason, a character cannot dream. Perhaps they are dead already, or has spent too long in cryo-sleep, but their ability to dream is gone. This tends to indicate that something is inhuman or 'off' about them.

May also be caused by a Dream Stealer.

In Real Life there are people who claim to have no recollection of ever dreaming; whether it is this trope or simply that they never remember their dreams is unknown.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kanami in Darker than Black tells her colleague that a Doll who has moved "sees a dream". Then she has to clarify that she's joking, and that Dolls don't. Since they have some sort of encephalography equipment on their heads, we can assume that it's certain knowledge, at least as far as catatonics in life-support tanks are concerned. Contractors are said not to dream as well, but with them and free-willed Dolls, it may just be another myth to dehumanize them.
  • In King of Bandit Jing, Campari loses his ability to dream. He subsequently gains the ability to steal dreams from other people.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange: The monster Gulgol is the personal bogeyman of Nightmare because Gulgol never sleeps and thus never dreams, making him immune to Nightmare's powers.
  • Moon Knight: Morpheus was driven insane because scientific experiments made him unable to sleep or dream.
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • People lost their ability to dream during Dream's imprisonment. This has bad effects on various people, ranging from perpetual sleepwalking to being comatose for much of their lives.
    • The Justice League of America villain Dr. Destiny loses his ability to sleep and thus dream. His appearances in The Sandman show that his inability to dream has driven him completely insane and turned him into an emaciated cripple, while making his powers even stronger than before. A psychotic mind-rapist who looks like a Holocaust survivor is not a pretty sight.

    Fairy Tales 
  • A character in a Celtic fairy tale (reprinted in Traditional Tales from Long, Long Ago by Philip Wilson) is unable to dream but is otherwise perfectly normal. His employer suggests a way to guarantee that he'll have dreams: make his bed in the fireplace. He ends up with a thoroughly bizarre dream that ends when his wife wakes him up and he's halfway up the flue.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Titan A.E., Preed states that Akrennians do not dream. Of course, they are an extraterrestrial species...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Amanda in Carefree claims that she doesn't dream. However, this is not intended to suggest that something is wrong with her; it's mostly an excuse for a funny scene where she horrifies a waiter by ordering bizarre combinations of food intended to induce dreaming.
  • Krank in The City of Lost Children is unable to dream. He's kidnapping children and stealing their dreams, which sets off the plot.
  • In Die Another Day, Gustav Graves is said to be unable to dream. Specifically, he is unable to enter REM sleep, a Real Life condition. He has to use a machine to do it for him, or he'll start suffering from severe psychosis... well, more severe than his current mental condition.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: America Chavez claims that she never dreams, which, since dreams are actually glimpses into alternate realities, is how she knows that she's a unique being in the multiverse.
  • In Freddy vs. Jason, the parents of Springfield use the drug Hypnocil to suppress the dreams of the quarantined teenagers who were exposed to nightmare monster Freddy Krueger to destroy every memory of him, as he feeds off of fear. It keeps them safe from Krueger's dream invasions, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, it puts those the drug is used on in medical comas.
  • In Inception, one side effect of using the PASIV is that you eventually lose the ability to dream normally. Heavy sedation can help with that, but it requires professional supervision.
  • The Villain Protagonist of The Young Poisoner's Handbook. This becomes important when The Shrink in the prison wants him to talk about his dreams, so he "steals" the dreams of his cellmate.
  • The immortal Eternals of Zardoz cannot sleep or dream, since sleep is strongly related to death.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In Boy Meets World, Eric volunteers for a sleep-study program, and ends up surprising everyone. When the doctor asks if he's able to remember his dreams, he says no — it turns out that when they analyzed him, he appeared to have zero brain activity when he slept.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: The Skeksis, as it turns out, do not dream — not until the Emperor (skekSo) began his studies into the Darkening, after which his sleep was instead filled with horrible visions of the unknown terrors beyond death.
    skekSo: Do you sleep?
    skekVar: Of course, sire.
    skekSo: Do you dream?
    skekVar: Dream?
    skekSo: Yes.
    skekVar: No, Emperor.
    skekVar: Neither did I, until I began my experiments upon the Darkening. Now my slumber is riddled with nightmares.
  • Dexter, after waking up from a surreal nightmare, is mostly troubled about the fact that he had a dream.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eberron: Kalashtar have lost the ability to dream. That's because they are inhabited by exiles from the realm of dreams, and if they return, they will be destroyed by that realm's despotic lords.
  • In Nomine: The undead lose the power to dream, along with many other simple human pleasures. Technically, they don't even need to sleep, but, if they do, they can no longer reach the Dream Land of the Marches without supernatural help — they've actually severed themselves from humanity's collective imagination.

  • BIONICLE has the Dreaming Plague that wiped out most of the Iron Tribe, caused by Annona.

    Video Games 
  • The villain of 40 Winks is causing this for the world, though he's not a Dream Stealer in the traditional sense; he's kidnapping the Dream Weaver species known as the Winks, and he himself suffers from this.
  • In Dragon Age, dreaming essentially means slipping into the Fade when asleep, with the dreams being constructed by spirits. This is somehow tied to the ability to use magic — thus, an inability to use magic results in an inability to dream.
    • Mages who have been made Tranquil are severed from the Fade, which prevents them from using magic or being possessed by Fade demons but also robs them of their ability to dream, not to mention their ability to feel emotion.
    • Dwarves can't use magic, can't slip into the Fade (unless forced by a demon or a powerful mage), and by extension can't dream. The dwarf Sandal, a prodigy in enchantment ("Enchantment? Enchantment!"), tells Hawke about some rather odd dreams of his — the very fact that he can dream is one of several hints that Sandal isn't an ordinary dwarf. If the player takes the "Snarky" option of the Dialogue Tree at one point, Hawke jokingly suggests that Sandal may be a dwarven mage. They could be right.
  • In Genshin Impact, the people of Sumeru do not dream. This is extolled by the ruling Akademiya as proof of their superior rationality. In truth, the Akademiya harvest the dreams of the populace to power the Akasha, a database of all the nation's knowledge. Once the Akademiya are deposed, the Akasha is shut down, and Sumeru's people begin to dream again.
  • Kirby's Adventure starts off with the residents of Dream Land losing the ability to dream because King Dedede stole the Star Rod, which grants them dreams. It's later revealed that he did this to stop a Nightmare from coming through the Fountain of Dreams.
  • The Nameless One of Planescape: Torment. The above quoted conversation is with a woman who talks about dreams. Her surprise indicates that TNO's condition is very extraordinary, as she is in Sigl, where natives have a "seen it all" attitude due to the cities status as a planar cross-roads. It's a bit of an oddity when the Kalashtar are latter introduced as part of the same "verse".
  • Touhou Project:

    Visual Novels 
  • Tsukihime: Arcueid is revealed in Kagetsu Tohya to be unable to dream when she complains of a nightmare. Her brain is basically completely turned off when she sleeps. Even in this state, she occasionally recalls things about her past, but she says that this can't be considered dreaming. This is one of many early hints that there's a "Groundhog Day" Loop in effect: she's not dreaming, she's remembering something from another loop.

    Web Original 
  • LOCAL58: "True Sleep" posits that true, restful and proper sleep is one that has no dreams at all, and the tape itself is put out as some kind of therapy/brainwashing to reach this state of real, dreamless sleep. Of course, there is an undertone of disapproving of sleep as a concept and treating dreams as the worst part of it all, almost like an omnipresent parasite that only affects unworthy, uncivilized brains.
    The lie of sleep seeks many vessels
    The primitive mind deserves its nightmares

  • Wonderlandians in Alice and the Nightmare don't dream. Alice, the main character, is an unusual exception.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures:
    • Most sufficiently advanced incubi and succubi can't dream; instead, they experience dreaming by "surfing" the dreams of others. Also, they don't need to sleep, but if they do, they can easily sleep for days or even decades without noticing the passage of time.
    • Abel needing sleep and being able to dream again becomes a plot point. Aaryana believes that this is because Abel hasn't been feeding on emotions lately. Abel is starving his Cubi nature, and thus is becoming more like a Being.
  • At the end of Dominic Deegan, Dominic is unable to dream as a side effect of his magic and second sight having been taken from him.
  • The Dreamland Chronicles:
    • Dan completely unable to dream. This seems to be the result of a curse that the Big Bad put on King Arthur.
    • Alex himself was dreamless for years between the time the sword he just found was confiscated and the time he got it back.
  • In a variation, characters in Homestuck whose dream selves are dead are forced into contact with the Horrorterrors instead of actually dreaming when they fall asleep.
  • Pibgorn: Why am I dreaming? I haven't dreamt in a thousand years!

    Western Animation 
  • Zig-zagged in American Dragon: Jake Long. Spud does have vivid, detailed dreams about being a superhero, but he never remembers them when he wakes up. When he uses a dreamcatcher to enter his dream world, he's pleased by what he finds.
  • In an episode of Doug, Mr. Dink tells Doug about how when he was a kid, he fell out of a tree, and after that he kept having nightmares about them. He finally decided to face his fear and end his nightmares for good by climbing to the same branch he fell out of last time. It worked... sort of. He fell out again, hit his head, and he never had a dream since.
  • One episode of The Neverending Story: The Animated Adventures of Bastian Balthazar Bux states that bag guys, along with some other creatures, don't dream.
  • Ninjago: Both Zane and P.I.X.A.L. have claimed that nindroids cannot dream, though in other episodes, they're shown to be perfectly capable of dreaming. In fact, Zane's prophetic dreams have been a plot point more than once.