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Catching Some Z's

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"Sounds like he's sleeping in there. Also, looks like he's sleeping in there. I see those Z's. Can- can everyone see those? Is that just me?"

A Stock Visual Metaphor trope used widely in comics and animated media. When a character sleeps, sometimes a lot of "Z's" are shown near the character, either in the form of a stream of z's coming from the character's mouth or head, or a group of "Zzz's" contained in a Speech Bubble. This trope used to be shown specifically for people who snore in their sleep. While snoring is rather tricky to represent (sometimes it's represented as a log being sawed inside a speech bubble), the onomatopoeia "Z" was chosen as an approximation of what it sounds like. The trope is omnipresent in comics and animation but is rarely used in live-action media or animation showing live-action people since it's usually a trope in drawn or rendered media.

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

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


    open/close all folders 

  • Silentnight Beds: Referenced near the end of the "My First Bed" advert, in which baby Henry was shown arranging three letter Z magnets on his bedframe over where he sleeps.
  • Sleep aid Nytol used the slogan "Nytol will help you get your Z's," while two pills (which had the letter N engraved on them) rolled sideways.

    Anime & Manga 

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, characters will often have trails of Z's emitting from them when they are sleeping. The Z's themselves have closed eyes as if they're sleeping too.
  • Lamput: In a couple of the Season 3 episodes, sleeping characters have a trail of Z's near them.
  • Motu Patlu: In "Magical Scenery", as the king is sleeping, one short shot of him shows several Z's forming a line near his head.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, a line of Z's appears next to characters fairly often when they sleep. To give one example, in episode 1, Paddi is seen sleeping and some Z's appear next to him.

    Comic Books 
  • MAD's parody of Room 222 was titled Room 222zzzz... (with the z's gradually trailing off over a scene showing the class asleep).
  • The Beano: In one Bash Street Kids strip, Teacher ends up falling asleep and the kids (whom he's spent the entire story bringing into class) complain he's not teaching them anything but the last letter of the alphabet.
  • Lucky Luke album #3 "Tortillas for the Daltons" features this when showing a group of Lazy Mexicans, who only have ZZZ(Z)(Z)... as their speech balloons.
  • Robin (1993): Tim's frequent habit of falling asleep in inconvenient places when he's out as Tim Drake rather than Robin has led to him being depicted slumped over with a trail of Zs to the side on at least one occasion.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield:
    • The titular Garfield is known to have Z's in a speech bubble. Unusually, it's usually only a single Z.
    • In one strip, he stirred in his sleep and pondered that he was wasting his life and needed to add some variety. He achieved this by going back to sleep with a fancy, stylised Z.
  • Blondie (1930): Averted — Dagwood's snoring is written as "Skn-x-x-x!"
  • Peanuts used this frequently with Snoopy and Peppermint Patty. Patty has even turned it into an art form.
  • The Katzenjammer Kids did it before Charles Schulz was even born.
  • In one strip with Goofy, he is working in a supermarket stacking up tin cans into pyramids all day long, and at night, the Z's of his snoring forms a pyramid as well.
  • In one Fred Basset strip Fred is surrounded by a crowd of Z's in the first panel.
  • Beetle Bailey is constantly producing these. One time Sarge eats one small Z in an effort to get to sleep himself.

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


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

  • Mousin' Around!: The upper right portion of the playfield shows a cat sleeping with Zs surrounding it (extending down a ramp and mirroring its wavy shape).

  • During one of the clown acts in ZED, one was seen pulling the other in a little red wagon; the passenger was sleeping with some glittery Z's suspended in the air above him.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: The DLC begins with Ayane resting in bed with floating Zs after having spent the previous night gaming.
  • In the NES Felix the Cat, when you pause the game, the hud shows Felix's face sleeping with some Zs in a speech balloon.
  • In Patapon, units can fall asleep due to Status Effect with "Zzzzz" coming out of them when sleeping.
  • The Prince of Landis: Whenever Evan's dad is asleep, there's a line of Zs coming off of him.
  • The Sims
    • Sleeping Sims have Z's coming out of them. Oddly, whenever Simlish is written, it's in a strange Greek/Hebrew/Wingdings hybrid that doesn't seem to actually contain the letter Z.
    • Vampires in the Late Night expansion pack for Sims 3 have V's instead of Z's.
  • Island Saver:
    • Sleeping bankimals do this.
    • The bank machine does this on its display screen when it is inactive.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear, Solid Snake occasionally comes across guards who fall asleep, and Z's are visible above their heads. The NES version infamously has one on the very second screen, who will wake himself up after just a few seconds exclaiming, "I feel asleep!" Continues on through the sequels. When falling asleep on their own like this, the guards are usually easily awakened by the player making noise (e.g. firing an unsilenced gun, or walking on a noisy surface).
    • From Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty onwards (including Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes), tranquilizer guns can be used to knock out guards. The amount of Z's floating over their head provide a clue as to how long you have before they wake up; if only one Z is floating above a guard, he's about to wake up any second. Guards who are beaten unconscious have circling stars instead (and a reduced amount of stars is also an indicator of waking up).
  • Dozing non-player characters in The Lord of the Rings Online have the trail of Z's.
  • This is used in City of Heroes to indicate the "sleep" Status Effect. It's also available for players to use as an "AFK" indication.
  • In Prehistorik Man, sleeping characters (Check Points, the hero if left alone) snore big red Z's that pop once above their heads.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the Sleep Status Effect in the Final Fantasy series switched from Snot Bubble to Z's.
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • The dream spell in Runescape results in emitting letter Zs.
  • Sly Cooper: Every enemy that Bentley hits with his sleep darts develop Zs while resting in place.
  • It happens in Earnest Evans when the main character falls asleep.
  • Sleeping dwarfs in Dwarf Fortress are shown with a blinking 'Z'. In Adventure Mode, you go to sleep (or wait around) by pressing 'Z' (case-sensitive).
  • The "Test Your Luck" mode of Mortal Kombat 9 has a random condition called "Narcoleptic", which will cause the character it's applied to to randomly fall asleep during the fight, Zs and everything. Funnily enough, they keep their fighting stances while asleep.
  • Persona:
    • Used in Persona 3 when cutscenes show someone (usually the Protagonist) asleep.
    • Used in Persona 5 when Futaba's sleeping, Zs come out from her head.
  • Pokémon
    • Sleeping Pokémon snore on their turn, while a few Zs float up from their head. Also, the move Snore has big spiky Zs in its animation in the third gen games.
    • In Pokémon X and Y and Pokémon Sun and Moon, Pokémon will sometimes be found fast asleep after launching up Pokémon Amie, complete with little "Zzzs" coming from it. No use in playing with a sleeping Pokémon, so it's gotta be woken upnote . Also, in Pokemon Amie and Pokemon Refresh, some Pokemon have a special sleeping animation where they're nestled in rather than nodding off. While in XY, this effect was not used, it is used even for the special sleeping animations in Sun and Moon.
    • The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series also makes use of this. Sleeping Pokémon in Gates of Infinity have Zs coming out of them, be it because of enemy status attacks or just far too lengthy exposition. The series also has traps that put Pokémon to sleep represented with Zs on it. And in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, this also happens in the overworld for sleeping Pokemon sometimes, be it when sleeping through stories (in Pancham and Shelmet's case during the story about a Graveler counting Mareep), sleeping before lectures (in your partner's case, and also doing this in their dialog box, thus leaving you to hear Carracosta's entire lecture), and a few others.
    • During the Pokemon Mini game, Togepi's Great Adventure, after completing the Tower Of Adventure, Togepi comes across a Hypno, who immediately uses Hypnosis the moment it comes into view. This results the inevitable happening, with little Zs coming out of Togepi. This causes Hypno to carry it off to the Tower Of Ordeal, with Zs still coming out of Togepi at the top of the tower.
  • Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction: If subtitles are turned on, Ratchet's snoring during the Hypersleep cutscene is subtitled as Zs.
  • River City Girls: In the credits, Misako's sleeping with blue Zs coming from her head.
  • In ToeJam & Earl for the Genesis, if you remain idle for a certain amount of time, or open up a School Book present, your character will lie on his back and start snoring, complete with little "Zzzz.." coming from him.
  • The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare gives you a health bar composed of Z's, indicating how deeply Bart is sleeping. Waking up is Game Over.
  • Used for the Hermit Gunsmith in Cave Story. In fact, he'll even say "Zzzz..." in Nicalis's translation of the game (that is, Wiiware version, Cave Story 3D, Cave Story+, etc.).
  • In Super Smash Bros., Mr. Game and Watch, being a flat and two-dimensional fighter, will do this when he is put to sleep.
  • In the intro of The Legendary Starfy, Starfy is seen sleeping peacefully in his little bed with several Zs surrounding him (and even has Zs in a speech bubble), although he gets a rather sudden awakening right off the bat.
  • In Bayonetta 2, when Bayonetta is equipped with the unlockable Chain Chomp and stays in place, the Chain Chomp will look around for a while before going to sleep with some large Zs coming out of it.
  • Chantelise: In the Japanese version, when Chante falls asleep after the Ignan Ruins, she says "ZZZ..." to indicate that she's sleeping. The English version gives her more sleeptalking.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Status Effect "Sleeping" causes an animated cloud of Zs to appear over the target's head as they lie or loll in place. It's also represented by a ZZZ icon by the character's portrait.
  • In Insaniquarium, after using his powers several times, Walter the Penguin will catch some Z's for a short while.
  • Miis who are peacefully asleep in Miitopia lay down on their side with two blue Zs hovering above them. If the Miis are having a nightmare, the Zs will be purple instead.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 has "sleep" arts be represented with a Z symbol. Sleeping enemies or party members also are represented with a Z on their name tag.
  • MoonBoy in Sleepwalker's Journey has some right up until a shooting star lands in the moon's nose and it sneezes him out of his bed.
  • Subverted in Undertale. You first meet Napstablook when you find your way through the Ruins blocked by them, apparently sleeping. They're actually wide awake and just saying 'z' out loud repeatedly. Played straight with Sans on the Genocide Route, who exhausts themselves trying to take you out once and for all and eventually falls asleep while trying to stall forever in hopes that you'll just give up. Interestingly, the font used for the "Zs" in question isn't Comic Sans (Sans' usual font) or 8-bit Operator (The font Sans uses when he gets serious), but rather Aster, suggesting a possible connection with Dr. W.D. Gaster.
  • Hearthstone uses them to indicate that your minions are "asleep" (Hearthstone's equivalent of Magic the Gathering's summoning sickness, meaning you cannot use the creature that has just entered play until your next turn).
  • Leave a game of Chuzzle untouched for a while and the titular Chuzzles will fall asleep one by one, with "Z"s coming from them.
  • Used by Rabbids that fell asleep in the Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle DLC "DK Adventure".
  • West of Loathing: Sleepers emit Zs:
    • The sleeping Thud Fricker.
    • Soapy Fricker, is asleep. and when looked at, emits a "Zzzzz...." once tied up.
  • Fortune Summoners: Related to the Sleep condition:
    • Characters afflicted with Sleep have Z-s rising off from them.
    • Sana's Sleep Mist spell icon, is of a staff-wielding person bent over, with Z-s rising from them.
  • Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass: Multiple:
    • The icon at the start menu is a close-eyed Jimmy with a ZZZ rising from him, and the game starts with him being asleep and being woken up.
    • Big Enormous is found in his tent, in the Wilted Lands, sleeping, with a "Z Z" bubble, that switches which one is lower and upper case repeatedly.
  • Ittle Dew: Ittle Dew is sleeping on her raft in the opening cutscene, shown with Zs coming from her mouth and fading away.
  • In Roly Polys No Nanakorobiyaoki, the "Z" video shows George falling asleep with Z's over his head, and a robot shaped like the letter Z scaring him awake.
  • Cute Knight: When the Slacker ending happens, which is all about sleeping, the protagonist says "ZZZZzzz..." with her eyes closed, and the sleeping is remarked on by a few people. For instance, the innkeeper says:
    What is that girl doing, sleeping on the street?
  • Crystal Story: The icon for the inn, in the Adobe Flash version of the first game, where the party sleeps, is white Zs, descending from left to right.
  • Little King's Story: In the original game, Pancho, the cow that sleeps in the throne room, has blue Zs coming from him, which stops when he wakes to drag the king from the door and leaving before talking to his 2 ministers at least once.
  • Okiku, Star Apprentice: The Sammiya Pub has some who just says "ZZZ" in a Pictorial Speech-Bubble when they're interacted with.
  • Science Girls!: Stunned characters are given a Forced Sleep, given that they have blue Zs above their sprite and the un-stunning is described as "wake up", with more than 3 Zs meaning that they're asleep for longer.
  • The Of Pen and Paper series: Knights of Pen and Paper and Knights of Pen and Paper 2: Sleeping in an inn is represented by an icon of bed and a Z beside it.
  • Assassin's Creed: Altaďr's Chronicles: Sleeping guards have red Zs coming from them.
  • The XCOM series: In a few games, the little symbol for Unconscious is two Z's diagonal to each other.
  • Oddworld games have sleeping creatures emitting 'Z's that burst after floating for a while. These give you an indication that you can sneak past them, as long as you're not loud to wake them up.
  • PsyCard: Blunda, seen in the game announcement, says "Zzzzz...", and presumably she's sleeping, as she's wearing pajamas, which additionally have a night theme, being dark blue, with clouds and crescent moons on it.
  • The Card City Nights series:
    • Card City Nights 1: From multiple characters, and on some cards:
      • The Crystal card has 6 Zs floating around a Crystal that's got its eyes closed. Implying it's asleep, especially since it looks like Green Crystal when she fakes, or is really, sleeping.
      • Green Crystal's lines of doing some Talking in Your Sleep, or possible faking it, all start with "Zzz..." and end with "... zzz...", except for:
        Zzz... talking in my sleep... not faking it... zzznrk... honestly...
      • When Loafer is defeated, she says "Zzz..." while her eyes are closed, and her mouth is emitting Zs. The player remarks:
        (Wait, was she playing in her sleep? No wonder I won...)
    • Card City Nights 2: In a possible panel of the Ittle Dew Comic Generator, Tippsie is lying on grass, with Zs coming from her mouth, while she's holding a Health Potion and the following panels are encased in a cloud-shaped Speech Bubble.
  • Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden: The sleep Theme Naming for the Tranquilade quests has the level 18 one be called "Zzzzzz...".
  • Märchen Forest: Mylne and the Forest Gift: When being lectured by her grandfather, Mylne falls asleep with some "Zzz".
  • Princess Maker 5: The sleeping animation has the daughter emit blue Zs.
  • Soma Spirits: At the start of the game, when Heart is sleeping, he has "Z" growing and shrinking from his head.
  • Tales of Symphonia: During the starting Good Morning, Crono scene, Lloyd is sleeping with a speech bubble of increasingly large Zs, above him.
  • Titan Quest: The Immortal Throne Downloadable Content's Dream Mastery's icon for the Sands of Sleep skill has two Z-s in it.
  • Characters and things in Pizza Tower have letter Zs next to them when they're sleeping.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The Sleep Skill's animation involves Zz-s appearing and disappearing on the screen.
  • The Witches' Tea Party: In Chapter 3, a sleeping cat says Zzz.
  • Used in World of Warcraft to indicate sleeping mobs; moving too close will wake them up, but usually slowly. This behavior is exploited for several puzzles.
  • Workshop In The Ironwood Grove: Forced Sleep Non-Damaging Status Infliction Attack-s cause this, since the Sleep condition that Non-Damaging Status Infliction Attack inflicts has the afflicted emit Zs repeatedly.
    • Copper Dolls' Hypno Dances emit Zs from the target as their animation.
    • The final boss's Befouled Air inflicts Sleep and Mute.
  • Pâquerette Down the Bunburrows: If a bunny gets stuck in a loop of reentering the same tunnel it will fall asleep and show Z signs.


    Web Animation 

    Web Video 
  • Discussed and deconstructed on Game Grumps, specifically the episode they play "Mario's Early Years: Preschool Fun"
Arin: "Are the Z's supposed to be snores?"
Dan: "I've never understood that, why Z's are synonymous with sleeping."

    Western Animation 
  • In the 1934 cartoon Jack Frost by Ub Iwerks, a snoring bear is shown with a bubble over his head that contains a saw cutting a log. It eventually cuts all the way through the log causing half of it to fall and hit the bear on the head, waking him up.
  • Looney Tunes have the Zzzz stream happening quite a bit. One short is even titled From A To Z-Z-Z-Z.
  • In the opening of the early Van Beuren Studios sound cartoon "Dinnertime", the bird is sleeping like this until his alarm clock wakes him up, and the dog catcher in the same shirt is doing this before he's awakened.
  • One episode of The Simpsons had Homer Simpson buy a Phonics Frog toy, and at one point he is sleeping with the toy, constantly pressing the Z button. "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z..."
  • Teen Titans: In "Mother Mae Eye", when the Titans are given their "5:00 beddy-bye" by Mother Mae Eye, Robin, Raven, Cyborg, and Beast Boy comedically fall asleep the instant she leaves their bedroom and start snoring very loudly as white "z"s rise from their heads. They appear again after falling asleep a second time after Starfire's failed attempt to convince them that Mae Eye's a witch.

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