Follow TV Tropes


Cryo Sickness

Go To

Harmless Freezing not being a real thing is a huge barrier to real-life cryogenic suspension. This is sometimes depicted by having recently thawed characters with systemic injuries similar to Resurrection Sickness, ranging from "character has a cold" to "character is a puddle." If they outright die during their time in the deep freeze, it's Cryonics Failure.


Anime & Manga

  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, the Olmecs preserved themselves for thousands of years through cryonic hibernation, but in the fourth and final season, one of them explains that this prolonged stasis caused them to mutate into alien-esque beings, with pale and rotting skin.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Faye was cryo-frozen to save her life after a shuttle accident. Once she was healed and awoke in the future, a side effect had her lose her memory of who she was and what happened.
  • Dead Leaves: Retro and Pandy's eight years of cryosleep have left them with amnesia, forgetting even their actual names. Chaos ensues.


  • In The Road to Shalka, Dr. Branik is introduced while seriously addled by it, to the point Alison thinks he's the Doctor with a regeneration sickness (they got separated and she has valid reasons to think something bad happened to him). This might be because Branik's been in stasis for much longer than intended.

Films — Live-Action

  • Alien:
    • This is a universal constant in the franchise. It's so ingrained that any individual averting this trope means one of two things: they're either a very humanlike android, or they're badasses. The former is used for Christopher Samuels in Alien: Isolation, and the latter is used for Meredith Vickers in Prometheus and Jenette Vasquez in Aliens.
    • In Prometheus (set more than half a century before the first Alien movie), the stasis pods aboard the titular spaceship render the crew highly nauseated when they've only just awoken from a meagre two-year stasis.
    • In Aliens, Ripley spends several weeks in the hospital for her 50-ish years in hypersleep. The novelization states that after 60 years, revival becomes impossible due to all the internal injuries from the freezing process. Later on, the marines, aside from Vasquez, are all shown suffering a much less extreme form of sickness, mostly being very tired and groggy.
    • Alien: Covenant shows people throwing their lungs up with clear fluid shortly after being forced out of hibernation.
  • Austin Powers: Frontal lobe disinhibition: The inability to keep from blurting out whatever thought pops into your head.
    Austin: How do I explain to them that due to the unfreezing process I have no inner monologue?
  • It isn't given a lot of focus, but near the beginning of Avatar we hear an announcement informing Jake and the other people coming out of cryo that they will be hungry and weak and may feel nauseated as well. They've been in suspended animation for the six-year flight to Pandora, so this is understandable.
  • Oblivion (2013): When Julia is woken from her cryogenic escape pod, the first thing she does is vomit cryo-liquid. It also turns out she is dehydrated. She makes a full recovery from this state though.
  • In Return of the Jedi, when Han Solo is thawed out from a brick of carbonite, he's too weak to stand and blind on top of it. It takes him all the rest of Act 1 to get better.
  • Downplayed in Sex Mission, but the guys spend several weeks in adaptation and we don't see most of it. They do wake up blind and disoriented.
  • The Matrix: Neo has to be carefully nursed back to health after being set free from the Matrix, as his muscles and nerves were unused to real stimulation and movement.


  • A non-sci-fi example in the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook Black Vein Prophecy: The story begins with you waking up in a mausoleum after being put to sleep by your father 200 years ago, and as you regain your bearings, you discover that you have no memories of your name or identity, and must re-learn your purpose for most of the story's first act.


  • The Halo Expanded Universe half-jokingly calls this "freezer burn," and notes that it's a bad idea to wear clothing into your cryopod. Master Chief being frozen while inside his Powered Armor showcases how durable he is, but even he gets an itchy rash all over from it.
  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars: Since FTL jumps between star systems take weeks to months in local time, starship crews go into cryogenic hibernation during this time. However, prolonged hibernation results in debilitating bouts of cryo sickness, especially if not enough time passes between jumps. This becomes a minor plot point late in the novel, as the Wallfish crew is forced to make multiple jumps only a day or two after each other, with their symptoms becoming more and more severe (especially for Nielsen, who is revealed to be over 100 years old).
  • Cryogenic suspension is common in the future world of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, including as emergency treatment for people who have suffered injuries that are severe to the point of death, such as soldiers in combat. Such suspensions require considerable prep work be done beforehand (including replacing the patient's blood with special "cryo-fluid" to prevent cellular damage from ice crystals). The side effects of cryogenic suspension (especially if it's done in a great tearing hurry, such as in the middle of a battlefield, and therefore not quite perfectly) range from mild temporary memory loss, to serious brain damage, to being rendered a "vegetable". Or the patient simply not being revivable, and becoming a corpse permanently. As its name suggests, Cryoburn (one of the later novels in the series) deals very extensively with such cryonics in a non-military setting, including the possible complications of defective procedures or equipment.
  • In Worldwar, when Sam and the rest of the Admiral Peary passengers come out of cold sleep, they're given a small amount of liquid food to regain their strength, and have to undo their own gurney straps to help regain their motor functions. Some don't wake up at all, including the original ambassador to the Race.

Live-Action TV


  • Robert, the PC of A Shock to the System comes out of cryo heavily confused and amnesiac. However much this is cryo sickness and how much is from concussing himself on the pod's door waking up is unclear, but it took half the game for him to come back to baseline.

Tabletop Games

  • BattleTech: Devlin Stone froze himself in cryogenic suspension in 3130 when he disappeared from the Republic of the Sphere, with the intent that he would "return in its hour of need." However, when his cryopod was discovered in 3146, leading to him being awakened prematurely. Between the incorrect awakening sequence, the limits of cryogenic-suspension technology, and his already advanced age, the process left him damaged both physically and mentally. He was no longer able to pilot a battlemech and his strategy for saving the Republic of the Sphere was highly delusional, basically relying on the Republic's enemies to come in one at a time instead of all together and the Republic's allies to come to its defense even when doing so would mean certain destruction for their own realms. The end result was that the Republic, having pinned its last hope of survival on him, was conquered by Clan Wolf, starting the ilClan era.
  • Blue Planet: People who get frozen for the trip to Poseidon wake up feeling like "warmed-over manure", and the electrodes stuck all over their body cause an itch called "the spots", which is a sure sign of somebody new to the planet.
    Being a centimeter this side of death for half a year takes a certain toll on a person. They make sure the lights are dimmed, but when you open your eyes, it'll feel like your head is going to explode. You'll be so weak it'll be hard to sit up. You'll most likely try to puke all over yourself, but you won't be able to. You'll have the worst case of the dry heaves you ever had, though.

Video Games

  • In Alien: Isolation, as with the rest of the franchise, cryo-sleep is portrayed as inducing sickness. In this case, Taylor, a Weyland-Yutani office executive, is really feeling it because she's never been through cryo-sleep before.
  • The main character in Crying Suns is seen barfing out a teal-colored goo right after being rudely awakened from cryonic stasis.
  • In Fallout 2, people (specifically, poor schmuck PFC Dobbs) who are improperly revived from cryonic suspension have a tendency to suffer from something the game calls "Post-Cryogenic Syndrome," where they seem OK for about 5 minutes then liquify into goop.
  • In Live A Live during the Future Chapter, and as a shout-out to Alien, cryo-sleep is apparently not a pleasant experience which leaves you feeling like garbage when you first wake up. Corporal Darth lashing out at a crewmate who politely asked him if he slept well, brushing off the pleasantry by angrily demanding if anyone ever felt good after cryo-sleep, is your first clue that he's is not there to make friends.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The Andromeda Initiative used cryo-freezing to survive the trip across galaxies and are shown to be very careful when waking someone up, with doctors assigned to monitor all new awakenings. Background chatter explores some immediate problems like body temperature and how to feed someone whose stomach hasn't held food for six hundred years, and a later sidequest reveals that a not insignificant number of people suffered permanent damage to their brain chemistry. It is also acknowledged that some people didn't survive the trip. This trope is used to explain the aversion of Schrödinger's Player Character; the male and female versions of Pathfinder Ryder are fraternal twins. The one the player chose is the one that was woken up first while the twin not chosen spends most of the game in a coma because their stasis pod was damaged while they were in the process of waking up.
  • In The Outer Worlds, the passengers of the colony ship Hope can't be revived without a good-sized dose of Dymethil Sulphoxide because they're so freezer burnt that they melt on revival, screaming in agony the whole time. The Unplanned Variable is revived using the last dose of an experimental serum that not only brings them back but gives them Bullet Time.
  • In Over Blood, we're meant to think that the cryo-freezing process gave our hero Raz Karcy amnesia. He turns out to be a clone of the original Raz, and his lack of memory comes from literally being born yesterday.
  • Rimworld: Cryptosleep Caskets can keep just about anything indefinitely alive in suspended animation, but leaving it will leave colonists and anyone else with "Cryptosleep Sickness", which slows them down, makes them woozy, and gives them nausea. It usually only lasts a few hours though.
  • The Terran campaign for StarCraft: Brood War opens with your Non-Entity General being offered a dose of "Cryostimm" to combat hibernation sickness.
  • In Space Quest 5, this can happen to Beatrice either when you're freezing her after she's attacked by a pukoid or unfreezing her to cure her mutation illness. Botching either procedure can turn her into a permanent ice cube or melt her into a rather messy puddle, which is bad as it breaks a stable time loop in a previous game that saved Roger's life.
  • The background lore of the Halo franchise has cryosleep as a way to foil time dilation while ships are in the middle of faster-than-light travel. Most people vomit on awakening no matter how experienced they are to it, but this is played with because what they're throwing up is actually a nutritional supplement intended to replace nutrients lost over the course of the trip. People throw it up because it tastes awful.
  • The protagonist in Stasis wakes up in very poor condition and has to hobble to an autodoc or he'll die after about ten minutes, and that's the successful revival. He's got severe injuries as well, implying they may not have been too careful with his stasis pod in transit. Some other poor soul you can attempt to revive will die almost instantly if you try


  • Mentioned in Freefall as an issue preventing repeated freezings; Florence in particular, having been recently thawed, cannot be put back into stasis for five to seven years.

Western Animation

  • In Love, Death & Robots episode "Beyond the Aquila Rift", the ship's navigator Suzie gets "surge tank sickness" when she comes out of a months-long cryo sleep. Watch the scene here.
  • The Simpsons: "Lisa's Wedding", which takes place in the future, has Mr. Burns cryonically-preserved and cured of "37 stab wounds to the back." He's very fragile (even more so than the old man who was once nearly drowned by a wet sponge placed on his head weighing him down like a millstone), breaking both legs just trying to sit down.

Real Life

  • Such injuries are a barrier to cryonics. For example, the same freezer burn that ruins a good steak kills popsicle people. The water in the subject's cells forms crystals, which puncture the cell walls, leaving a slurry of biomass instead of the biological machinery necessary for life when the subject is thawed. Various methods are being studied to combat this, ranging from various anti-freezing substances (including Dymethil Sulphoxide) to a Containment Field that uses intense electro-magnetic fields to stop the crystals from forming.
  • A real cryonic experiment involves killing an animal by sucking out all its blood and replacing it with supercold saline (medical-grade salt water). When the animal is revived, it's warmed up, its blood is returned, and its brain is zapped with electricity. This is quite stressful to the body and usually results in brain damage. The more successful method entails only draining half the body of blood and replacing it with saline water. A test was done on five-hundred pigs and all but one of them made a full recovery.