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Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy

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"Cut me some slack, okay? Can you two even begin to imagine 500 uninterrupted hours of consciousness? Forget Mole People! About halfway through, I swore I saw the face of God! Until I realized it was just the night janitor, Reki. On the plus side, I gave him a hell of an ego boost. Man was riding that compliment for days."

When you're running on fumes, you're not always in the right state of mind to make decisions. If you don't even have the energy to stand up, you probably don't have the energy to think rationally. Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy tends to be the result. This occurs for a number of reasons. The victim might be suffering from Sleep Deprivation for whatever reasons, they been out in the blazing sun for too long and are potentially suffering heat stroke, they may be Working Through the Cold, or they've worked so hard that they have completely drained all their energy. In any case, their judgement is so hazy that they end up making some rather questionable decisions.


This usually manifests in at least one of four ways:

  1. Forgetfulness: The victim fails to remember important information or even basic common sense. Things they would have very little trouble recalling if they were more alert.
  2. Delusion: Their thought-processes are so clouded that they end up believing things that they normally wouldn't. This can also include hallucinations (something that is Truth in Television concerning Sleep Deprivation).
  3. Confused Logic: They may have all the pieces of information to work with, but their train of thought takes a detour (or several) causing a disorganized approach at logic. May result in Skewed Priorities.
  4. Too Tired to Think: The victim literally does not have enough energy to spare to even try to think straight. They may not pay attention to important details because of this.

These four symptoms can often overlap and may even play into others. The end result is the person acting or thinking in a way that they normally wouldn't. Usually at the cost of common sense. It can be something as small as putting salt in their coffee instead of sugar, or something major like accidentally selling off a company because they weren't paying attention. When the victim recovers from this exhaustion, you can probably expect them to reflect on their terrible mistakes and think It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

Compare Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, Blinded by Rage, Fury-Fueled Foolishness, Heroic RRoD, and Worf Had the Flu. May result in Too Desperate to Be Picky when someone is so hungry that they'll eat something they probably shouldn't. Contrast with Heroic BSoD and Angst Coma, which result from emotional exhaustion instead.



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    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Avatar: Legend of the Guardian: All of Team Avatar suffers it "The Chase." When they discover Min's true identity as Xia, Zuko's twin sister, they violently reject her and depart. Once they manage to get some sleep and have some time to think things over, with help from Toph, it's clear they would have been more willing to hear her out and listen to what she had to say had Azula not been chasing them and running them ragged for two days solid.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged: Unlike in canon, Kayaba's plan was ultimately boiled down to how sleep-deprived he was after working three weeks without so much as a wink of sleep to finish Sword Art Online. The game was Christmas Rushed and he needed to get it done after already being delayed twice. Thus, he busted his ass to get it ready for release. Unfortunately, this resulted in causing a glitch that killed the players when their avatars died.
    Kayaba: Now, in this case, any sane man would simply turn off the servers before anyone else got hurt, but because you've now been awake long enough to think the government is run by "Flubar, King of the Mole Men," the best idea that comes to your mind is to double, triple, and quadruple down. So you lock everyone in the game, tell them they'll die if they don't finish it, and try to make it look like this is all part of your "master plan" instead of an ever-spiraling series of events that you have long since lost control of.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences: In the third act, Jacob, who is supposed to be an expert when it comes to wooden pilings, is so tired from sleep deprivation that he ends up choosing a wrong type of wood for the pilings for the construction of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam.

  • In the Nero Wolfe short story "Murder Is Corny", Archie is exhausted after having been up for 30 hours. He needs to have a conversation with Susan, and suggests to Wolfe that he have the conversation elsewhere, but Wolfe offers the use of the office. Archie Lampshades the fact that if he hadn't been so exhausted, he would have realized that Wolfe intended to eavesdrop on the conversation.
  • Early in Percy Jackson and the Olympians the heroes stumble into a novelty statue shop the reader will immediately peg as Medusa's lair. Percy explains that yes, it was dumb, but they were exhausted and had been staggering through the woods of New Jersey for a long time.

    Live-Action TV 

     Music Videos 
  • In the music video for Cat Hairballs, Stimpy is being used to farm hairballs via licking "fuel" off of various body parts then hwarfing the results onto a conveyor belt, where the hairballs are then stamped by Ren. Though Stimpy is high energy at first, all the licking and hwarfing proves to be extremely physically taxing. By the end, Stimpy has been completely licked clean and is completely burnt out from it all, which results in Stimpy jumping on the conveyor belt and trying to hwarf one more time. Resulting in passing out on said conveyor belt and getting brutally stamped on the ass.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: In Season 15, Wash is completely exhausted and loopy after days of being locked in his armor by Temple without receiving food or water. He is generally disconnected from reality during that time and says many things that he wouldn't in a clearer head. This also leads to him walking out in the middle of gunfire without a care in the world, ending with him getting shot in the neck.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Doc McStuffins, Doc stays up late at her slumber party, so she's sleepy in the morning and she pours orange juice into her cereal instead of milk.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Apu once worked for four straight days at the Kwik-E-Mart without sleep. By the end of it he thought he was a hummingbird. There's videotape.
    • Homer (who's already stupid) is sleep-deprived because his baby daughter Maggie is keeping him awake at night and he mistakes Maggie for Marge (his wife) and Lisa (his eldest daughter) for Maggie.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Mess" has Gumball and Darwin stay up all night watching an internet video, and the next day they constantly black out and proceed to do random things such as build a meat snowman.


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