A character settles down for a nice nap. When he wakes up, it's several decades later. He sees the effects of his absence. Anything he did wrong can now never be fixed. Those who loved him, if still alive, are miserable, and everything has changed. The Future Is Shocking trope may ensue.
This is Older Than Feudalism, with the story it's named after being an old American folktale, which itself is derived from an earlier Dutch folktale, having variants stretching back to the third century CE.
Compare the King in the Mountain and Human Popsicle. Compare Cold Sleep, Cold Future and Asleep for Days. See also Year Outside, Hour Inside, where the victim doesn't sleep away the years but spends them in an enchanted place. When the character is conscious during this it's The Slow Path. An extreme version of this trope is Slept Through the Apocalypse, where the world has ended while the protagonist slept. If you want to add humor when that person wakes up, use Rip Van Tinkle. When someone is deceived into believing this trope it's Faked Rip Van Winkle.
- In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, Princess Sakura wakes up for the first time after losing her feathers... about a day ago. She will spend the entire series between now and the Tokyo arc effectively sleepwalking.
- Happens to Shinji Ikari in the third Rebuild of Evangelion movie, who has the misfortune of spending fourteen years - more or less as long as he'd even been alive before - as a Human Popsicle, with the double whammy of finding out that he accidentally annihilated the Biosphere in a futile attempt to save his love interest. The earth is a post-apocalyptic Wasteland, most of his friends are dead, and those who aren't are ten years older and now hate his guts for the aforementioned catastrophe, including his former Parental Substitute who gives him the no-son-of-mine treatment and puts an Explosive Leash on him, and his former friend/comrade/flat mate who tells him in no uncertain terms that she despises him, shattering a wall of security glass to do so.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! had a controlled example where Asuna willingly went to sleep for one hundred years to help strengthen the base of the Magical World. Since she's a Heavy Sleeper, she overslept by thirty years, and woke up to discover that her Vitriolic Best Bud Ayaka had died the year was supposed to wake up (having kept herself alive through sheer willpower in hopes of seeing her one last time). Asuna didn't take that revelation well.
- Played for Laughs in The Beano in an early comic strip called Rip Van Wink about a man who had been asleep for 700 years so was completely unused to the then modern world.
- Captain America. Believed to have died in WW2, he was in fact kept alive as a Human Popsicle in an iceberg in the Arctic (his super-soldier serum kept him from freezing to death for decades before being found and rescued in the Modern Era (originally 1964) by The Avengers.
- Captain America ends up referencing this trope when he confirms that Peter Parker is back in his body after the whole Superior Spider-Man mess. The Human Torch tells Peter this, referencing the time he was dead.
- One interesting aspect of this is that Cap's service in World War II is one of the few comic stories not subjected to Comic-Book Time, as all they have to do is extend the time he was frozen.
- Pretty much Captain Marvel's whole cast. He, his family, and many of his enemies took long naps as an explanation of how they transfered from the Golden Age to the Modern Era.
- Richie Rich dreamed one time that he somehow slept into his old age and now appeared on Jackie Jokers' version of "Here Is Your Life" with all his friends, family members, and even adversaries being much older.
- Bloom County 2015 begins with Opus waking up from a 25-year nap.
- A common theme in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction is taking advantage of the fact that this effectively happened to Luna as a result of her being Sealed Evil in a Can for a thousand years.
- One that doesn't use Luna is The Bridge, where it is Princess Cadance that is an unknowing example given it is heavily implied Princess Amore of the Crystal Empire a millennia ago was her mother. King Caesar spirited her away as a baby to escape from King Sombra after Sombra killed Amore. We next see them 1,000 years later with Caesar giving her away to a kindly young couple.
- In Tangled In Time instead of dying, Ganondorf was comatose for decades with his body being taken care of by the Twinrova before he wakes up.
- In "How Things Smurf" from The Smurfette Village series, Hefty and Toughette are trapped in a Crystal Prison for half a millennium, and wake up to find themselves in the modern world circa 2005 with their fellow Smurfs Brainy and Brainette now elderly.
- Sassette in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf was actually a real female Smurf who was trapped in a Crystal Prison for a century since she was a little Smurfling and awakened by Nat, Snappy, and Slouchy with no knowledge of how she became trapped in there in the first place. In "Little Sister Smurf Lost", though, she does find out that an evil wraith named Avengelica put her into the crystal, since Sassette expressed a desire to get even with the male Smurfs who at that time were mistreating her, and thus her hatred for them resurfaces as she exacts her revenge against them, particularly against her older brother Hefty.
- One of the earliest narrative films ever made, Rip Van Winkle, is a 4 1/2-minute film dramatizing the Trope Namer's visit with some strange spirits, followed by his 20-year nap and revival in the woods.
- Tom Canboro (Gary Busey) in the Christian film Tribulation (from the Apocalypse series) wakes up a few years into the Tribulation period after being in an automobile accident, complete with Time Passage Beard.
- The original ending to Army of Darkness had Ash take too much of the potion that was to return him to his own time. He overshoots his own time by one hundred years and awakes to a post-apocalyptic world.
- In the film Merlin's Apprentice, the titular wizard rests out in a cave after Camelot comes to peace and wakes up 50 years later to find Camelot in ruins and Arthur dead.
- Justified in Captain America: The First Avenger, where Steve Rogers gets frozen in the arctic in the 1940s and is woken up again in modern times. Needless to say, he's a bit surprised when he puts it together (because Steve had been at the baseball game SHIELD put on the radio to put him at ease).
- Epimenides the Cretan, according to Diogenes Laertius (early 3rd century AD), was sent to a farm to get a sheep but went to sleep for 57 years. When he woke up he thought only a few hours had gone by so he continued on his quest for the sheep. When he arrived at the farm he found it had been sold and the style of dress had changed. It is also said he died at the age of 157.
- The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were said to have hidden in a cave to escape persecution and fallen asleep there, only to wake decades later, after Christianity has triumphed, and be caught when one of them tries to buy coins with the old emperor's head on them.
- The Trope Namer is 1819 short story "Rip Van Winkle", in which Rip goes into the woods, meets some strange beings, drinks of their liquor, and takes a 20-year nap. He winds up pretty pleased about it, as he has outlived his nagging shrew of a wife and gets to live the life of a respected senior citizen.
- Sleeping Beauty: Due to a curse, the title princess falls asleep. She wakes up 100 years later. Much has changed since then, including the fashions - the prince notes how outdated her dress looks.
- The novel Son of Rosemary brings the heroine of Rosemary's Baby up-to-date by having her awaken from a twenty-plus year sleep, just as her demonic son's plotting to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
- In Andre Norton's Android at Arms, the protagonist is one of several important political figures who were kidnapped, stored as Human Popsicles, and replaced with Ridiculously Human Robots. When they are initially decanted from cold storage by a power failure, they compare notes to learn that they were all kidnapped in different years, and that several of them have been prisoners for decades.
- H. G. Wells' The Sleeper Awakes, where a man previously in a coma for centuries happens to awaken to find himself now not only in a bleak, dystopian future, but also the richest man in the world due to the compound interest on his bank accounts which had been compiling for so long.
- Arthur C. Clarke's 3001: The Final Odyssey, the last and final volume in his Space Odyssey series, finds Frank Poole—previously killed by HAL in the first book—discovered by a space-tug after floating about the Kuyper Belt for a millennium; the absolute zero temperature of deep space having preserved his body, which the ultra-advanced society of 3001 is able to heal and bring back to life.
- In a supporting-character example, Wulf Saxon from the Hawk & Fisher novel The Bones Of Haven got trapped inside a booby-trapped magical portrait for 23 years while attempting to rob a sorcerer. No time passes for him, but by the time he's set free, his family are all dead or penniless, his friends have become callous and hostile, and the city he'd once hoped to reform has become a Wretched Hive far worse than he remembers.
- Spider Robinson's "The Time Traveler" in Callahans Cross Time Saloon is a variant on this - the protagonist hasn't been sleeping, but he is imprisoned by a dictatorship in the early Sixties and not allowed any contact with the outside world. When he's released in the early Seventies, the culture shock between the era of JFK and the era of Vietnam/ Watergate makes him contemplate suicide.
- Sholan Alliance: Thanks to spending 1500 years in an alien stasis cube, Rezac and Zashou get to experience a mix of this trope and Cold Sleep, Cold Future.
- In the children's picture book The Frog Band and Durrington Dormouse, Durrington, after a life at sea, runs into the woods to escape a press gang. He runs into Mad Maude the Toad, who gives him a drink. This sends him to sleep and he awakes to find everything completely different. It's not made clear how long he was asleep, but, given that he went to sleep in an age of press gangs and woke up in the twentieth century, it was probably over 100 years.
- Crowley from Good Omens slept through most of the 19th century. To be fair, he is a demon.
- Star Trek: Enterprise, episode "Twilight." Captain Archer wakes up many years in the future, after the destruction of Earth, to learn that he contracted an alien disease causing a form of anterograde amnesia: every six months, he wakes up with no memories since he contracted the disease. It all ends with a Reset Button as they use Techno Babble to retroactively cure the disease, returning us to the plot arc. It's really just an excuse to run an Alternate Universe plot about the Enterprise's mission failing.
- TNG also previously did a somewhat similar story with the episode "Future Imperfect". It had Riker falling unconscious after exploring a cave that was flooded with toxic gas and waking up to discover that at that moment he had contracted a strange alien disease that apparently wiped all his memories between the time he fell unconscious and the 16 years since. However at the end it turned out to be an elaborate holographic illusion created by a lonely alien (played by the kid from Dream On) who had captured Riker and was impersonating his fictional future son.
- Voyager did one as well: a backup copy of the Doctor stored in a piece of the ship that had ended up in an alien museum was reactivated and discovered that 700 years had passed since Voyager left the planet. From his point of view, he was on Voyager just yesterday. There's also "Timeless," in which the Doctor is reactivated 15 years in the series' future and discovers that he, Harry and Chakotay are the only three members of the crew still alive.
- Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie technically qualifies. She wasn't asleep, but she was trapped in her bottle for 2,000 years before Nelson found it, and she clearly had no contact with the outside (as proven by the fact that she couldn't speak English until he wished for her to be able to).
- The premise of The Munsters Today, as told in the opening theme song, was "We went to sleep some twenty years ago / And woke up with a brand new show!"
- Parodied in the sketch comedy The State: A man is in a coma for "one hundred and nineteen...almost two hours." However, the world at large seems to have changed as if he'd been in a coma for decades.
- Parodied on The Kids in the Hall, where they had a sketch where a man fell asleep for 20 minutes and woke up to a world largely the same, except for everyone, including the man, acting as if years had gone by. And "the Elongulator," which is not described any further.
- Invoked by some train robbers in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Rip Van Winkle Caper". The robbers' intent was to remain in gas-induced suspended animation until their theft of gold bullion had been forgotten.
- From Saturday Night Live, Aidy Bryant plays 13-year-old Melanie, who goes to slumber parties only to fall for her friend's father each time. It's slowly built up on when she mentions that her father is "like 72 years old", and she had to take a Vicodin after hurting her back once, but then Vanessa Bayer as her mum arrives to deliver the Wham Line.
"She's not 13, she's 25. We lied to her about how long she was in that Vicodin coma; she's all horned up now and doesn't know why."
- The song "Four of Two" by They Might Be Giants does this to a man who falls asleep waiting for a date to arrive, not realizing that the clock he's looking at is broken & the girl has stood him up.
- "We Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who is an interpretation of the original story, which used the twenty-year nap to illustrate that the Revolutionary War (which happened while he slept) really didn't change anything at all, and he was basically living in the same world. It's a bit hidden in the song, but certain lyrics like "And the marching on the left/ Is now the marching on the right/ And the beards have all grown longer overnight" make it a definite reference.
- The song "L Dopa" by Big Black is about a girl who falls asleep in her teens and wakes up as an old woman. The woman decides that she'd rather die than continue living since she literally slept her entire productive life away, however the doctors feel that all life is worth saving regardless of the patient's input on the matter, so she's unable to have her request fulfilled.
- There is an ancient Christian martyrological tale of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus — seven Christians who flee to a cave to escape persecution by the Roman Emperor Decius (around 250 AD), fall asleep, and awake decades later (usually during the reign of Theodosius II, 408-450 AD) to find the Roman Empire has become Christian.
- The Talmud contains the story of the ancient Rabbi and scholar Honi ha-M'agel, who slept for 70 years, and awakened to find his teachings misinterpreted and all of his friends dead. The texts probably dates from the early 3rd century AD.
- In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the main character Laharl planned to take a ten day nap... and slept for 2 years. He would have slept longer, but his 'loyal' vassal Etna woke him up.
- This happens to the main character, their sibling, and adopted parent in Bleach: The Third Phantom. Luckily, the protaganist takes it better than the others, or else things would've really gone to hell.
- In Portal 2, Chell gets caught in cryogenic stasis for an indefinite amount of time (the "hotel room" she was in started out intact, and afterwards was severely decayed) at the start of the game.
- In the backstory for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, a previous princess named Zelda (separate from the one encountered in the preceding game) had a cruel brother who mistreated the citizens of Hyrule with the help of an evil wizard. When Zelda refused to tell her brother what she knew about the location of the Triforce, the wizard tried to kill her with a spell that instead killed him and put Zelda in a deep slumber. The remorseful brother placed his sister in a castle tower in the hope that she would one day be woken up. The plot of the game involves Link finding the Triforce of Courage to do so.
- The Flintstones: In "Rip Van Flintstone", Fred dreams that he's been asleep for twenty years, "like in that Rip Van Winklestone story", and finds that Barney has become an oil tycoon and that Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are married.
- Futurama: Pizza delivery boy Fry accidentally freezes himself during New Year’s Eve of 1999. He wakes up a thousand years later, kickstarting the whole plot of the show.
- A Looney Tunes cartoon (The Old Grey Hare) featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd has the latter sleeping for over sixty years to reach the unimaginably distant year 2000, where he and a geriatric Bugs still battled each other amidst pop culture references whose meanings have long vanished into history for the modern viewer.
- An episode of Garfield and Friends did this.
- So did one of the original comic strips.
- Pac-Man: The cartoon's ep #42, "Pac-Van-Winkle."
- Inverted in an episode of The Angry Beavers. The two beavers spend the entire episode trying to stay up all night, only to realize their clock is broken. When they go outside, decades have passed and they can see a futuristic city on the horizon.
Norbert: Dag! How long have we been awake?!
- Played straight in "Up All Night 2: Up All Day - The Reckoning", where the beavers struggle to get to sleep after "stupidly staying up for a bazillion years". When they finally manage it, they end up sleeping for the same amount of time as they spent awake last time, only this time sheep have become the dominant species.
- The Gargoyles episode "Future Tense" did this to Goliath. Fortunately, it was All Just a Dream.
- Also, the protagonists spent centuries as stone statues in the backstory before Xanatos breaks their curse.
- The Simpsons features a guy who fell into a coma in the '70s.
"Do Sonny and Cher still have that stupid show?""No. She won an Oscar, and he's a Congressman!""GOODNIGHT!" (flatlines)
- South Park did this in an early episode where the boys discover a man frozen in the ice of a cave. He'd been trapped there for 2-3 years, but everybody treats him like a defrosted caveman. When he tries to return home to his wife, he discovers she's remarried (after a few weeks) and has a pair of (somehow) nearly teenage children with her new husband.