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Senior Sleep-Cycle

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"Easy for you to say, Mr. Under Thirty. I'm old, I take naps."
Serini Toormuck, The Order of the Stick

If you see a senior citizen in a TV show, most likely, they're either already napping or going to be in a few minutes. And, due to Finagle's Law, it will always be right when they're supposed to be keeping an eye, on something, or about to ... tell







Huh? Wha? Oh, right. There are some elders who can escape this inconvenience. Evil Old Folks tend to be exempt from this rule, as are women in general. Maybe they just drink a lot of coffee. Needless to say, this is an Elderly Trope. It is also more likely to appear in a comedy.

In real life, several studies have suggested that people actually need less sleep as they grow older; and the portrayal of this trope in media matches the symptoms of narcolepsy, a neurological disorder unrelated to age. However, older people often tend to go to sleep earlier than younger adults, and since the elderly are usually retired, they generally have nothing in their schedule to prevent them from napping whenever they feel like it. Furthermore, some sleep disorders that can cause daytime dozing, such as sleep apnea and insomnia, are more likely to gradually develop over the course of a lifetime.

See also Scatterbrained Senior.


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  • One of the recurring background extras in Simple Samosa is a wheelchair-using senior citizen who tends to fall asleep during conversations. According to Dhokla in "Moong Fu Samosa", he alternates between spending six hours awake and six hours sleeping.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, Vice-Admiral Garp is about to punch Luffy when both suddenly fall asleep. It's less that Garp is old than that he comes from a family of narcoleptics.
  • GUN×SWORD: Carlos of El Dorado V is always asleep when he's on screen, save for two occasions.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, during a few of the murders, Nanjo's alibi is that he was asleep at the time.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Dennis the Menace (US) strip, Dennis finds Mr. Wilson asleep in front of his television set, and tells Mrs. Wilson that her husband always gets tired before the TV does.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hotel Transylvania: Transformania has Murray's human transformation consist of becoming a tiny elderly Egyptian man with a tendency to fall asleep at the worst times.
  • Old Jack keeps falling asleep in the middle of his conversation with the title character in Puss in Boots.
  • In Toy Story 3, Woody calls Andy's dog Buster to help him save his friends from the trash. In waddles an elderly, obese Buster, who then falls asleep on top of the cowboy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The City Of Ember: Sul is an 80-year-old man who falls asleep almost every time he sits down in his work chair.
  • In Dad's Army (1971), General Wilkinson is fast asleep in a chair when the Local Defense Volunteers believe that the Germans have begun the invasion, allowing Sergeant Wilson to take his gun for Captain Mainwaring to use.
  • Bernard, one member of the Neighborhood Watch Alliance in Hot Fuzz, spends most of his onscreen time asleep, except for about a minute during the final confrontation.
  • The wise old man in Labyrinth randomly falls asleep, much to the chagrin of his hat.
  • According to the DVD commentary for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the grandparents had a side bet going during filming as to who could appear asleep on screen most often.


  • Angela Nicely: “Blooming Gardens!” has an old lady, who randomly falls asleep in the middle of a conversation.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In Exile's Honor, one of Alberich's undercover identities is an old man who lives this trope. "Falling asleep" after dinner lets Alberich eavesdrop on the upper classes safely.
  • Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings. Used to show Bilbo's age catching up with him after he gives up the One Ring.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. Averted with Ser Barristan Selmy who recalls how as a young squire he'd stumble still yawning onto the training ground every morning, whereas now he hardly gets any sleep. As he's old and full of regrets, it's not a good thing to be awake in the wolf hour.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Are You Being Served?, here is the only way to wake up a sleeping Mr. Grainger:
    Mr. Humphries: Mr. Grainger, are you free?
    Mr. Grainger: Er, yes, I'm free!
  • Father Jack Hackett on Father Ted seemingly spends his entire life sleeping when he isn't drinking or yelling obscenities.
  • "Old Man" of Pawn Stars had been shown to be flat out asleep when he was at work. He is co-owner of the place and so he's allowed to do that. Chumlee has rudely lampshaded this fact on more than one occasion. You gotta admire a man who keeps his resumé up to date.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Deadly Years", Rapid Aging caused Captain Kirk to doze off in the command chair.
  • The Netflix series Travelers has a variation. Trevor, or rather the traveler currently inhabiting Trevor, was one of the first test subjects for consciousness-transfer technology and consequently has lived far longer than a normal human lifetime. Turns out there's a side effect: a mind that old starts to suffer from "temporal aphasia," randomly freezing up for longer and longer periods until eventually he'll go permanently catatonic.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Pops, the elderly doorman, from The Muppet Show can often be seen sleeping before someone interrupts him.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodborne: Gehrman slept for... a week? A year? A decade? God knows how long he's been dreaming? It was justified however, he's been stuck in his own dream unwillingly after all.
  • The Old Man at the End of Time in Chrono Trigger (aka Gaspar, the Guru of Time), has always fallen asleep against a streetlamp when the heroes visit him, and has to be woken up to start a conversation. Then again, being at the End of Time doesn't usually give him very much to do.
  • Cid Highwind of Final Fantasy VII is depicted as having one in the original game, apparently as part of his portrayal as a Grumpy Old Man, despite really not being that old.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has Dr Snoozemore, who falls asleep mid conversation at semi random. This makes his speeches take a fair bit longer than they would otherwise.
  • There are sleeping old men in some of the apartments in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. They're heavy sleepers, as this video demonstrates.
  • Rugrats Castle Capers: In the game's opening cutscene, Stu asks Grandpa Lou to look after the babies while he goes to the store to buy more paper clips for his latest invention, an enormous kiddie playset for the Reptar Storytime Pizza Parlor. Lou says, "I'll watch em' like a hawk!" and falls asleep immediately afterwards.
  • The Secret World:
    • Old Joe is prone to nodding off in his chair when he's not giving you mission briefings; on top of being quite elderly, he's also in the middle of an island-wide Zombie Apocalypse, and he's taking as many opportunities to sleep as possible.
    • Taken to extremes with Octavian the Eagle, who spends all of his time asleep, and insists on continuing in his attempts to sleep even as Filth-infected fauns amass in the forest outside his home and vampires get ready for an apocalyptic war against humanity. It's eventually made clear that Octavian has actually been in his seventies for the last two thousand years, and by now wants nothing more than to die: until something actually manages to bring about the end of the world, the best he can do is sleep. The only way to rouse him is to put his Morality Pet in harm's way.
  • Averted in The Sims 2. In fact, elders are the only life stage who automatically awaken when they reach a full energy bar (all other Sims will sleep in until morning). The cycle this inevitably creates (given the steady decline of the energy bar over time) is that it simulates the "early to bed, early to rise" sleeping pattern for which many Real Life elderly people are known.
  • Inverted in Survivor: Fire, where instead of falling asleep during the day, Gran wakes up at night.

    Visual Novels 
  • The old man Yanni Yogi in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney constantly falls asleep in the middle of conversations, and even the trial, and only wakes up when his Snot Bubble pops. This is all part of his act, however.

    Web Animation 
  • The Annoying Orange's Grandpa Lemon. He falls asleep in the middle of conversations and even while being chopped in half.

  • The Order of the Stick: In present times, Serini is an old halfling and tends to take naps at inopportune moments, such as during the Order's brainstorming for defeating Team Evil.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • One episode has Steve age up to an eighty year old due to an experimental CIA serum. Despite this, he still tries - and fails - to go on a date with the Alpha Bitch of the school, who had given his teenage self a chance. At the diner, she leaves him in disgust as said old man, and, in the midst of protesting, he falls asleep mid-sentence. Shortly thereafter, another elder walks by and gleefully declares, "They brought back the old napping booth!" She proceeds to sit down and fall asleep as well.
    • In "Old Stan of the Mountain" after Stan gets cursed for mocking the elderly causing him to turn into an old man, after misunderstanding a conversation between Steve and Hayley he thinks they want him to die, he then becomes paranoid and repeatedly tries to kill them but keeps falling asleep in the process of doing so.
  • Referenced, if not actually present, in the Avatar Extras in Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Bumi welcomes the Gaang to "Old People Camp", the Extras pop on screen to declare, "Dinner at 4 o' candle and bedtime at 6:30 o' candle."
  • A Running Gag in The Casagrandes has Bobby and Ronnie Anne's grandfather, Hector Casagrande, doze off at various times. One of the first episodes has him napping in the same spot where a narcoleptic St. Bernard is sleeping.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has Elderly Numbuh Two in the final episode, "Operation: I.N.T.E.R.V.I.E.W.S." In the Live-Action segments, despite not looking like a year over his 50s, he's almost always falling asleep, and is shown to have become somewhat senile with age.
  • In Detentionaire, Mr. Peggs, the elderly teacher who is meant to be supervising detention but always sleeps on the job instead. He will not wake up for anything, as demonstrated when Biffy yells “YOUR FACE IS ON FIRE” while standing right in front of him and doesn't get as much as a peep. This is very convenient for Lee considering how often he has to sneak out for some reason or another. Of course, this being Detentionaire, this turns out to not be what it seems and is actually important to the plot – we find out in Season 3 that Mr. Peggs once tried to open the mysterious pyramid beneath the school, but he didn't have all the instructions so he missed the part that tells you when you can do so, and, as a result, was zapped by a beam of magic and fell into a permanent sleep-like coma, no cure for which is yet known.
  • The Fairly OddParents! special "Timmy's Secret Wish" has Timmy fall asleep mid-sentence after discovering that he's aged 50 years as a result of all the wishes his fairy godparents Cosmo and Wanda granted being undone.
  • Futurama:
    • Professor Farmsworth once fell asleep while skiing and woke up at the lodge with a bronze medal around his neck.
    • "Less than Hero" has this gem:
      Leela: Professor, isn't it time for your nap?
      Farnsworth: Yes, dammit! [instantly falls asleep]
  • Averted in Hey Arnold!, as both grandparents are quite hyperactive, and awake almost all of the time. Almost inverted with Grandma Gertie, since she seems to even be awake at odd hours in the night.
  • One episode of King of the Hill dealt with Hank and the gang befriending the elderly school groundskeeper Smitty, who keeps falling asleep every time he tries to fix up the football field.
  • Granny Smith of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic seems to doze off easily. In "Luna Eclipsed", when she takes some fillies out Trick-or-Treating, she states that she should have been asleep five hours ago. It's a trait that appears less and less as the cartoon goes and she gets a more energetic personality.
  • The Oh Yeah! Cartoons short "Youngstar 3" starts with Old Man falling asleep, prompting his grandson Youngstar and Shero to go ahead and face a giant monster without his help. Once he wakes up and follows them, Old Man isn't happy about his teammates facing the threat without him.
    Old Man: Where do you think you two are going without me to save the day?
    Youngstar: But Grandpa, you were napping!
    Old Man: [mocking tone] But Grandpa...
  • Parodied on Phineas and Ferb. Linda's mother appears to be succumbing, but she was playfully teasing Lawrence about his boring thimble story.
  • Cohort of the Ministry of Pain (a trio of elderly supervillains) from The Powerpuff Girls episode "Fallen Arches" is shown to have fallen asleep in the midst of a bank heist.
  • Suga Mama on The Proud Family always falls asleep while watching wrestling or when she is supposed to be chaperoning Penny or babysitting the twins. Turn it off and she immediately wakes up to tell you to turn it back on, then goes back to sleep once it's back on.
  • Rugrats (1991):
    • Whenever Grandpa Lou is put in charge of the babies, he is always asleep within a matter of seconds, a fact that the babies always use to their advantage. The Rugrats Movie hints that age has nothing to do with this however and that he's been this way his whole life (likely alluding to narcolepsy). Didi mentions that he slept through Pearl Harbor.
    • When he leaves in "Grandpa Moves Out", the family visits him at the retirement home. Tommy and Angelica are watched over by the surrogate grandmother. She shows pictures of her grandchildren while listing the names of the seven dwarfs. When she can't remember the name of the last one, and Angelica suggests "Sleepy", she says she could use a nap and instantly falls asleep. Angelica also believes that the seniors went to a "Tired Center" because they're all too tired to play with their grandchildren, and she and Tommy get the idea to wake up all the seniors.
    • Invoked as a plot point in the Chanukah episode; when the babies mishear "the meaning of Chanukah" as "the meanie of Chanukah," they decide to put him down for a nap. First, they try blankets and a pillow, then they try using a portable TV (which breaks). Finally, the "meanie", Shlomo, takes his nap as Boris tells the Chanukah story.
    • In "Fall Stinks" (Part 2 of the "Acorn Nuts and Diapey Butts" saga), while Grandpa is absent, Tommy tries acting like him so Dil won't miss him. This includes "reading" a storybook before falling asleep.
  • The Simpsons: Abraham J. Simpson is constantly falling asleep, often in the middle of sentences. It's possible he's narcoleptic (especially on the season nine episode "Lisa's Sax" where, after he tried to sing "The Funky Grampa", Grampa ended up falling asleep standing up).
  • Happens in SpongeBob SquarePants with Mermaid Man, who will keep randomly dozing off while standing and when woken up he'll start acting like he's about to go into a mission.
  • The Superhero Squad Show episode "Days, Nights, and Weekends of Future Past!" had Falcon and H.E.R.B.I.E. end up in an alternate reality where Scarlet Empress (an older Scarlet Witch) has taken over the world with an army of Sentinels. The heroes encounter an elderly Magneto who frequently falls asleep before finishing his sentences.