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Sleep Deprivation

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Not having slept enough sucks, both in Real Life and in Fictionland. This trope deals with such situations. Characters more or less voluntarily choose not to sleep, or there are some external factors causing them not being able to sleep, or they keep waking up all the time.

Characters who can't sleep or haven't slept well become irritable, fatigued, absentminded, sick, crazy, careless, desperate, proud of the accomplishment... It depends how serious the situation is and how it is played. It can be played for laughs, for drama or horror. Those who can't sleep will often have Exhausted Eye Bags and the situation might lead to them looking Seriously Scruffy, even after just one sleepless night, though it's more common to show after a longer period of sleeplessness.

Sleep Deprivation in fiction can come about in various ways:

  • Noisy inconsiderate neighbours who want to party the whole damn night... or worse, ahem, partying in the bedroom.
  • Never-ending noise (airport, train station, traffic, construction site) — typical plot is that a new building is being built in a peaceful neighbourhood.
  • Country Mouse is visiting a big city and the noise level is too much at night and too different from their normal environment; likewise City Mouse in the country can find the silence or the different kind of noise too weird.
  • Emergencies. Sudden serious and potentially dangerous situations which need immediate action to deal with them.
  • Burning the midnight oil. Typical for over-worked or poor-planning students before tests or examinations; writers who are suddenly inspired or need to meet the deadline; night owls who want to work at night, but are forced to wake up early as well and so on.
  • Stressful jobs: Cops, doctors and others sometimes must prolong their shifts. In business, characters must deal with last-minute orders or important accounts.
  • Military, maritime and space settings often show enlisted personnel doing their turn at the night watch (sentries or guard duty). A cliche of these scenes is to show them battling sleepiness. If you've never seen the character until their watch, they may be a Red Shirt who ends up dead.
  • Terror. They are afraid of a lethal threat (robber, monster, alien, etc) which they believe will attack during the night, so they must keep watch until morning.
  • Anxiety. They feel nervous or worried over something which prevents them from falling asleep.
  • They have to keep thinking about a specific thing, trying to figure out something. Or perhaps they have just seen something and need Brain Bleach.
  • Self-imposed scientific or artistic experiment.
  • Crying babies and sick children who need their parents' care and help.
  • The character's spouse starts snoring.
  • They will watch just one last video... Just this one. And this one. How is it so late? Or so early in the morning?
  • They're on TV Tropes all night.
  • ... and more!

Related tropes and subtropes:

  • Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy: Not getting enough sleep can leave someone with a clouded state of mind, causing some rather dumb decisions.
  • Fell Asleep Driving: Characters who operate a vehicle while short on sleep tend to do this, usually to unfortunate or tragic results (though this occasionally can be Played for Laughs).
  • The Insomniac: Characters can't fall asleep for long periods of time.
  • Insomnia Episode: Characters are unable to sleep for one episode/chapter/installment.
  • Loud Sleeper Gag: A character's noisy sleeping causes other characters to get no sleep.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Characters guzzle caffeinated beverages to keep themselves awake, or to give themselves an energy boost when they're sleep deprived.
  • Never Sleep Again: Characters will endanger themselves if they fall asleep. They can't fall asleep and if they do, bad things happen. That's why they try to stay awake as long as possible.
  • Sleep Aesop: An Aesop about getting enough sleep.
  • Sleep Deprivation Punishment: Torture, punishment or abuse with sleep deprivation.
  • The Sleepless: Characters who don't need to sleep.
  • Sleepless Alarm Clock: Character finally gets to sleep after being up all night only for their alarm clock to go off.
  • Sneaking Out at Night: If they do it too often, their sleep schedule tends to suffer.
  • Triple Shifter: Characters who work multiple jobs or lead double life; their need of sleep (or lack of it) might be lampshaded or hand-waved.

Sleep-deprived examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yukio Okumura, the morally gray deuteragonist of Blue Exorcist, gets five hours of sleep a night on a good day. This is shown as just about as unhealthy as it actually would be, especially considering that Yukio's fifteen. He's dependent on caffeine to keep a clear head and prone to nodding off over his homework, and it's implied that his sleep deprivation is wearing away at his already fragile mental health.
  • In Death Note, L is a Great Detective that works day and night solving high-profile cases. Because of that, he has severe undereye circles, and relies on sugar to keep himself going. When he does sleep (only when he's too exhausted to continue and his body gives out on him), he's out for days.
  • Kimi no Knife: Shiki has a hard time going to sleep after completing his first hit because he can't get his mind off of the murder.
  • In Naruto, Gaara is unable to sleep before the Time Skip because of the One-Tailed Beast Shukaku sealed inside of him. In part because of this, he has dark circles around his eyes (although part of it is simply because Shukaku is a Tanuki).
  • In Silver Spoon, Hachiken has committed to an extraordinary workload leading up to the school festival, including cleaning the dorm, organizing a schedule for the campus pizza oven, competing in a horse-jumping competition, building a draft horse race track, helping out with other clubs' activities and his own class activities. He's clearly exhausted leading up to the festival - there's a scene where he's set about six alarm clocks to wake himself up at 3:30 AM to get some work done - but it comes to a head when he finally collapses from exhaustion the morning before the festival begins.
  • Ichico Nemuri of Undead Unluck is the Negator Unsleep, which makes it impossible for her to sleep. The resulting sleep deprivation has numerous detrimental effects - shortly after receiving the power, she's dazed and groggy enough to fall off a train platform, and one of her rescuers is killed by a train, while much later the accumulated strain causes her to die after giving birth to her daughter. In the 101st loop, Fuuko teaches her Astral Projection, which sends her power away with her soul, letting her body get some much-needed sleep and recover.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 71, Wolffy is deprived of sleep by Wolnie, who expects him to go catch goats. By the time Wolffy is preparing the big pot to cook their food, he's repeatedly on the verge of falling asleep on the spot; at the end of the episode, he actually beats Paddi at his record for longest sleep as a result.

    Comic Books 
  • In Irredeemable spin-off Incorruptible, Max Damage becomes increasingly strong and tough the longer he remains awake, and reverts to normal human levels when he sleeps. This leads him to force himself to say awake as long as possible — unfortunately, sleep deprivation and stimulant drugs have the same mental effects on him that they do on anybody else, which tends to mess up his judgment.
  • DC Retroactive Superman: In "The 80s" issue, Superman has been unable to have a good night of sleep eight days in a row because there is always some bizarre catastrophe preventing him from going to sleep.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Diana and Donna start having recurring nightmares about their mother's death, which keep them up and start effecting their work before they realize the nightmares are being imposed on them by Circe and are not just happening due to their grief and guilt over their mother's death.
  • Astro City: "In Dreams 2015" begins with Samaritan having problems sleeping; this causes him to become uncharacteristically irritable and to make careless mistakes.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon):
    • On a mundane level; a passing remark by Mariko indicates the disposable vagrants in Alan Jonah's employ have been losing sleep due to their growing fears of what their employers might do to them.
    • Madison is barely able to sleep the night before Monster X fully metamorphoses into their second form, knowing that one of its two minds is her now-transhuman Parental Substitute who she believed to be dead.
    • After Viv and San are first reborn as a merged Titan, a traumatized Vivienne is initially insomniac, whilst San notably goes without sleep so he can keep watch for Vivienne. Both of them have sleeping problems even after the insomnia has passed, due to episodes of Mind Rape that Ghidorah inflicts on them via their Psychic Link.
    • In the Abraxas: Empty Fullness one-shot "Damnatio Memoriae"; after the Old Noise is implanted into their biology and neurology, the captive Ichi, Ni and San are unable to sleep because of the Terrible Ticking constantly screaming and hurting their heads, and Ichi becomes Plagued by Nightmares which make him reluctant to sleep even if he could catch some.

  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku studies well into the night to cram a semester's worth of college-level physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering into his head in three weeks to build his web-shooters. He mentions that he nearly dozed off in class on numerous occasions and his mom caught him snoring into a textbook at 2:00 a.m.
  • In An Apple Sleep Experiment, Applejack drinks a potion that was meant to keep her awake for 24 hours straight, but it works too well and instead makes it impossible for her to sleep. By the time Twilight cures her, Applejack had already gone insane from lack of sleep and had killed several ponies due to insomnia-invoked hallucinations.
  • In brilliant lights will cease to burn, Izuku suffers from intense Sleep Deprivation over the course of the story between his Triple Shifter tendencies and inability to say no when someone asks for help. His sheer Heroic Fatigue makes him profoundly sarcastic and bitter to the point of joking about wishing for death practically every chapter.
  • Daily Equestria Life with Monster Girl: After Princess Luna accepts Cerea into the Night Guard, the first step is to "make her a Lunar" by having her stay awake all night in order to reset her sleep cycle for her nocturnal duties. Normally there are potions that can do this more quickly and easily, but nopony is sure whether they'll work correctly on a centaur. So Cerea has to do it the hard way: Staying up all night with the aid of lots of coffee.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: As recounted in "Exhaustion", Ami stayed awake for four days straight in an ice golem body, so she could maintain enough attention to handle "unforeseen complications" from a rescue mission.
  • Flowing Star: Downplayed. Due to the fact Stella explores the city midnight, she can occasionaly fall asleep as shown when she slept on a bench, only to be woken up by Girl Jordan.
  • In Gaz, Taster of PTSD, Gaz suffers from this as a result of recurring nightmares. The lack of decent sleep, and her refusal to talk out her root issues, causes her to start having Sanity Slippage until she has a breakdown. After a brief stay in a mental hospital, she starts getting better.
  • In this alternate ending to Love You Forever, the man is rewritten as only pretending to be asleep when his mother goes into his room at night and rocks him in her arms, and it leaving him tired at work.
  • In Lucys Secret Lucy wets the bed and doesn't get enough sleep due to her attempts to clean it up. She ends up falling Asleep in Class and being sent to the principal's office.
  • Much Ado About Shakespeare: Love's Labours Won: Horatio Hornblower is disgruntled at the beginning of the fic because he barely slept "thanks to that blasted storm". He gets annoyed with Archie for his quoting Shakespeare excessively.
  • In My Dream Is Yours, nearly every agent with Dream-Transfer-itis suffers from sleep deprivation from having recurring dreams that are not their own. Oona in particular has it bad, considering she's Cute and Psycho.
  • Opalescent: On New Year's Day, Opal is forced to come in to work due to Oprah refusing to give her agents the day off. Since she stayed up all night on New Year's Eve, Opal is sleep-deprived like every other one of her nurses, and to remedy this, she decides to use the Coffee-inator gadget that Oscar had invented on herself in place of drinking actual coffee, which she hates. It ends up working, and she becomes rejuvenated.
  • Past Sins: Glimpses: "Displeasing Constants" has Twilight and Nyx staying up until dawn the next day, having fun with predictive magic.
  • In Road Trip Rage, Lincoln is sleep deprived from waking up too early and falls asleep in the van.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged: Sleep deprivation turns out to be Kayaba Akihiko's real motivation for everything he tried. Or, rather, the extremely stupid decision he took while suffering from 500 hours' worth of sleep deprivation, which was to pretend the glitch that was killing players when their avatars died was completely intentional, and locking them in game to pretend to be an evil mastermind rather than an utter fuckup; he thought, at the time, the game would get better scores in Metacritic that way. When he had slept and got back to his senses, he realized how absolutely idiotic this was, but was in too deep to quit. He also notes, as an aside, that other effects of this level of sleep deprivation were thinking "Flubar, king of the mole men" ran the government, and that the night janitor was God.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Cars, Lightning, who really wants to be first on a trip to California, makes Mac stay up all night. This makes Mac groggy and leads to him falling asleep and losing Lightning.
  • In How to Catch a Cold, a flashback shows the man staying up late at a square dance and not getting enough sleep.
  • Incredibles 2: Bob is unable to sleep for several nights while trying to watch the kids, due to Dash's difficult math homework, Violet's relationship trouble, and Jack-Jack's newfound powers. He spends a chunk of the film completely exhausted and out-of-it.
  • Goob in Meet the Robinsons was sleep deprived for days due to Lewis being obsessed with an invention, with far-reaching consequences.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Gabriel from Drive, He Said stays up for days before his induction physical in the hopes that Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy will get him kicked out.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Monarch scientist Dr. Mancini is apparently due for some sleep when Mothra's egg is about to hatch early in the day, but he postpones it rather than miss the Queen's hatching (which ultimately gets him killed).
  • In Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), pods from space land on Earth, containing aliens that copy humans in their sleep. The Hero tries to stave off sleep as long as he can to avoid the alien menace.
  • The League of Gentlemen. Hyde tells everyone to get a good night's sleep before The Caper but everyone, including Hyde, is shown to be still awake the following morning. The only person who has a relaxing night is Lexy who slips out to see his girlfriend, only to get busted trying to sneak back into the house by the wide-awake Hyde.
  • My Cousin Vinny: A recurring gag throughout the film is that City Mouse Vinny (and his girlfriend Mona Lisa) can't get a good night's sleep due being unfamiliar with a noise of mostly rural small Southern town. The first two places they stay they get woken up incredibly early (by a pig farmer and an early train). The prosecution attorney loans them his cabin in the woods, but the sounds of animals keep them awake. It gets the point where, when he's held in contempt of court, he refuses to let Lisa bail him out hoping to finally get some rest. The scene cuts to a riot going on, with Vinny sound asleep as it reminds him of home in New Jersey.
  • Much of the drama and horror in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) comes from the fact that a person has to sleep sooner or later, no matter how drastic the measures they take to stay awake. And when they do sleep, Freddy will come for them.
  • The A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) (remake) ups the ante by including the concept of "micronaps," where a sleep-deprived brain will temporarily switch into a kind of sleep-mode to try and recover. So the kids aren't even safe from Freddy before the point where they simply can't stay awake any longer. The film also mentions that if you do push wakefulness far too long, you can fall into a permanent coma. Freddy's well aware of that fact, and is counting on it happening to Nancy.

  • Angela Nicely: In “Matchmaker!”, Angela wonders if Miss Darling stayed up too late to explain why she’s so grumpy.
  • In Both Can Be True, Daniel becomes so exhausted from Sneaking Out at Night to take care of Chewbarka that his grades suffer.
  • In the Clarice Bean book "Don't Look Now", Clarice gets very nervy and literally loses sleep over her worries.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • "The Ugly Truth"
      • Greg's class has a "lock-in" (i.e. slumber party) at school and is kept awake due to the other boys horsing around and the heating turning off.
      • Greg gets sleep-deprived because his alarm clock doesn't work, so he gets a wind-up one and hides it under his bed, but the ticking keeps him awake because it reminds him of a bomb, so he's sleep-deprived and falls asleep against the fire alarm at school, setting it off.
    • In "The Last Straw", Greg is kept awake by Rowley's rowdy friends at a sleepover and sleeps all day the next day.
    • In "The Third Wheel", Greg claims (probably insincerely) that he remembers being in utero, and that he's never gotten a good night's sleep since then.
  • Harrow the Ninth: Harrow forces herself to stay awake for six days straight when one of her fellow Lyctors starts trying to kill her. When she's still able to perform a punishingly difficult feat of Necromancy in that state, the Emperor is outright amazed and calls Mercymorn out for Underestimating Badassery.
  • Kea's Flight: While Draz is researching ways to save everyone aboard the Flying Dustbin after New Charity III is discovered to be uninhabitable, he loses so much sleep that he becomes irritable and starts getting into arguments with everyone.
  • In The Northern Caves, the Spelunkers stay up for 60 hours reading Mind Screw text, staying awake with caffeine and Adderall and not eating much. For the mundane interpretation of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, that is plenty enough to put someone into a distorted mental state.
  • In the novelisation of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin's nightmares of Padmé's death show up every time he sleeps, so he stops doing it and relies on the Force for strength and alertness. That might explain some of the irrational behaviour he demonstrates in the film.
  • Roys Bedoys:
    • In “Don’t Stay Up Late, Roys Bedoys!”, Roys stays up late playing a video game and is very sluggish the next day.
    • In “Distance Learning Has Rules, Roys Bedoys!”, Truly is tired while doing homeschooling, ostensibly because she had a late night.
  • In the Scaredy Squirrel book "Scaredy Squirrel at Night", Scaredy tries to stay up all night to avoid having nightmares, but experiences side effects of sleep deprivation, such as loss of memory and bad reflexes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Little Pete protests his bedtime, and declares that he's not going to stay up all night, but all week. He and his friends do just that, hoping to make it a week and abolish bedtimes forever as they fall to exhaustion one by one. The episode combines the show's trademark off-putting absurdity with a realistic look at how taxing it is on the body and mind to go that long without sleep.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, the first episode, "33", involves the Cylons attacking the fleet precisely every 33 minutes, forcing them to jump away. At the beginning of the episode, the crew of the Galactica have been up for nearly five days straight, unable to even rotate shifts. They handle it pretty well all things considered, only getting fairly irritable and occasionally breaking down in laughter. However, it's made clear the mental and physical effects will only increase until they are no longer be able to put up a sufficient fight against the Cylons.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, "The Work Song Nanocluster": Penny starts making artificial flowers, called "Penny Blossoms", and she sells them online. The guys become involved and Leonard makes the mistake of adding "one-day-rush order" button. They end up spending all night trying to make one thousand Penny Blossoms. They drink tons of coffee (even Sheldon, who considers it a dangerous drug) and are exhausted. When they are done, Penny receives another 24-hour order for one thousands flowers, but they no longer want to help because as Howard puts it, they do have lives of their own.
  • Better Call Saul: After starting her own firm, Kim becomes overwhelmed with her work from Mesa Verde. She loses sleep working overtime and eventually becomes so exhausted she can barely function. While driving on the highway, she veers off the road and crashes, narrowly escaping death but leaving with a broken arm.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • In episode "48 Hours", everyone has to work over the weekend to find evidence against the perp Jake Peralta arrested and the whole precinct skips sleeping. They just take a three-hour nap. They drink a lot of coffee and they all look slightly dishevelled because they had no shower, they have to wear the same clothes, Amy's contact lenses dried out and she only has huge glasses etc.
    • "Old School": Jake Peralta suffers from Sleep Deprivation and Hangover Sensitivity after old-school partying and drinking with an author of his favourite cop book and he has to work his cases as usual. At one moment, he slides onto the floor and just keeps lying there.
    • In "Unsolvable", Jake Peralta mentions that he's severely sleep-deprived when Captain Holt praises his work ethic and grants him a weekend off. However, Jake opts to work on a cold case and even pulls another all-nighter.
    • "The Mattress": Amy Santiago comes to work extremely tired. Her boyfriend Jake is surprised because they went to bed early, and then jokes that she's tired from all the amazing sex. She actually couldn't sleep because Jake has an old, lumpy mattress.
      Amy: No, I was up all night because your dumb, lumpy mattress is so uncomfortable.
      Jake: What? But I gave you the good lump.
      Amy: Ugh, please stop talking till I finish eating my coffee.
    • In "Terry's Kitties", Jake and Terry work on an old cold case, long thought to be unsolvable. They find a lead, only to hit a dead end. Terry leaves the case, while Jake stays up all night trying to solve it. Jake is once again in an unfocused, sleep-deprived state... but they solve the case nonetheless.
    • In "The Box", Peralta and Holt interrogate a murder suspect through the night. Peralta gets the confession in the morning. They go outside to talk and breath some fresh air. Holt suggests they get some sleep, and then Boyle greets them — their new shift is just about to start. Both are so pumped by their success that they barely care.
    • "He Said, She Said": Amy is working particularly hard on a case of sexual assault because it feels personal. She tries hard to crack it and find solid evidence for prosecution. She spends one night at work and in the morning she admits she's a mess. Jake listens to her concerns and tries to comfort her. Then he offers to get her a change of clothes and a coffee, and also a comb, but she doesn't have to use it unless she decides.
  • Cheers:
    • One episode has Woody start working a graveyard shift at a graveyard to help pay for his wedding. The end result is that Woody's a walking wreck on the day he's supposed to meet his fiancée's grandmother, and starts thinking she's someone he buried the night before. Which turns out to be sort of true. She was messing with him, but it all winds up good in the end - she's impressed by Woody's sleep-deprived spunk. Once the matter's sorted out, Woody's allowed to curl up and take a nap.
    • A season 11 episode has Sam accidentally shut his apartment keys in the bar after everyone's gone home. His attempts to get Carla's spare key doesn't work, since Sam had her's (also, she's having sex with John Allen Hill). With every hotel in town booked thanks to a shriner's convention, Sam tries staying the night at everyone else's place, but Norm kicks him out when Vera starts getting amorous (so that Norm can retake his beloved sofa-bed), Frasier's son Freddy is on a crying jag, and as for Cliff... Sam eventually tries going to Rebecca, who actually is willing to let him crash on her couch. But then she locks herself out of her own apartment as well.
  • Chicago Hope: Heart surgeon Kate Austen has spent extremely long hours operating. As a result, she inadvertently leaves an instrument inside a patient who later dies. Kate is crushed, and struggles whether to stay silent and protect both herself and the hospital, or tell the patient's parents.
  • Dexter:
    • Rita and her children Astor and Cody are being kept awake at night by their neighbour's dog. When Rita and Dex confront the neighbour, she just mocks them and says there's nothing they can do about it. Rita then takes the neglected dog to her friend and her nieces who will take care of their new pet.
    • Debra is a detective who pulls an all-nighter when she's searching for clues in the Skinner case (a serial killer of the season). She says she had a metric fuck-ton of coffee and is extremely fidgety in the morning.
    • Dexter stalks his victims at night and it's mentioned he's an extremely early riser who doesn't sleep well. In one episode when he finds Lumen, he spends the whole night with her trying to calm her down. When he comes home to his baby son and his new nanny in the morning, the nanny's pissed that she can't trust him because he didn't inform her he wouldn't be coming home.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In the flashback episode "100 Terrible Hours", Rob is shown working as a radio DJ doing a promotional stunt trying to break the record for the most hours broadcasting continuously without sleep... immediately after which, it turns out, he has his important job interview to be a writer on the Alan Brady Show. Needless to say, he is so sleep deprived that he bombs the interview completely, being a weepy, rambling, incoherent sloppy mess. Fortunately, the producers recognize the situation and give him a second opportunity.
  • It happens during the Doctor Who short titled "Clara and the TARDIS" as a result of the TARDIS continually hiding Clara's bedroom.
  • In the The Drew Carey Show episode after Kate left to join her Navy pilot husband in Guam (Creator/ChristaMiller left the show at the beginnig of season 8), Drew goes several nights without sleep because he keeps dreaming about Kate, and it gets to the point where it starts to affect his daily life. Eventually, Mimi takes pity on him and takes him to a junkyard, where after shooting some garbage with shotguns, he comes to the conclusion that him and Kate were not meant to be together, and it's best to just move on. With that part if his life behind him, he finally gets some much needed sleep.
  • Emergency!:
    • One episode's B plot is about Johnny not getting to sleep. He tries several different things and gets rubbed by the other guys who rig up a Stokes basket with ropes as a way to rock himself to sleep. In the end, he's half asleep when a minor call comes for the engine and climbs on the back of the rig as it leaves. Roy oddly doesn't alert anyone and just goes back to bed.
    • Another episode has the crew trying to sleep the night before a basketball game against another station. They get interrupted by runs and their attempt to nap the next day is interrupted by work on the station bathroom. They ultimately give up and go on to the gym.
  • Friends, episode "The One Where They're Up All Night":
    • 6 friends plus Tag are sitting on the roof looking for a comet. Everyone except Ross and Joey head back inside. Those two remain stranded on the roof. They go down the fire escape, but it doesn't go all the way down and it lasts for a long time until they finally make it.
    • Phoebe can't sleep because her fire alarm keeps going off. She rips it out of the wall and even smashes it, but the alarm continues to beep. She tries to throw it down the garbage chute; however, a fireman manages to find it and brings it back, reminding her that it's illegal to remove it. The alarm continues to go off, with Phoebe going crazy from the sound.
    • Tag and Rachel head to their office in the middle of the night to check for some contracts that were supposed to be mailed.
    • Chandler can't fall asleep, so he wakes Monica up and wants to talk. Monica however wants to go back to sleep. Chandler decides to read a boring book and make some hot milk to help him sleep, but makes a loud noise in the kitchen... which wakes Monica up for the night. They stay up and talk, then they have sex and somehow one or the other keeps falling asleep and getting woken up throughout the night. In the morning Chandler calls in sick and stays home from work.
  • In the Laverne & Shirley episode "Guinea Pigs", the protagonists volunteer for experiments. Laverne is in a sleep study, leaving her tired and floppy during the party they both go to afterwards.
  • In the LazyTown episode "Sleepless in Lazy Town", Pixel stays up late playing video games and is tired the next day, so Sportacus tells him that you need sleep to be energetic. Robbie Rotten overhears this and decides to have a sports competition with Sportacus the next afternoon and if Sportacus loses, he'll have to leave town. Robbie then creates a "noisy ball" to keep Sportacus up all night.
  • One episode of NCIS has McGee struggling to keep up with Gibbs' exhausting schedule — and ends up nodding off throughout the day, with the soundtrack providing an off-kilter rendition of "Brahms' Lullaby" each time.
  • Newhart: The TV station where Dick works holds a multi-day telethon, and circumstances lead to him being the sole host. He starts suffering from insufficient sleep, and in the end can only be lured off the set by Stephanie's "beautiful" rendition of "Old Man River".
  • The episode "Black Dolphin" in Ransom has the game challenge players to conduct this on themselves before they reach the 60th challenge.
  • Schitt's Creek: A very wired Moira comes home from Bosnia having not slept during her three-day plus journey and having taken one or two Bosnia uppers. She wakes up her husband and children to tell them some stories from the set of her film and then proceeds to "plow through" to make it an even four days. This leads to jealous Love Letter Lunacy when she finds some old letters Johnny had been reading in her absence, only to be told that she wrote the letters.
  • In Sesame Street:
    • When the Count slept over at Ernie and Bert's place, he kept Ernie awake by Counting Sheep out loud. Ernie tries to count sheep too, but it doesn't work.
    • In one episode, it's revealed that the Bear family sometimes takes all-day naps in lieu of hibernation. Baby Bear tries to skip his nap, but it leaves him very groggy and he keeps falling asleep.
  • Played for laughs in Star Trek: Enterprise when the crew is forced to prematurely wake up Dr. Phlox whose species normally only sleep once per year. The results are hilarious.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation explores this in "Night Terrors" when the Enterprise comes across another Federation starship where all of the crew (except one) killed themselves or each other. Investigation determines that the ship became trapped in a Tyken's Rift with an alien vessel whose attempts at communication slowly drove the crew mad through sleep deprivation (specifically, deprivation of REM sleep and dreaming). Now the same thing is happening to the Enterprise crew.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Waking Moments", the whole crew has nightmares (except the Doctor), and Neelix is kept awake by his, which leaves him spacey. Chakotay then has to keep himself awake to avoid falling into the deep sleep the aliens have put the others into.
    • In "Muse", Tuvok seems to forget how long Vulcans can go without sleep for, leading to him being sleep deprived.
    • In "Lineage", B'Elanna loses sleep worrying about her unborn daughter's future and her own past. She catches up on sleep before the end of the episode, though.
  • In Season 7 of Supernatural, Sam is severely deprived of sleep by Lucifer in his head keeping him awake.
  • In the pilot episode of Whiskey Cavalier, Frankie threatens to put Edgar in a Black Site for supposedly hacking confidential NSA data and he gets paranoid that the black site personnel will conduct sleep deprivation torture. Except that Edgar believes that he's being put there because he found incriminating data regarding a potential Double Agent inside the agency.
  • Wings: Helen suffers a concussion and has to stay awake for an extended period of time. She gets more and more loopy, culminating in a "Helen doesn't live here anymore" moment. Then when she's finally medically cleared to sleep, a buzzing airplane keeps her awake.
  • Zoey 101:
    • In one episode, Dustin has agreed to help Quinn with an experiment by wearing a bracelet that shocks him when he starts to fall asleep. He quickly starts to hate it, becoming irritable and delirious in addition to being constantly tired.
    • In an episode, none of the people in the boys' dorm can get a full night sleep for at least three days, as they keep being woken up in the middle of the night for a fire alarm. When it turns out to be Logan's expensive new phone causing it, he gets beaten up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Don't Rest Your Head has the main characters, who are known as the Awake for a reason. To enter the Mad City, you have to remain awake well beyond what's reasonable, and once you're in it, falling asleep makes you prey to all sorts of unspeakable things. One of the main game mechanics is Exhaustion, which adds dice to your rolls... but if the highest-number die in the pool is Exhaustion, you add one to your total, and if your Exhaustion hits 6 or higher, you can't stay awake any longer and Crash. If you're lucky, you'll die.
  • Unknown Armies has the Oneiromancers, adepts who gain power from staying awake. The catch is that they lose all of that power when they fall asleep, or if they aren't actively being hindered by their lack of sleep. The founder of the school is a Mind Hive between a set of twins, known as the Dyad, that never needs to sleep, giving it an endless stream of power. There's a catch here, too - if the Dyad was ever forced to sleep, it could very well wipe out the entire school of magick in one go.

    Video Games 
  • The All-Night Mask in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has the description that it doesn't let its wearer fall asleep, even if they want to. It's used in the game to allow Link to stay awake through Granny's long stories (and earn a prize by doing so), but supplementary information within the game indicates it was originally used as a torture device.
  • Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear Solid has a reputation for staying in one place, waiting for her target, without eating or sleeping for days.
  • In The Sims, if you let your Sim's sleep meter go down too low, they'll act tired and grumpy.

    Web Animation 
  • Etra-chan saw it!: Karin is a nurse who didn't get enough sleep because she had to deal with many patients in the hospital she works for during the COVID pandemic. Tokusa also didn't get any sleep due to his job as a doctor, experiencing similar things like Karin did.

  • The Greenhouse: Mica can't seem to feel rested, which is weird because she's never had that problem before, even in high-stress situations and worse beds. Probably nothing to do with the creepy mirror she broke or the strange figure she's been glimpsing ever since as she wakes up and in reflections. Demonic Possession is a thing of fiction. ...Yeah, it's the demon 'Red' feeding on her soul. Once she gets a charm to protect her and then a second one because she breaks the first, she's able to get enough rest, but the Exhausted Eye Bags never go away, a constant reminder that however stable things may seem, her bond with Red is not healthy for her. Once her bond with Red is severed, the Exausted Eye Bags finally disappear, and presumably this trope is no longer in effect.
  • NEXT!!! Sound of the Future'': Gumiya used to lose sleep over the stress of being unable to find a job.
  • Oglaf: Sir Coffee cannot get any sleep because he's always The Only One who can save the princess or the townspeople or whatever disaster unfolds that requires immediate attention.
  • The Petri Dish: One strip has Thaddeus tired at work from having been kept awake by Gwog.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Lalli is originally The Night Owl due to his night scout work schedule. During the expedition, he ends up being needed during the day on a regular basis as well, resulting in him working during his usual sleeping hours and being quite the Sleepyhead.

    Web Video 
  • LOCAL58's "Real Sleep" video's final section shows a bunch of nightmare faces and subliminal messages against sleep and dreaming.
  • CollegeHumor:
    • Sketch "The Horrors of Hungover Traveling" has Zac trying to catch a flight while being brutally hungover and extremely sleep deprived. The flight gets delayed and he passes out lying over several seats at the airport.
    • "I Got NO Sleep Last Night" is considered the most boring conversation imaginable. Zac keeps bringing it up and wants to tell it in elaborate detail.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In "The Chase", Azula's group starts pursuing Aang's right as the latter was about to go to sleep. The lack of sleep aggravates tensions between Katara and the newly joined Toph, and causes Appa (their main means of conveyance) to slow down and crash.
    • "Nightmares and Daydreams" has Aang unable to sleep due to stress over the impending attack on the Fire Nation, which causes him to have Anxiety Dreams.
  • The Beetlejuice episode "Poe-Pourri" has Beej desperately trying to get a decent night's sleep (which you wouldn't expect a dead guy to need) but constantly being interrupted by various elements of Edgar Allan Poe's works. It's subverted in the end, when the entire episode is revealed to have been a series of nested bad dreams he was having.
  • Big City Greens: In "Sleepover Sisters", Tilly and Andromeda hold a slumber party where they try to stay awake all night on purpose, thinking it will give them a psychic link. Cricket, on the other hand, can't fall asleep without Tilly's snoring and crashes their sleepover.
  • One episode of Clone High uses this as a G-Rated Drug. Abe refuses to sleep in order to study for a standardized test and Joan is forced to give him an intervention, saying how she used to "cut class to stay awake" until she was forced to go to sleepaway camp to cure it.
    Joan: (shows an Embarrassing Tattoo on her ankle) My judgement was so poor due to sleep deprivation that I actually paid money for this!
  • In a Doc McStuffins episode, Doc and Emmie stay up too late at a slumber party, while Susie Sunshine stays up all night because her eyes are glued open. The resulting sleep deprivation makes Doc and Emmie sleepy and spacey, and Susie grumpy.
  • In the MGM cartoon, "Doggone Tired", a rabbit tries to sabotage a dog's night sleep so he'll be too tired for his rabbit hunt the next day. He succeeds, but also makes himself tired in the process. By the next morning, the dog ends up going down the rabbit hole, but instead of flushing the rabbit out for his owner, the two end up going to bed.
  • Dragons: Race to the Edge episode, "The Longest Day" features 'The Midnight Sun', a 2 week endless day. As a result all characters suffer from this in different ways. Hiccup becomes careless with a slower reaction time; Astrid is overcome with euphoria, becoming obnoxiously optimistic and carelessly carefree; Snotlout suffers from severe mood swings, switching from laughing to crying to shouting in an instant; and Fishlegs becomes increasingly paranoid of the others. Heather loses all sense of coordination, tripping on her own feet and spilling her water bucket trying to clean Windshear. She later starts losing focus, confusing Windshear with a rock. Ruffnut and Tuffnut are overcome by visual hallucinations; Gothi spends her time "babbling" for hours, drawing in the sand with a blank stare; and Sven dances with his sheep, though Hiccup points out that he does that all the time. Eventually, the dragons just dump them in a dark cupboard to sleep it off.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Because Timmy wants to experience the night, he wishes that he and the rest of the world would never sleep. The sleep deprivation quickly catches up to Cosmo and Wanda, making them hideous and grouchy.
  • Futurama: In the episode "Fry and the Slurm Factory", Slurms MacKenzie, the original party worm working in advertising for Slurm, is partied out. He's covering red eyes under his cool shades and all he wants to do is stay home and rent videos.
  • In Hanas Helpline, one episode focused on Hana trying to help Bert, a bear who can't get enough sleep at night.
  • Justice League: In "Only a Dream", Batman has already been awake for three days working on another case when Dr. Destiny attacks the other Leaguers in their sleep. Being Batman, he powers through and takes the villain down, finally getting some sleep afterwards.
  • The Loud House:
    • In "The Crying Dame", Lily plays with her noisy toy at night, causing all her siblings to become sleep deprived.
    • In "Store Wars with the Casagrandes", the Santiago/Casagrande family tries to work at night to make more money, which causes them to be very sleepy and, in Carlos Sr.'s case, grumpy.
    • In "The Price of Admission", Lincoln has insomnia from watching a horror movie, so he stays up all night and is sleepy the next morning.
  • Mr Krbec and his Animals: Ruprecht and Kokesh can't sleep one night because Mr Krbec snores, and extremely loudly at that. The whole castle is shaking! Ruprecht keeps waking him up in attempts to stop the noise, but it always continues after Mr Krbec falls asleep again. Mr Krbec oversleeps the following morning.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Applebuck Season", Applejack is tired from staying up all night harvesting apples.
    • In "Sleepless in Ponyville", Scootaloo doesn't get enough sleep due to worrying about a headless mare.
    • In "Princess Spike", Twilight stays awake for three whole days while preparing for the Grand Equestrian Pony Summit, to the point she's weary with Exhausted Eye Bags during the opening ceremony, and Spike has to fill in for her while she naps.
  • Nature Cat: In "No Rest for the Squeeky", Squeeks decides to stay up all night and tries to prove to the others that not all animals sleep. However, as she does her daily activities at night, everyone (even a flock of robins) kept telling her that all animals sleep and in the end Squeeks finally gets tired.
  • The Oblongs: Bob and Pickles have such an active sex life that Milo gets anxious and can't sleep if he doesn't hear their bed creaking. When his parents go through a rough patch and stop having sex, Milo becomes zombie-like and desperate to get some shut-eye.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In episode "KO's Heath Week", at the end by Friday at hike trip, K.O. has this badly due to, ironically, staying up late researching health facts for his health week.
  • In one episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, thanks to Julian and the lemurs playing loud dance music nonstop every night, Skipper hadn't been able to get any sleep for a week straight, causing him to become unhinged more than usual. At the same time, Private had developed an interest in Shakespearean shows that were playing in the park and found himself spouting some of the Bard's quotes. In his delusional state, Skipper thought Private was talking in code and believed the actors in the shows were enemy agents.
  • Popeye the Sailor suffers from this in "Me Musical Nephews". All he wants is to get some sleep, but his nephews refuse to stop playing loud music for long, even after being sent to bed. And no matter how quick he is when trying to catch them in the act, he always finds them faking sleep. Eventually, he gives up and tries to escape the cartoon by manually doing the Iris Out, but it doesn't work.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: The duo end up in the army, and Ren suffers from this after being blasted out of his bunk by Reveille seconds after laying down.
    Ren: Pss, hey Guido. Its all so clear to me now. I'm the keeper of the cheese... and you're the lemon merchant, you get it? And he KNOWS it. That's why he's gonna KILL US. So we got to beat it... ya... before he lets loose the marmosets on us! Don't worry little missy... I'LL SAVE YOU!
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Day of the Flecko", Rocko has to cancel his camping trip with Heffer after he was forced to work late. He spends the day trying to sleep, but everything is keeping him awake, from an annoyingly loud bird, to Spunky wanting to play, and finally a fly named Flecko who keeps flying around and pestering him.
  • Rugrats:
    • In the episode "No Naps", Tommy spends the episode tired because he hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before.
    • In "Grandpa's Bad Bug", Grandpa Lou breaks his promise to his son Stu not to stay up too late and stays up all night gambling. He then goes back to bed to sleep all day, lying that he caught a bug, which leads to the babies thinking he ate a (bad) bug.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer gets a second job in the episode where Lisa gets a pony. He works days (his old power plant job) and nights (his new job in the Kwik-E-Mart). He gets no sleep and is absolutely exhausted.
    • In one "Treehouse of Horror" segment, the kids try to stay awake as long as possible. If they fall asleep, Willy kills them. It's rather desperate attempt because they know they can't stay awake forever.
    • Another Treehouse episode has all-powerful Reality Warper Bart forcing Krusty to stay continuously on the air. Fortunately, Sideshow Mel has some totally legal over the counter wake up drugs!
    • In one episode, there is a new airport in the Evergreen Terrace. The whole family can't sleep and are in poor shape physically as a result.
    • Marge can't sleep well when Homer starts snoring.
    • Maggie is crying non-stop in one episode when they try to take away her dummy. Cue the whole family looking like zombies without their sleep.
    • Apu once works a 96 hour shift at the Kwik-e-mart. By the end of it, he's hallucinating that he's a hummingbird.
    • When Lisa befriends and spends time with two college girls, she attends a poetry reading session with them in the evening. She forgot to do a project for her class and has to do it at night. She falls asleep in class the next day and destroys her model. It's still the best work and she gets A minus.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode "Can an Evil Genius Crash on Your Couch for a Few Days?", Sonic and Tails are unable to get any sleep because of Eggman, who's become their roommate because his island fortress was damaged in a storm and needs repairs, and he keeps them up all night with TV, board games, and spontaneous pillow fights. It turns out this was part of his evil plan: he lied about the fortress getting damaged, and he intended to keep Sonic and Tails awake so they'd be too tired to stop his Obliterator Bot. This winds up coming back to bite him when Obliterator Bot mishears his commands to destroy Team Sonic and leaves to destroy Eggman's fortress instead; he asks for the help of his archenemies to prevent this, but when it comes time to defend the lair, Sonic and Tails are too tired to act on his instructions to disable Obliterator Bot, forcing him to use a kazoo to snap them out of it so the team can finally take the robot down. Even then, they couldn't save the fortress from getting destroyed for real.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Fear of a Krabby Patty", when Krusty Krab starts opening for 24 hours a day, Mr. Krabs gets an order of 10000 Krabby Patties. Cue SpongeBob making patties nonstop, without any sleep, for days. This later results in him hallucinating people as walking, talking Krabby Patties.
  • In the Total Drama Island episode "The Big Sleep", the challenge of the day for the contestants is to stay awake as long as possible.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: In "Crab Quakes," Mr. E was asleep at his stand because he didn't get enough sleep the previous night. And as it turns out, the crabs didn't get much sleep either. The cause of this issue was a sound made by a toy delivered to the Everything Emporium.
  • A Yogi Bear cartoon revolved around Yogi and Boo-Boo getting ready to hibernate for the winter, but Yogi's sleep is repeatedly interrupted by the characters from Snow White. First, Snow White herself looking for the seven dwarfs, then the dwarfs looking for Snow White, then Snow White again having just missed them. Yogi gets gradually more and more irritable with each interruption so he goes out and ends up helping the story come to a conclusion by setting Snow White up with Prince Charming. The cartoon ends with Yogi thinking he can finally get some sleep only to find that the dwarfs had fallen asleep in his bed, and angrily kicks them all out.
    Dwarf 1: Grouchy, old bear!
    Dwarf 2: They're always grouchy around this time of the year!

    Real Life 
  • Artist Salvador Dalí deliberately gave himself sleeping problems for the sake of his art. He typically slept in an armchair, while holding a spoon over a metal plate—so as soon as he began to relax, he'd drop the spoon and the resulting sound would wake him back up again. Dali claimed this prevented him from dreaming in his sleep, so he instead dreamed while awake, and used those as artistic inspiration.
  • During the American Presidential election of 1800, Aaron Burr nearly died while trying to run an entire campaign for his party nearly single-handedly. This was only the most extreme incident; Burr had previously been known for refusing to sleep in college and in the military as well.
  • Randy Gardner holds the world record for going 264 consecutive sleepless hours without using stimulants. Do Not Try This at Home. Guinness World Records no longer keep records for sleep deprivation out of concern for the ill effects.
  • Keith Richards, to no one's surprise, once managed to go a whopping nine days without sleeping before simply collapsing from exhaustion.


Twilight needs a nap

Twilight is too sleepy to do anything.

How well does it match the trope?

3.8 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / SleepDeprivation

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