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Somnambulism, commonly known as sleepwalking, is the phenomenon where a person, while sleeping, performs physical activities, often with their eyes open but unresponsive to the world. Within the real world, the sleepwalker will typically have their eyes open and will move as normal, if sometimes a bit slower as if tired. Any complex action that is performed while awake may be replicated while sleepwalking, including unlocking of doors, catching trains, driving cars, even sex and murder.

The sleepwalker typically avoids obstacles, but still may be injured by non-routine events such as tripping hazards or closed doors. The disorder is common in children, but is typically grown out of. It is rarer in adults and consistent bouts of sleepwalking may indicate various psychological or brain disorders. Because sleepwalking typically occurs outside of REM sleep, dreams very seldom correlate with the actions while sleepwalking.

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Likely symptoms include:

  • Eyes open during sleep
  • May have blank look on face
  • May sit up and appear awake during sleep
  • Walking during sleep
  • Performing other detailed activity of any type during sleep
  • Not remembering the sleepwalking episode when they wake up
  • Acting confused or disoriented when they wake up
  • Rarely, aggressive behavior when they are awakened by someone else
  • Sleep talking that does not make sense

In fiction, sleepwalking is generally portrayed with the sleepwalker having both arms extended in front of them, eyes closed (and in some extreme cases, blindfolded), and possibly even snoring. The sleepwalker will again perform complex actions, but will almost always have an uncanny ability to avoid dangers in their world that they really shouldn't be aware of.

Folklore regarding sleepwalking states that waking a sleepwalker is dangerous, but in reality, the worst that may happen is confusion as they awake in a strange place.

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See also Talking in Your Sleep, a related phenomenon, and Escort Mission or Badly Battered Babysitter for the frequent trope involving other characters trying to shepherd the sleepwalking character past danger without waking them due to the old wives' tale.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • In one old commercial for Post Fruity Pebbles, Barney pretends he's sleepwalking to get Fred's Pebbles; Fred doesn't wake him up, afraid that it's dangerous, but when he's upset that Barney's eating his Pebbles, Barney tells him there's more in the cupboard... And blows his cover as a result.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Fam from Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing has a pretty bad case, especially since she's a Sky Pirate. The first scene of the entire show is her stripping off, opening the hanger door of their airship and walking out, saved only by a rope with a bell on it tied to her leg. Episode 4 also shows that there's a mat placed below the entrance to her loft bedroom to cushion her inevitable falls.
  • In one Magic Knight Rayearth omake, Hikaru nearly sleepwalks out of the tent and shouting "Let's go!" while Umi tries to hold her back... and then Fuu catches it and starts sleep-tickling Umi. The next day, they're quite puzzled by Umi's inexplicable fatigue.
  • Asuka attempting to kiss Shinji in his sleep in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Subverted, she later claims that she was faking it. Then again, this is Asuka we're talking about.
  • Cavendish from One Piece has a second personality, Hakuba, that only appears when he is sleeping.
  • Ranma ½:
    • Akane takes this a step further: she fights in her sleep.
    • Ranma has a couple of sleepwalking episodes, each time when he's been starving and hence makes a beeline to the fridge in his sleep.
  • Rito from To Love-Ru. Stated to be "wild" when he's asleep according to Momo. And by that, she means that should a girl get close enough to him while he's asleep (say by getting into his bed alongside him), he'll eventually grab on to her and start fondling her without ever waking up... while talking about sweets.
  • In World Conquest Zvezda Plot, Professor Um has a tendency to sleepwalk, at one point sleepwalking into Asuta's bed during the night. Itsuka jumps to the wrong conclusion upon finding them together in bed in the morning and is ready to beat Asuta up, but the other Zvezda members quickly let him off the hook because they're used to Um sleepwalking.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 12 is about the goats trying to cure Tibbie of the effects of some sleepwalking grass that she ate, which causes her to sleepwalk and hurt the others.

    Comedy 
  • Comedian Mike Birbiglia has this problem, which he details in his book Sleepwalk With Me. One incident had him jump from a window while asleep, which almost took his life. As a result, he only allows himself to sleep on the first floor of a building.

    Comic Books 
  • The Marvel Comics character Sleepwalker, whose body is taken over by an alien being at night when he's asleep.
  • One of Venom's early appearances — as the symbiote rather than as just clothes, and before he was separated from Spider-Man — has him take Peter Parker out for a swing while Parker is completely asleep. Parker later wonders why he's so tired.
  • In Marvel Star Wars, Luke once goes into a Force-induced coma where he has to fight a Vader-shaped manifestation of his own fear. Meanwhile, he gets captured, stripped, and Strapped to an Operating Table. As he starts to win, his eyes open, he breaks free of the table, and he fights off a horde of guards while still fighting in the dream. He's rather surprised when he wakes up.
  • In a Richie Rich comic book story, Richie's dog Dollar pretends to sleepwalk so that he could binge on what is in the kitchen refrigerator without Chef Pierre stopping him. However, Chef Pierre ends up pretending to sleepwalk so that he could chase Dollar out of the kitchen the next time he pretended to sleepwalk in order the raid the kitchen.
  • Paul Same, a friend of Howard the Duck, had a sleepwalking alter ego called the Winky-Man, who committed parodic acts of vigilantism that the meek Paul would never do while awake.
  • In Magic: The Gathering (IDW), the villain Ashiok creates a curse which causes mages to sleepwalk and commit crimes in their sleep.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's parents often think he's been sleepwalking whenever the "homicidal psycho jungle cat" (that is, Hobbes) jumps him while he's going to get a drink of water. In one strip, Hobbes goes sleepwalking and makes a tuna sandwich, while Calvin follows him in a state of confusion and mild concern, and ultimately gets the blame for making a mess in the kitchen.
  • ''Garfield:
    • Played with in This comic, where Garfield pretends to be sleepwalking so Jon won't punish him for eating a whole chicken. Jon almost falls for it, but Garfield blows it when he begins to shred the curtains too.
    • In this comic, Odie went sleepwalking while dreaming he is burying a bone, and ended up burying Garfield in the backyard.

    Fan Works 
  • Us and Them: Pregnant Cetra are apparently prone to sleepwalking episodes, among other things.

    Films — Animation 
  • Wilhemina Packard from Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire is said to sleepwalk, though we don't see her do it. The fact that she sleeps in the nude probably has something to do with it. The other characters wear sleep masks because of this.
  • Dory from Finding Dory not only still sleep-talks, but she's also started sleep-swimming as well. Marlin and Nemo even note that she's been doing it often.
  • The Grinch (2018): While the Grinch steals the Whos' holiday decorations, he encounters a sleepwalking Who, whom he gets rid of my giving him a glass of milk.
    Sleepwalking Who: Thank you, Mommy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Trope Maker for the "arms extended in front" pose is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
  • Frankenstein's Monster and zombies are usually portrayed as walking like this, with hands outstretched. While they're not technically asleep, they are resurrected dead — death often being compared metaphorically to a permanent sleep. In the original Universal film series Frankenstein's Monster only did this after an incompatible brain transplant, making him blind. And arguably, making him no longer the same character. It was then Ygor's brain in the monster's body. Most parodies of the Universal Frankenstein use this pose though, without bothering with the reason why.
  • In Phenomena, main character Jennifer is a sleepwalker, and the plot of the movie kicks off when she witnesses a murder while sleepwalking. Notably, during her second sleepwalking episode, she actually realises that she's sleepwalking and tries to snap herself out of it. She fails, but then she hears a gunshot and wakes up.
  • One of the side effects of an experimental antidepressant called Ablixa in Side Effects is sleepwalking. Emily, who has tried many other antidepressants to no avail, is determined to keep taking it despite sleepwalking, during which she prepares food for three people... even though it's just her and her husband at the apartment. Then, one night, she stabs her husband during one such episode. In the end, her psychiatrist finds out that this was all a scheme by Emily and her former psychiatrist to cause the stocks of the manufacturer of the drug to plummet and cash in on the knowledge; killing her husband, whom she secretly hated, was a bonus; her new psychiatrist's ruined career was just collateral damage. Fortunately, the psychiatrist ends up proving himself a Magnificent Bastard, and the women end up paying for their crimes.
  • In Secondhand Lions, Hub is a sleepwalker who does weapons drills by the lake at night.
  • Curse of the Crimson Altar: Under the effects of hypnosis, Robert almost sleepwalks into a lake, but is saved by a passing policeman.
  • In Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper, Ruth follows a sleepwalking Sadie, trying to keep her out of danger. However, Sadie enters a room where they find the Ripper killing a victim. Despite her best efforts, Ruth cannot wake Sadie up and she is forced to watch as the Ripper slits Sadie's throat. Ruth then wakes up and realises that this was a dream (although Sadie's odd choice of sleeping attire should have been a subtle clue). There is no evidence in the rest of the film that Sadie actually suffers from somnambulism.

    Literature 
  • In The Bobbsey Twins, Freddie suffers a bout of sleepwalking where he gets up and stands in front of Flossie's bed, making her think there's a ghost.
  • In The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey, sleepwalking is one of the annoying habits of the eponymous Doubtful Guest.
    In the night through the house it would aimlessly creep
    In spite of the fact of it being asleep.
  • In Heidi, Heidi starts sleepwalking in Frankfurt as her health fails due to homesickness. At first the servants believes the Sesemann's Big Fancy House is haunted, until the doctor and Mr. Sesemann find a sleepy Heidi in the front door murmuring about her home...
  • A plot point in The Moonstone.
  • In Dracula, Lucy is a chronic sleepwalker who sleepwalks all the way across Whitby to the cemetery overlook the night she's first bitten by the eponymous vampire.
  • In The Entail Daniel sleepwalks to repeat the actions of the night he committed a murder. Then his ghost continues it.
  • Dr. Seuss takes it Up to Eleven in The Sleep Book:
    Do you walk in your sleep? I've just had a report
    Of some interesting news of this popular sport.
    Near Finnigan Fenn there's a sleepwalking group
    Which not only walks, but walks a-la-hoop!
    Every night, they go miles. Why they walk at such length
    They have to keep eating to keep up their strength.
    So Every so often, one puts down his hoop
    Stops hooping and does some quick snooping for soup.
    And that's why they are known as the Hoop-Soup-Snoop-Group.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A victim in 1000 Ways to Die is a woman who lives in a boat and dies by falling into the sea when she's in a sleepwalking daze, drowning herself as a result.
  • Angel has an episode called "Somnambulist", in which there is a string of murders that seem to be committed by a vampire, in Angelus' Signature Style no less. Angel starts having (and enjoying) dreams about killing at the same time the murders are occurring, so naturally he suspects he has been sleepwalking and doing the killing. It turns out to be Angelus' former protégé, who is then killed.
  • On A.N.T. Farm, Olive does this during a slumber party. While sleepwalking she makes rooster noises, plays golf and sleep-knits, and isn't aware that she sleepwalks.
  • El Chavo del ocho has a two-parter episode in which Don Ramón, mortified by the fact El Chavo is always hungry, starts sleepwalking at night, and leaving an empty plate inside his barrel. Doña Clotilde also sleepwalks, apparently due to her "little yellow-chested sparrow" escaping from its cage (and mistaking Don Ramón for it while she's asleep). For some reason, Quico and Doña Florinda are also seen sleepwalking.
  • In Cougar Town, Jules has trouble sleeping, so she takes a sleeping pill. The next morning she wakes up fine, but everyone else is tired. Turns out the pill caused Jules to sleepwalk, keeping everyone awake with her antics.
  • CSI has an unusual take on this where the victim - a football coach who was killed via blunt force trauma - performed his morning routine before walking out of the house and keeling over dead, with a minor difference - he wasn't asleep, he was brain-dead.
  • CSI: NY had "Night, Mother", where a sleepwalking woman was suspected of stabbing a man with a wooden stake. It was found that the real killer stabbed the victim, then the sleepwalker went through the actions she'd seen used to try and save her young son, who died in a car crash years earlier. She did CPR, then tried to reach in and massage the dead woman's heart.
  • In Desperate Housewives, Orson's guilt over having run over Mike which indirectly led to his painkiller addiction eventually causes him to sleepwalk while muttering apologies. For added embarrassment, he sleeps in the nude...
  • An episode of Diagnosis: Murder had Mark's sleepwalking brother suspected of accidentally smothering another patient. It turned out he was framed and the real killer planted the pillow in his hands.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show had a two part episode with Rob's brother, who was shy and nervous awake but outgoing and funny while asleep. Rob and the others try to help him see that he can be the same way awake as asleep and do a comedy show.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Haunting of Villa Diodati", Dr. John Polidori's penchant for sleepwalking makes him immune in that state to a Perception Filter that is involved in the house being twisted into a Mobile Maze, and also allows the Doctor to figure out how everyone can escape from where they're currently trapped and move around the house again.
  • The Drew Carey Show had the title character sleep-eating.
  • One episode of Family Matters centered around Steve sleepwalking into Carl and Harriette's bedroom in the middle of the night and repeatedly hitting Carl over the head with a rolled-up newspaper. While visiting a therapist, it's discovered that Steve was doing this because he was mad at Carl because he overheard him say that he hated Steve and wished that he would move away after he accidentally broke a model ship Carl was working on.
  • On Happy Endings, Max accuses Dave of eating his food while asleep, so he sets up a video camera to catch him in the act. Turns out Dave does sleepwalk, but he's not the culprit; the real food thief is the guy secretly living in their attic.
  • Hogan's Heroes: Hogan has Newkirk fake sleepwalking in order to distract the guards. As Newkirk's wandering around outside, Schultz comes up to him and tries to wake him up. Newkirk "mistakes" him for a beautiful lady and begins to stroke Schultz's face... until he comes to his mustache.
  • House:
    • One of House's clinic patients is a women who got pregnant because she had sex with her ex-boyfriend while sleepwalking.
    • Another patient is a sleepwalker who went as far as to buy cocaine in his sleep.
  • An episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent had a sleepwalking cop as a suspect. His neighbour had deliberately hidden his condition from him so she could use him as a fall guy.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "Hawk's Nightmare" has Hawkeye suffering from this (up to and including shooting imaginary baskets in his sleep) in addition to bad dreams.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "The Great and the Good", the killer takes advantage of the local schoolteacher's sleepwalking, combined a little strategic Gaslighting, to make her believe she might be the murderer.
  • Mikayla from The Millers pretends to be sleepwalking, complete with outstretched arms, when Carol catches her in the kitchen late at night digging into meat lasagna.
  • One episode of the anthology series Murder in Mind featured Deborah, a student (Keeley Hawes), who suffered from episodes of sleepwalking. Then she woke up one morning to find herself clutching a bloodstained hammer, and her cheating boyfriend was nowhere to be found. The boyfriend turned up at the end, alive and well. Not so Deborah's best friend, who she'd subconsciously realised was the woman her boyfriend was fooling around with.
  • One episode of Parks and Recreation had Leslie discovering Ron has a disorder that occasionally causes him to have "sleep fights", which startled her when he suddenly started punching the air while passed out on a couch. When Leslie asks him if that's terrible, he replied "Only if I'm losing."
  • One episode of Perry Mason had this be the plot of an episode, where the defendant allegedly commits murder while sleepwalking.
  • In one multi-part episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Bulk and Skull (who were, at the time, police cadets) were trying to figure out who the graffiti artist was who kept targeting the juice bar. As it turned out, the culprit was Skull himself, who was doing it while sleepwalking. (He actually claimed he did this before, having spray-painted his parent's whole house once. Sure, it's kind of hard to believe, but still...)
  • Shakespeare & Hathaway - Private Investigators: In "The Chameleon's Dish", Frank and Lou's attempts to establish their client's innocence are complicated by the fact that he was found sleepwalking near the Body of the Week, and that earlier that night he attempted to strangle someone in his sleep.
  • In the Shining Time Station episode, "Mr. Conductor's Big Sleepwalk", Mr. Conductor gets a job as the Sandman's helper. He accidentally sneezes sleepy sand in his eyes, causing him to walk and talk in his sleep. He wanders around, gets lost and cannot spread his magic dust at night to help everyone sleep. Meanwhile, the kids try to keep Schemer and J.B. King from seeing and hearing Mr. Conductor.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "One", Tom Paris is revealed to be a sleepwalker when Seven of Nine catches him fallen in the doorway to the room where the stasis chambers were located during the crew's trip through a dangerous nebula.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had Zack sleepwalking and sleep-barricading the hotel he stays in after watching a zombie flick. Needless to say, his mother was not pleased.
  • An episode of Two and a Half Men displays an unusually realistic example of sleepwalking. Alan wanders around at night doing things like vacuuming and baking, seeming for all the world like he's awake, apart from his speech consisting of absolute nonsense and the fact that he hasn't turned the vacuum on (he provides its sounds himself) and that he didn't bring a mixing bowl, resulting in his "baking" leaving a mess all over the dining table. Another episode reveals that Charlie routinely makes surprisingly good homemade chili while he's blacked-out drunk.

    Music 
  • They Might Be Giants has the song "Sleepwalkers," which is about, well, what you'd expect, and references the "arms held out, eyes closed" thing.
  • The main character of Megadeth's "Sleepwalker" kills people in his sleep.
  • Averting this trope is hailed as one of the few positive results of insomnia in The Go-Gos' "You Can't Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can't Sleep)".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In GURPS Supers, one of the possible side effects of the "Uncontrollable" power limitation is that a sleeping super will activate their powers in their sleep. This is explicitly discussed as being a particular problem for teleporters, as the nature of their power makes it difficult to catch up to them and wake them up.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: one episode had Ed sleepwalking and sleepeating.
  • There was an episode of Rugrats where Stu sleepwalks and the babies believe he is a robot.
  • An episode of Hey Arnold! dealt with Phoebe trying to stop Helga from sleepwalking to Arnold's house.
  • In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, Professor Utonium, after being overworked in the lab, starts sleep-shoplifting.
  • In Rocko's Modern Life, Ed Bighead experienced his childhood trauma of pirates when watching a play. He begins sleepwalking on his roof as a pirate in search of a treasure map.
  • The Flintstones:
    • Wilma states that every time Fred goes on a diet, he sleepwalks to the fridge.
    • In another episode, Barney sleepwalks to his fridge, and he drags Fred out of bed with him since they're both glued to a bowling ball. Subverted; it turns out Barney was faking it because he was afraid to tell Fred he was hungry.
  • On Family Guy, Stewie observes Joe sleep-dragging.
  • Olive Oyl sleepwalks in the Popeye cartoon "A Dream Walking", while Popeye and Bluto frantically try to keep her safe.
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson starts sleepwalking under the effects of sleeping medication Nappien. Bart takes advantage of the situation and uses Homer as his personal "zombie".
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Sleepless in Ponyville", while scouting ahead, Scootaloo dozes off on her scooter, harkening near danger several times but only to end up landing safely in a bush a bit down the path.
  • An episode of All Grown Up! had Tommy sleepwalking and stealing all the items on the neighbors' front lawn as a result of pressure from the 4th grade test. He is unaware he is sleepwalking and everyone thinks there is a thief in the neighborhood. Dil ends up getting blamed for it when he is caught trying to return all the stuff Tommy had stolen.
  • Mr. Bogus does this in the claymation short shown after the third act of the episode "Bogus To The Rescue". His sleepwalking results in knocking a glass off the bathroom counter before it shatters into pieces. The crash sound is what wakes up Bogus, before he notices the broken glass, inquiring if he really did do that but not remembering anything about it.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • In "Sleep Spells", Star doesn't just walk and talk in her sleep, she also cast spells through her wand, with naturally disastrous results. Marco decides to use therapy to figure out why. It turns out she was actually doing this to defend herself from a princess who had escaped from a Boarding School of Horrors. After she's defeated, Star presumably stops sleepwalking.
    • In the third season, Star finds she's not only been sleepwalking again, but turning into her Golden Super Mode and flying through different dimensions, without the use of scissors. It turns out she was following a noise she was hearing, which came from the unicorn she created from the last piece of magic that wasn't corrupted by Toffee.
  • PJ Masks: In "Gekko and the Snore-A-Saurus", the PJ Masks have to handle a sleepwalking Cameron as they fight Luna Girl.
  • One episode of Dexter's Laboratory has Dexter's father manage to sleepwalk into Dexter's laboratory through all of his security, then wreak havoc. Once Dexter manages to get him back to his own bed he slams the door...which then causes his dad to wake up and chide Dexter because he's a light sleeper.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • "Bowl-R-Ama Drama": Phineas and Ferb literally break the record for the world's largest bowling ball in their sleep.
    • "Road Trip": Candace attempts to bust her brothers while asleep. Her parents find it adorable.
    • "Sleepwalk Surprise": Doofenshmirtz discovers he has sleep-invented a "Cake-o-Hug-o-Fetti-Inator".
  • In the Camping Episode of Milo Murphy's Law, Zack and Melissa have to chase down a sleepwalking Milo. Hilarity Ensues.
  • An episode of DC Super Hero Girls sees Batgirl having to chase after Supergirl as she sleep-flies through the city.
  • Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: In the episode "Moo Moo's Snoozity Snooze", Wubbzy and his friends go on a wacky adventure to stop the said magician when begins to cast spells everywhere in his sleep around Wuzzleburg.

    Real Life 
  • Homicidal somnambulism — an extreme form where a sleepwalker commits murder while asleep.
  • There have been many reports of Ambien and related drugs causing this type of behavior. People taking these drugs have eaten and/or prepared food, sent incoherent texts and e-mails, and most frighteningly, gotten into their cars and tried to drive somewhere, all while sleeping. They usually wake up with no memory of their activities.

 
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At the end of every episode, when it's time to go to sleep, Snowball always wanders out of his bed, still tightly clutching his stuffed bunny (and poor Snowflake always has to bring him right back).

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