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The Insomniac

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"I detest sleep. I've got better things to do. Besides, I find it frightening — to awaken and be unsure of everything you remember about life not being just part of a dream. Waking means I've slept, and sleep dissolves what certainty I have left."

A common way to convey that a character is either really strange or has either paranoid or schizophrenic tendencies (or both) is to make them an insomniac. Whether only during times of great stress or as a chronic disorder (obviously a case of Truth in Television) expect these characters to be cranky, moody, mistrusting and sometimes even violent.

Expect Exhausted Eye Bags and other Eye Tropes to occur, as well as other symptoms of Sleep Deprivation.

See also Past Experience Nightmare. Waking up from one may cause a sleepless night; waking up from one many, many, many nights may lead to this in its milder forms, since the character gets some sleep. Characters for whom not sleeping is normal are The Sleepless, though it can overlap with this trope, particularly when they're obsessive. See Insomnia Episode when the character becomes insomniac just temporarily. The Night Owl might be an insomniac, but it's more likely that they just enjoy evenings.

Compare/contrast The Sleepless for characters who cannot sleep or physically don't need any sleep for some reason, often with signs of the supernatural. Also contrast to Sleepy Depressive for characters who are stressed, depressed, or otherwise mentally unsound but have the opposite problem of sleeping too much.

No relation to the video game company of the same name.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • According to Word of God, Levi of Attack on Titan only gets 2-3 hours of sleep a night.
  • Bakuman。: Mashiro often forgoes sleep for days on end in order to work. It's mostly because he's a Determinator, though it is also often Played for Laughs (his face gets zombie-like) and shown to have realistic consequences on his health.
  • Beet in Beet the Vandel Buster stays awake for 72 hours, then sleeps for 24. Since the series is on indefinite Series Hiatus due to the illustrator being ill for five years and counting, and the writer's inability to find a replacement, we may never know why his sleep pattern is so unique.
  • Casca from Berserk shows signs of sleep deprivation after the Eclipse, another realistic after effect of those who were a victim of rape like she.
  • Call of the Night:
    • Yamori becomes insomniac after he starts Skipping School, leaving him to wander the streets at night. Nazuna tells him that the reason for this is because Yamori is no longer satisfied with how he spends his days, and offers to help him correct this by hanging out at night with him. It proves somewhat successful, in that Yamori is able to fall asleep next to Nazuna.
    • Akira's insomnia began (or perhaps intensified) after Yamori started skipping school; it's implied that she suffers from depression due to indirectly causing Yamori to skip school in the first place. She falls asleep super early and wakes up before midnight; unable to go back to sleep, she usually leaves her home as early as 4AM to go to school, which doesn't open until about two hours later. Akira is able to briefly beat her insomnia after hanging out at Nazuna's apartment with Yamori and sharing a futon with the two of them, ostensibly for the same reason as stated above.
  • L from Death Note gets far less sleep than should be healthy for him - though like his eating habits, it doesn't seem to have any negative effect. His insomnia is arguably one of the reasons why he's the best three detectives in the world at the same time.
  • Insomniacs After School is about a couple of these, naturally. Nakami and Magari are both insomniacs, but they find it easier to fall asleep when they're together.
  • A Running Gag with Kagami in Kuroko's Basketball. Whenever a tournament is about to start, he's too nervous to sleep the night before the tournament, which the characters can immediately tell by his tired red eyes.
  • Wakamatsu from Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun suffers from chronic insomnia, and Seo-related stress makes it worse. Ironically, 'Lorelei', her singing voice, can send him off to sleep in seconds... not that he knows it's her.
  • Gaara from Naruto, who remains awake to prevent a forcible takeover by the monster inside him. He seems to spend most of the time a normal person would spend sleeping just standing still, likely to get physical rest (and possibly trying some form of meditation to make up for the loss of mental rest). This is clearly one of the many things that has a detrimental effect on Gaara's sanity.
  • Kaoru of ...Virgin Love, thanks to being perpetually haunted by Past Experience Nightmares of his childhood. He discovers being in a stable relationship combats this.
  • Seto Kaiba in the original Yu-Gi-Oh! anime is implied to forgo sleep in favor of translating The Winged Dragon Of Ra card's hieroglyphic text.
  • Syrus/Sho for a while in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX when he's obsessed with finding the lost Judai/Jaden. It makes him a bit more impulsive and he does suffer a Heroic RRoD by the end.

    Comic Books 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, Zuko suffers from insomnia caused by the stress of his new position and assassination attempts.
  • Batman:
    • Batman himself is the obsessive type, although part of it is the necessity of leading a double life. How much this affects him tends to vary. Some Batman variations have him using a meditative technique to get the equivalent of around six hours of sleep in just over a half hour.
    • The Joker is sometimes portrayed as an insomniac. This is directly addressed in The Dark Knight Returns.
  • Doctor Strange: The monster Gulgol never sleeps nor needs it, and thus Cannot Dream. Gulgol is the one being in all creation that the Dream Demon Nightmare fears more than any other because he is utterly immune to Nightmare's Dream Weaver powers.
  • Irredeemable: Max Damage is one of these out of necessity: the effectiveness of his powers are directly proportional to how long he's been awake. Unfortunately, he isn't immune to the effects of sleep deprivation, and is depicted as suffering because of it.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac has a distaste for sleep, as eloquently demonstrated by the above quote. It doesn't seem to make him anything other than crazier. This is also Author Appeal in his case, as Jhonen Vasquez is a longtime insomniac and named his blog Question Sleep as a reference to this.
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd prefers 10 minutes on a sleep machine to actually sleeping in a bed — less time for criminals to get away with the lawlessness! It has been mentioned that the sleep machines do not completely duplicate the effects of natural sleep, and Judges are required to spend a few hours doing it the old-fashioned way now and then. Of course, as obsessed as Dredd is with his work, he would skip that too were it not for his boss repeatedly ordering him to get some proper sleep.
  • In the Postboot Legion of Super-Heroes, Nura Nal starts out as a Fainting Seer, since she dreams of things to come and visions can take her at any time, resulting in narcolepsy. The Legion kind of laughs her off as an applicant, except for Star Boy, who winds up dating her. During a time skip, however, she meets up with an armada of a Proud Warrior Race whose home planet is permanently dark, who give her Training from Hell that turns her unreliable visions and narcolepsy into pinpoint tactical precognition and not sleeping ever again.
  • Lobster Random was modified into a Super-Soldier by the military to not need sleep or feel pain. The reasons for this are so that not only could he fight for longer, but also not dream and, thus, be unaffected by Skeaxxian midspheres, which cause psychosis inducing waking nightmares in humans. The war ends a good thirty years before the story begins, so that's a long time for a man to go without sleep, something Lob notes has made him a Grumpy Old Man and occasionally, he can go berserk in a fight.
  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2018): When Miles gets home after a superhero night, he's usually still wide awake from all the adrenaline, and often can't get much sleep before class.
  • Mister X: The titular Mister X is a Mad Artist who takes a variety of homemade drugs to stay awake for months on end so he can attempt to fix the 'psychetecture' of a city he may or may not have designed. The city itself may also cause sleep disorders in its inhabitants.
  • Since The Sandman (1989) focuses on the Anthropomorphic Personification of dreams, various forms of this crop up from time to time. In the very first issue, Dream's imprisonment causes one shellshocked soldier in the First World War to eventually commit suicide because he can't sleep.
  • Superman villain Riot couldn't sleep ever since he was mutated; the effects of sleep deprivation drove him insane.
  • Rorschach from Watchmen goes long hours without sleep. Of course, Rorschach is a thoroughbred Determinator.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon):
    • Vivienne is insomniac after she's resurrected in a state of painful Body Horror, imprisoned underground, and wracked with traumatic memories of her death at the jaws of Ghidorah's middle head.
    • It's also revealed that sleeplessness is one of the symptoms of Ghidorah's Brown Note when it starts to drive humans insane.
  • Afterglow: Walker. When he actually manages to fall asleep, he has nightmares.
  • A Change of Pace: Taylor in "Victoria's Interlude", after having gone three days in search of more bone charms.
  • In Chemistry, Cadance occasionally has insomnia because of the medicine she takes. This comes up in the third chapter when she can't go to sleep.
  • Whenever the Tenth Doctor's sleeping habits are brought up in Children of Time, it's because he's not sleeping. He consistently blames it on several centuries of collecting personal demons and the Past Experience Nightmares they produce.
  • Mirabel in Guiding Light (AuroraRose2081) struggles with a certain form of insomnia, often embroidering or doing chores to keep herself busy because of it.
  • Harry in Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past uses this to his advantage. Once he wakes up from a nightmare he uses the rest of the night for reading, to explain why he knows more than the average Hogwarts student. This doesn't entirely succeed in deflecting unwanted attention, however, because people start wondering why an eleven-year-old boy is having violent nightmares and showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • In A Hero Forged, Luz often loses track of time on her robotics and sleeps for only a few hours a night, it getting to the point where someone else in the Owl House would intervene. Her coffee addiction probably doesn't help with this.
  • This is a trait present amongst the sun Cures in In Which Mistakes Are Made And Nagisa Is Made Fun Of; it's theorized that they store energy from the sun during the day but have no way to expend it outside of cure activities.
  • Later, Traitor: One of the Original Character patients Frazie meets in Thorney Towers is Jakob Winkle, a man driven to madness by his terrible insomnia. She discovers the cause of his insomnia is a guilty conscience over being involved in selling faulty cars that lead to countless deaths and injuries.
  • Eli of the Lightwaves is The Insomniac because of existential worries — when he feels better about his life, he gets to sleep better, but when he's down in the dumps, there's no sleep for him.
  • At the start of Moving, Karen can't sleep because her stressed out mind becomes overactive at night. She keeps on remembering bad memories.
  • Cassie from POP Culture is an overworked musician who ends up an insomniac. To help her, her managers give her drugs. This soon turns into a full-blown addiction.
  • Rarity in The Powers of Harmony: something has made it hard, near impossible at times, to sleep. Because of this, her magic font is never fully recharged, always putting her health at risk. And it's only gotten worse since she gained the Element of Generosity's Foresight ability. It eventually turns out that this was just one more part of Harmony's Long Game.
  • Kurenai of Team 8 spends half her nights reading due to a tragedy that struck her team.
  • In To a Merry Christmas, Belle finds Aurora up late at night. Later on, Aurora tells Belle that she can't stand sleeping alone because of her experiences with Maleficent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences: All three protagonists suffer from sleep deprivation for various reasons, and the mistakes they make are a direct result of this.
  • The narrator from Fight Club. When he thinks he's sleeping, he becomes Tyler Durden.
  • Insomnia: The judgment and overall mental state of Detective Jonas Engström/Will Dormernote  decline severely over the course of the movie due to an extreme case of insomnia after he travels to a remote Northern townnote  during the time of year when the sun is up for months at a time. He's juggling the guilt of both Framing the Guilty Party during his career and his (possibly) accidental shooting of his partner who was going to testify against him.
  • In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark becomes an insomniac due to massive battle-induced PTSD. The result is that while he's awake, he builds a whole army of Iron Man suits that come in handy in the final battle.
  • The League of Gentlemen. The night before The Caper, Hyde orders everyone to get a good night's sleep. Cut to everyone still awake in their beds the next morning. Race wanders downstairs in his nightgown to find Hyde still dressed behind a desk, as he couldn't get to sleep either. 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 sleepless Hyde and Race.
  • Trevor Reznik from The Machinist, who goes for a year without sleep. The only time he goes to sleep in the movie is when he goes to the police station and reports the hit-and-run he was involved in a year ago, which kickstarted his guilt-ridden insomnia.
  • In A Score to Settle, Frankie is suffering from a degenerative disease leaving him an insomniac and thus preventing his brain from resting. The lack of sleep will subject him to hallucinations as dementia sets in before he finally succumbs to the inevitable.
  • Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver works at night to cope with his chronic insomnia.
  • Jeff Megall from Thank You for Smoking is asked when he plans to sleep during a late-night phone call. His answer after thinking about it is "Sunday".
  • In The Thing (1982), the whole cast ends up staying awake over three or four days, probably not wanting to go to sleep out of fear of being vulnerable to assimilation. Naturally, things get horrific when this mixes with the mass paranoia...
  • Georgie from Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? has barely slept for days, thanks to his stress over Harry Kellerman, and regularly experiences vivid hallucinations.

    Literature 
  • The Belgariad: Zakath has been haunted for years by terrible nightmares caused by an assassination plot early in his reign; forced to execute the love of his life and her family, he learns too late that his lover was framed by the Murgo King. The grief, guilt and self-loathing transformed him into a monster hell-bent on destroying Taur Urgas' entire family and race. Garion observes a number of times that Zakath has a habit of wearily passing his hand across his eyes because of how little he sleeps, and his sleeping quarters are spartan places that he spends as little time in as possible. When he's fatally poisoned, he's only cured by Belgarath, Polgara, Sadi and Cyradis working together. Once recovered, Zakath privately admits to Garion that he's a little baffled to discover that meeting Cyradis has left him with a strange sense of peace that has cured his nightmares and insomnia. It's the first step in Zakath's journey from Love Makes You Evil to Love Redeems.
  • In the later books of The Black Company, Tobo deliberately refuses to sleep because his mother's ghost guilt trips him in his dreams. This gradually turns him Ax-Crazy. With Great Power Comes Great Insanity also helps the process.
  • Colt Regan: The titular character suffers from insomnia, not helped by his coffee addiction.
  • In Tanith Lee's Companions on the Road, the main character is in danger from ghosts that kill in dreams, and so does everything possible to stay awake, including using drugs. After a few days, he's in terrible shape, exhausted and thinking confusedly, though not delusional.
  • Don Quixote: Alonso Quijano, as described in Part I Chapter I: led by his obsession to read chivalry books, he sleeps less and less while reading more and more and that sends him over the edge. After that, in various parts of the novel, Don Quixote is seen continuously staying awake, thinking of his lady Dulcinea del Toboso (that does not exist), only because he has read that is what true knights do!
    " In short, he became so absorbed in his books that he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise, and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with little sleep and much reading his brains got so dry that he lost his wits."
  • The fourth book of the The Dresden Files opens with Harry evidently suffering from the occasional bout of insomnia. It's self-induced, however, in his attempts to find a cure for his girlfriend's recent partial vampirification.
  • Vasek Sidlo from Experimental Film is an old man now, but he hasn't slept more than two or three hours a night since he was a boy, when he extracted Mrs. Whitcomb's memory of Lady Midday. He feels the heat of the noonday sun even at midnight.
  • While teacher's behaviour in The Fire-Us Trilogy is obsessive (she spends most of the night writing in her Great Big Book of Everything, recording the dreams she and the other children have and pasting in whatever writing and pictures she can find, or forgetting that she wrote X message then "discovering" it and interpreting its signs) it leaves her exhausted and is part of her own personal brand of insanity.
  • The In Death series mixes Determinators with realistic effects depending on the seriousness of the situation. Eve Dallas is Determinator but frequently experiences realistic consequences, and other characters will note that she's getting slower, edgier, and even getting sick. Roarke, though he pulls a sleepless routine less often, is even better at it than Eve, and is closer to a pure Determinator.
  • Indexing: Reflections: Jeff's an insomniac due to his story wanting to keep him up at night.
  • Ralph Roberts from Insomnia, at least in the beginning. Later, it turns out that his insomnia allows him to see the aura of people as well as higher powers that influence the world.
  • In the Left Behind series: before being indwelt by Satan, people comment that Nicolae Carpathia never seems to sleep as he is often too busy. After he is indwelt he never has to sleep at all and remains awake for 3 and 1/2 years.
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society, when the children first meet Number Two, it's quipped that she "never sleeps." In actuality, she does sleep, but only a very small amount, like maybe two-three hours a night. She has to compensate for this by eating a lot of snacks, which sometimes leaves her irritable if her blood sugar gets low. In the second book in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, it becomes a key plot point. When she and Mr. Benedict are captured and handcuffed in place in a cave on an island, her near-constant wakefulness allows her to work away at the fastening pin on her handcuffs and free herself. Unfortunately, in order to do this, she has to keep hidden the fact that she requires extra food in order to properly maintain her mental state. By the time she actually escapes, she is a state of delirium and no use to anyone.
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation: Exploited by the Sleepy Depressive protagonist, who pretends to be an unwell insomniac so her quack doctor can supply her with increasingly stronger sleep drugs.
  • Mentioned in Neverwhere, when the Marquis de Carabas discovers that the trauma from being brutally killed and then resurrected has left him terrified to sleep, because it's too much like dying all over again. He's exhausted enough that he eventually passes out anyway, but it's implied this is a problem he'll be dealing with for a while.
  • The Pet Girl of Sakurasou:
    • The two main girls are afflicted by this, for similar reasons: Mashiro because of her tendency to work heavily on her art into the night, so she goes to bed very late and usually has to be woken up by someone else, and Nanami mostly because she's overworking herself by studying and working several jobs (so as to pay for her voice acting training), which catches up with her in episode 6.
    • Sorata suffers from this trope occasionally due to Mashiro sleeping in his room, and especially during the School Festival arc where he was working long hours to ensure his project would be done in time.
  • A downplayed example in The Raven Cycle. Gansey and Ronan both suffer from insomnia and both deal with it in different ways, with Ronan either drinking or street racing and Gansey building his miniature city. This doesn't appear to have much of an effect on either of them, though Ronan's insomnia is plot-related—he has some incredibly dangerous dreams.
  • Redwall:
    • Mariel of Redwall, Gabool the Wild starts having prophetic dreams that turn him into a completely insane insomniac.
    • As does the aquaphobic Queen Tsarmina Greeneyes, as the good guys set up a dam to flood her and her minions out of Castle Kotir and she constantly hears dripping water.
  • In "The Shadow Kingdom", Kull spends a night like this.
    There was no sleep for Kull that night, for it was nearly dawn and he spent the rest of the night hours pacing the throne-room, and pondering over what had passed.
  • In Shaman Blues, Witkacy rarely sleeps more than three hours at night, if he sleeps at all. It's implied that it's somehow a side effect of all the mind-altering substances he used to take, and it's bad enough that when he happens to catch five hours of sleep, he immediately suspects supernatural influence.
  • Sherlock Holmes frequently goes for days without sleep when captivated by a problem. And it's hinted he has an irregular sleep cycle even when not on a case: Watson mentions that he often stays up all night doing chemical experiments, and annoys the landlady with his "addiction to music at strange hours" (presumably meaning he likes to play the violin at 2 a.m.).
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Matt Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith reveals that after he has his nightmare of Padmé dying in childbirth, Anakin Skywalker swears off sleep and uses the Force to sustain himself. No wonder the guy's about to go Sith...
      The force could keep him upright, keep him moving, keep him thinking, but it couldn't give him rest. Not that he wanted rest. Rest might bring sleep.
      What sleep might bring, he could not bear to know.
    • In Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader, set several weeks after Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader is still incapable of falling asleep; his new Cyborg suit won't allow him any rest, especially since his Vader Breath is harsh on both his damaged throat and his enhanced hearing. And what sleep he is able to get is marred by horrible nightmares. Darth Sidious, meanwhile, swore off sleep long ago, after killing his own master while he slept. He relies on The Dark Side to sustain himself.
    • Darth Bane: Path of Destruction details that once Darth Bane grew in power of the dark side, he was able to give up sleep, relying only on a couple of hours of meditation a day to sustain himself.
  • Evan Tanner in Lawrence Block's series beginning with The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep, due to a brain injury he suffered in the Korean War. In a later novel a mad scientist cryogenically freezes him, forcing him to sleep for years.
  • Anton Vowl from A Void is an insomniac with no clear reason as to why. He just has it and it slowly drives him slightly insane, which is justified.
  • The Wild Cards series is home to Croyd "The Sleeper" Cranson, whose powers let him stay awake for weeks or months at a time, but then he hibernates, and wakes up in a new form with new powers. This process mimics the Superpower Russian Roulette that gave people their powers in the first place, leading to his quite justified fear of dying in his sleep. So, when he starts getting tired, he resorts to drugs to keep himself awake past "bedtime", turning him into a paranoid wreck.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Little Pete from The Adventures of Pete & Pete manages to get his friends to stay up for several days as a protest against early bedtimes. Pete almost manages to make it to eleven days.
  • Dr. Franklin on Babylon 5, leading to his abuse of stimulants. His department is understaffed, and he refuses to delegate as much as he should, which leads to drug abuse.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In "Unsolvable", Jake becomes obsessed with solving a cold case and stops sleeping.
    Jake: I have not slept in, since I last saw you, many hours. Plus I think I'm hallucinating because I'm pretty sure I just heard your biceps mocking me.
    Terry: No, that's possible. My biceps mock a lot of people.
  • In Carnivàle Ben develops insomnia as a side effect of suffering from Dreaming of Things to Come, to the point where he starts seeing things while he's still awake.
  • In Charite, Doctor Behring claims this is the reason for his Laudanum addiction, although it's rather a symptom than the cause for his psychological issues. His colleague Doctor Ehrlich notes that he hardly leaves the laboratory anymore during their research for a diphtheria vaccine.
  • Billy Flynn from Criminal Minds usually smokes meth to keep himself awake for days or even weeks so that he can perform several rapes and murders during planned blackouts.
  • Mac Taylor from CSI: NY rarely even goes home, much less gets any sleep, due to being a workaholic and likely because he dreads the loneliness of his empty apartment after having lost Claire on 9/11. His co-workers call him out for staying up for 2-3 days straight on more than one occasion. At one point Stella asks him when's the last time he's had any sleep. He responds, "What's sleep?"
  • In Daredevil (2015), one of the things that drove Matt Murdock to become a vigilante was insomnia brought on by his inability to tune out the rest of city.
  • A Victim of the Week in Ghost Whisperer appears to be suffering from the Real Life disease fatal familial insomnia, and is being Driven to Suicide by the ghost of his father, who killed his wife while delusional and as a ghost watched his daughter succumb to the disease. However, it appears that the son never had it and the symptoms were the result of the father's extreme paranoia. "What's worse, insanity, then death, or just death?"
  • House: The titular Dr. House towards the end of Season 5, after a coworker's death. He starts hallucinating and gradually losing his mind.
  • An early episode of Kyle XY deals with this, due to Kyle's inexperience with sleep.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • Detective Chester Lake has chronic insomnia, which may have been a factor in his career-ending murder of another police officer.
    • One episode's murder suspect has fatal familial insomnia.
  • Mary Richards in one episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
  • Patrick Jane on The Mentalist can't sleep without the aid of pills. It doesn't come up every episode and it's more an element of characterization than a disadvantage.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In one skit, Adolf Hitler is a guest at a boarding house incognito (and in full Nazi regalia) as Mr. Hilter — the hostess explains that his short temper is due to not sleeping since 1945.
  • Haywire in Prison Break has a mental imbalance that means he "doesn't sleep. Ever." Not the kind of cell mate you want if you're routinely sneaking out at night.
  • In the Brazilian soap opera Saramandaia, Professor Aristóbulo hasn't been able to sleep for almost ten years.
  • An SCTV sketch has normally relaxed, affable fishing-show host Gil Fisher (John Candy) driving his musical guests to a fishing spot for four days nonstop, living on coffee and cigarettes. At a roadhouse stop, he's wired and dazed, picks a fight with a little guy, and gets his butt kicked — and has to watch it all on the film made for the show.
  • The protagonist of Sherlock doesn't have chronic insomnia, but tends to forgo sleep — and food — for days on end whenever he's working on a particularly difficult case; most notable in "The Blind Banker", where both he and John stay up all night trying to decipher The Book Cipher of the episode.
  • Dr. Rush on Stargate Universe is a chronic insomniac. A mixture of obsession and paranoia frequently drives him to go for days without sleeping, eating, or really doing anything except trying to fix Destiny. Subverted in that the lack of sleep actually makes him less adept and more prone to sloppy mistakes. His own Destiny-induced hallucinations eventually start calling him out on this fact.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Paradise Syndrome", Spock goes without sleep for around two months. He states that Vulcans under enough stress can go without sleep and/or food for much longer than humans.
    • The memorably terrifying Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Night Terrors" uses a variant of this trope: the Enterprise crew are able to sleep but not to dream, or more prosaically enter REM sleep, which is why it takes some time for Dr. Crusher to figure out why everyone is showing every symptom of sleep deprivation except physical fatigue. The sole exception is Lt. Cmdr Troi, who is instead plagued with recurring nightmares. It turns out that these nightmares are actually a psychic Distress Call from someone (the crew never really learns who or what they are) who is caught in the same completely unrelated Negative Space Wedgie as the Enterprise, with everyone else's chronic insomnia being an accidental side effect.
  • Sam from Supernatural starts staying up all night in the first season when he's having nightmares about Jessica. For several days in season seven, he is unable to sleep because of constant hallucinations of Lucifer left over from his time in hell, to the point that he almost crashes his car and later ends up in the hospital because of it.
  • Victorious: In "A Christmas Tori", Beck becomes a Cloudcuckoolander due to a chirping cricket getting stuck in his RV. It gets worse when he starts drinking lots of coffee so he won't fall asleep in class.
  • The X-Files: Fox Mulder is a well-known insomniac. We almost never see him sleeping, and when we do, he's usually in the throes of a nightmare.
  • In Yellowjackets, present-day Taissa is afraid to go to sleep because of her sleepwalking and the bad things that can happen because of it, so she spends the night pounding espressos simply to avoid falling asleep.
    Taissa: I just need some fucking sleep.

    Music 
  • Most of Owl City music was written simply when Adam Young could not shut his mind off. "Fireflies" in particular is a sweet song about insomnia and the loss of childhood innocence.
    Leave my door open just a crack
    (Please take me away from here)
    'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
    (Please take me away from here)
    Why do I tire of counting sheep
    (Please take me away from here)
    When I'm far too tired to fall asleep
  • Emilie Autumn's "4 o'clock" is a song about how insomnia is slowly killing her, set to the tune of a lullaby.
    4 o'Clock
    Never let me sleep
    I close my eyes and pray
    For the garish light of day
    Like a frightened child I run
    From the sleep that never comes
  • Delta Goodrem has "The Analyst," about the girl who can't sleep: she's too busy overanalyzing everything in her life.
    Prepare yourselves to meet, the girl who cannot sleep
  • "Sleepflower" by Manic Street Preachers is about insomnia
    Endless hours in bed, no peace, in this mind
    No one knows the hell where innocence dies
  • Faithless has a song about this very trope called Insomnia.
  • "Asleep or Awake" by Apoptygma Berzerk.
  • "You Can't Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can't Sleep)" by The Go-Go's.
  • City and Colour's album Bring Me Your Love has three songs that have the singer state he cannot sleep due to the troubles he is suffering in life: "The Death Of Me", "Sleeping Sickness", and "Constant Knot".
  • The Barenaked Ladies song "Who Needs Sleep?" is all about insomnia — and references "a guy who's been awake since the Second World War."
  • The Green Day album Insomniac was made when Billie Joe was suffering from major sleep deprivation. "Brain Stew" on that album describes Billie Joe's sleepless woes.
  • "Can't Get To Sleep At Night" by Donna Summer from I Remember Yesterday where the protagonist can't sleep because she keeps thinking of her former partner, despite being with somebody else.
  • "I'm So Tired" by The Beatles from The White Album is literally about someone who is tired but can't sleep. Truth in Television for Lennon, since the meditation schedule under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi left him too keyed up to sleep at night.
  • "Pennyroyal Tea" from Nirvana's In Utero:
    I'm so tired I can't sleep
  • Imagine Dragons has an insomniac guitarist, Wayne Sermon. The band consequently references sleepless nights in some of their songs-such as "Nothing Left to Say", which sounds like someone experiencing sleep deprivation due to introspective thoughts.
  • The narrator of "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" by Set It Off can't sleep and is going crazy.
    Cause I'm stuck self-torturing
    My meds are failing me
    Internal clock in smithereens
    Can't fix this, I'm hopeless
    My eyes are stapled open wide
    As I lay down on my side
  • The man sung about in "My Manic And I" by Laura Marling suffers from insomnia.
    By one in the morning the day has not ended.
    By two he is scared that sleep is no friend.
    And by four he will drink, but he cannot feel it.
    Sleep will not come because sleep does not will it.
  • In "Staying Up" by The Neighbourhood, the singer suffers from insomnia out of a combination of bad dreams and the sense that there's something out there.
  • "Shampain" by Marina Diamandis.
    I wonder when the night will reach its end
    The sleep is not my friend
  • "Lover To Lover" by Florence + the Machine:
    I've been losing sleep,
    I've been keeping myself awake
  • "I Can't Sleep" by Still Corners.
    I haven't slept a while now
  • Tessa Violet's "Bored" starts with:
    It's 4 AM again
    You think that I could sense a trend
    I'm stayin' up too late just so I can stay awake
  • In "Back to December" by Taylor Swift, the narrator can't sleep because she misses her former lover and feels guilty about hurting him and pushing him away.
    These days I haven't been sleeping,
    Staying up, playing back myself leavin'.
  • Nas' "N.Y. State of Mind" has the iconic line, "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death". In other words, Nas is too scared to properly rest (and rightly so) because a rival could easily kill him while he sleeps, so he's in a constant state of paranoia-fuelled insomnia.

    Poetry 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander, the C&C Wrestle Factory, according to their theme anyway.
    "Seven ain't getting up early, ready for the grind. No alarm clock! Money on my mind."-"I don't eat, I don't sleep I just grind!"
  • Sami Callihan became one due to him obsessing about not getting a shot at Johnny Gargano for the Open The Freedom Gate Championship Belt at Dragon Gate USA.
  • Roppongi Vice stays up late partying, then they get up early for McDonald's breakfast.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: At the end of the Paul Williams episode, Waldorf claims to have insomnia, and that the Muppet Show is a good cure for it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Don't Rest Your Head: The PCs are all insomniacs, though considering their current situation, this is for the best.
  • Bliss Stage: The Authority Figure has been awake for the past seven years, because everyone else over eighteen is in a blissful coma.

    Theatre 
  • "Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor/Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!"
  • Mrs. Lansdale in Allegro spends millions on treatments to get her to sleep, all to no avail.

    Video Games 
  • A variation of this trope occurs in God of War: Kratos has been plagued by nightmares for ten years, which started when he was tricked by Ares into murdering his wife and child in a berserker rage. He serves the gods because he believes that when he has redeemed himself, they will rid him of the nightmares. They don't.
    Athena: Your sins are forgiven. But we never promised to remove your nightmares. No man, no god, could ever forget the terrible things you have done.
  • Marius, the narrator of Diablo II, is haunted by dreams of the demons in Tristram. He understandably tries to avoid them by fighting sleep for days at a time. He only sleeps once in the cinematics, noting that it was the first time he slept in weeks, and that was only so Diablo/the Wanderer could send him a vision of Tal Rasha sealing Baal in his own body.
  • In Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream, one of the Napple Town townsfolk, Alice, looks exhausted all the time because she is afraid of going to sleep. Fortunately she's sweet-tempered despite this.
  • The "Strange New Powers" update to Don't Starve made Ms. Wickerbottom an insomniac, and unable to use sleeping items such as a tent or a bedroll to restore her Sanity Meter.
  • When Jagged Alliance 2 introduced a sleep mechanic, an unseen trait given to mercenaries is how much stamina they recover with each hour of sleep. One mercenary, the disturbed and disturbing Bill 'Razor' Lamont, has the lowest sleep requirement in the game, seemingly needing only four hours of sleep to be fully refreshed and ready. A subtle nod to his insanity and unstable nature.
  • Paya from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild spends so much time tending to both her own chores and the duties of her elderly grandmother, and then filling her diary after it all, that she is one of the few village-based human characters to sleep just a few hours in the early morning (not counting the various main quest characters and shopkeepers who are always awake so you aren't locked out of stuff you need at certain hours of the day).
  • Mass Effect 3: Kaidan Alenko starts having trouble sleeping.
    Kaidan: You know what, though? I feel good about our chances. Helps me sleep better at night.
    Shepard: You not sleeping, Kaidan?
    Kaidan: Maybe a little restless...
  • The Tireless Mechanic in Sunless Sea, who pretty much gave up sleep to avoid the dream-snakes. An early event in his arc features him setting a trap for one so he can have a night of decent sleep at last.
  • Tekla reveals herself to be one in Wolfenstein: The New Order when she wakes BJ up in the middle of the night and casually says she prefers not to sleep. She follows this up with a long, rambling, surprisingly philosophical monologue: if life and a "self" are the persistence of awareness, does sleeping mean you temporarily die, since you're unaware? Is the person who goes to sleep really the same person as the one who wakes up?

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • Keiichi states a few times that this is becoming the case in Onikakushi-hen arc. He thought his best friends were trying to stalk and kill him. True to the trope's description, though, he's actually just a paranoid wreck and his fears are all in his head.
    • It's implied that Rena and Shion also stopped sleeping when their paranoia reached its peak. Insomnia might be a symptom of Hinamizawa Syndrome.
  • Katja, who has sleeping issues herself, mentions in Missing Stars that a large portion of the school population are some level of insomniac due to their mental health problems. Katja gives Erik advice that he should go for walks if he's feeling restless.

    Web Animation 
  • Ability No. X: Yuzuru has an ability that allows him to go several years without sleep. The side-effect is that he will get fatigued very slowly over time.
  • RWBY:
    • Blake Belladonna becomes moody, antisocial and isolated in the second volume, as she obsesses over what the White Fang are up to. Unable to sleep, with her grades slipping, and with heavy bags under her eyes, her friends stage an intervention... which fails. Eventually, Yang Xiao Long has a private conversation with her, revealing her own past experience with obsession and explaining what Blake needs to do to get on top of it. The talk helps Blake recover.
    • Ruby Rose struggles with the weight of being leader in the ninth volume as the guilt of her failures eats away at her. She spends the night wide awake while her friends all sleep, staring silently at Crescent Rose. The next morning, she rejects her weapon, has a break-down when confronted by Jaune Arc's own mental health issues, and flees her companions. She falls prey to Neo, whose illusions of Ruby's dead friends and enemies tell her she's "not looking too good"; certain close-ups show her eyes are bloodshot, and the encounter drives her to attempt suicide.

    Webcomics 
  • Dr. Stein of Blood Stain is both an insomniac and a Sleepy Head who falls asleep while teaching classes. He might have a genuine case of narcolepsia.
  • Castoff: The Captain of Alverian Royal Guard, Zera Marcel, is perhaps the only elf out there sporting Exhausted Eye Bags, because he avoids sleeping for as long as possible, and when he inevitably dozes off, a Guilt-Induced Nightmare soon wakes him.
  • CRFH's Roger can attend class, and successfully complete tests, in his sleep.
  • Jyrras from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures has shown signs of sleep deprivation, which includes waving a knife in a dangerously random manner.
  • Doc Rat has a one-time occurrence when Doc fights a video game Zombie Apocalypse. It leads to some... interesting consequences the next day.
  • El Goonish Shive: Played with. It was hinted at that after coming into existence, Ellen had developed a case of depression and had taken up drinking... but Dan didn't like the way that storyline was going, so it was instead explained away as Ellen staying up late and napping during the day.
  • In Endstone's Backstory, the Artifact of Doom preyed on Jon until he could not sleep.
  • In Girl Genius, there is a special mental discipline that is used in Skifander to help people stay awake for multiple days. Gil misuses this massively during the timeskip, where he has stayed awake for months at a time for two and a half years. The only times the reader has seen him sleep, it was because he'd been knocked out. It clearly isn't very good for him, since his skin is now a dozen shades paler than it was before, he's got some rather dramatic bags under his (extremely bloodshot) eyes, and he's been in The Madness Place constantly for the whole time.
  • Grim Trigger: The first arc is the Insomniac Arc, which is named after Tage. If you click on the cabinets in book 1, he will say that they're mostly full of Melatonin bottles. And in that same part, if you click on his bed, he reveals that he hardly ever sleeps (but when he does, he sleepwalks, so it's still not exactly sleeping).
  • Sleeplessness is part of Julian's psychological issues in The Guide to a Healthy Relationship. They just kinda pass out when they reach their limit. Their friend Apollo thinks Julian should just try sleeping a bit more, but it's pretty obvious that Apollo, while well-meaning, doesn't have to much of an insight into mental illnesses.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Zimmy fits the personality profile of an insomniac, even though not sleeping is natural for her. Her best friend Gamma does need sleep, but she tries to stay up with Zimmy anyway. There's a reason she walks around like a zombie.
    • While his brain is hijacked by one of Zimmy's hallucinations, Jack Hyland picks up her habit of never sleeping. Unfortunately, he needs it, and suffers the effects of deprivation.
  • Homestuck: After the trolls' game of Sgrub began, Karkat Vantas barely slept at all in the three weeks the game took, according to Vriska. After that, he slept a grand total of once, during which time his dreamself was killed and he experienced things that put him off sleeping for a very long time, after which came several distractions.
  • Dune from I Don't Want This Kind of Hero, possibly due to being a Shell-Shocked Veteran. It's why he constantly has Exhausted Eye Bags from his second appearance onward.
  • Sniper Wolf from The Last Days of FOXHOUND can go on for long periods of time without sleep. She catches up on sleep by hibernating for a week or so every couple of years. Unfortunately, right before she hibernates, she would become disoriented and hallucinate various things.
  • In Nightmare Factory, this is part of why Emai gets stuck in Nightmare Factory; she’s exhausted from not sleeping and stumbles over her words. She also rarely sleeps because she has stories stream through her head constantly, and if she sleeps, she may never know how they end.
  • Princess November's inability to sleep, due to the moon being gone from the sky, is a driving plot point in No Rest for the Wicked. Red has likely gone without sleep since getting eaten by the wolf.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius went several months without trancing (the elven equivalent of sleep) while at sea, which severely changed V's appearance, patience, social skills and (arguably) alignment. Due to a mixture of determination and terrifying nightmares of guilt, V defended this saying trancing isn't biologically necessary for elves. The veracity of this claim is dubious.
  • Fall from Parallel Dementia sometimes goes for several weeks without sleeping to try and avoid nightmares. This has led her to pass out and may be contributing to her hallucinations.
  • In Questionable Content, Hannelore the resident "OCDelightful" Neat Freak occasionally goes days at a time without sleep, due either to her Monk-level need to clean things or some new medication she is taking. She seems to be a mash-up between goofy and realistic, as seen here.
  • Schlock Mercenary: When Liz first gets on the Bristlecone, she freaks out and stops sleeping after she realizes that there's a chance she could die at any moment. Kath finally notices after a few days and forces her to get some rest.
    Liz: If I sleep I might miss something.
  • Twistwood Tales: The main trait of Loghead, who suffers from it due to staying up late for years in an attempt to delay the consequences of waking up again.

    Web Videos 
  • Shadows in lonelygirl15 are so devoted to their duty that they take drugs that remove the need to sleep. Unsurprisingly, they tend to die before the age of 30.
  • Jay of Marble Hornets has a harder and harder time sleeping as the series goes on, which we know thanks to his Twitter as well as some rather impressive eyebags whenever he's on camera. It's unclear how much of this is (justified) paranoia and how much is the Operator's direct influence.
  • The Nostalgia Critic is fine with naps, but has taken Nyquil and Vicodin together in order to get proper sleep. It's a miracle he hasn't died yet.
  • 40 Winks is a song about someone who can't get to sleep.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In "April 9th", Binky is traumatized after witnessing a fire at the school, and Mr. Frensky tries to help him feel better by mentioning that he, during his days as a volunteer fireman, couldn't sleep for weeks after going into his first fire.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Nightmares and Daydreams", Aang, stressed out by the prospect of his upcoming battle with the Fire Lord, is having terrible nightmares every time he tries to go to sleep and thus decides to stay awake for three days straight. In the process, he becomes a nervous wreck and begins begins to experience hallucinations, culminating in one where the Team Pets begin talking, then get into a fight that escalates into a samurai duel.
  • In Code Lyoko, Jérémie has a tendency to be the Obsessive Insomniac. Of course, his enemy never sleeps at all, and his behavior is not unlike that of a normal computer programmer with a big project and an approaching deadline. Still, pulling it for about two years in a row cannot be healthy for a developing brain. Or a developing body. Kid's 12 at the opening of the show... he's likely stunted his growth permanently. Thank goodness it doesn't seem to have damaged anything.
  • The Dragons: Riders of Berk episode "The Longest Day" features the characters going on without sleep because of the annual midnight sun, a time where the sun does not set for 2 whole weeks. Each of the characters are shown to suffer a variety of symptoms brought on by this.
    • 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.
    • 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 hallucination.
    • Gothi spends her time "babbling" for hours, drawing in the sand with a blank stare.
  • Dipper Pines from Gravity Falls can be this, as highlighted in the episode "Sock Opera". It's a trait he has in common with the Author of the Journals.
    Mabel: Don't stay up all night, Dipper. Last time you got this sleep-deprived you tried to eat your own shirt.
    Dipper: [sucking on shirt, spits it out]
  • Topsy from King of the Hill claims to be the guy the Barenaked Ladies were singing about.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Applebuck Season", Applejack becomes a Goofy Insomniac when she takes on the task of harvesting all the apples on her farm by herself and has to do favors for her friends as well. She snaps out of it at the end when she finally relents to Twilight Sparkle's advice to ask for some help.
    • Twilight becomes an Obsessive Insomniac in "It's About Time" — she spends one straight week without sleep monitoring everything trying to catch the big disaster that her future self wanted to warn her about. Even Pinkie Pie is concerned. She also starts the episode as an Obsessive Insomniac, fretting over her schedule.
      Twilight Sparkle: Frankly, I don't know how you can sleep at a time like this!
      Spike: Three A.M.?
  • The Sandman from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) is tasked with putting people around the world to sleep, and can't go to sleep himself until he finishes the job — however, since there are always people needing to be put to sleep round the clock, he never gets any himself, although he clearly wants and needs to.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Implied with Sean. He has creases around his eyes, and "My Three Suns" has a gag about him being unable to sleep.
  • The Simpsons features a throwaway gag of Apu having worked a 96-hour-shift. At the end, "I apparently thought I was a hummingbird of some kind." He also tried to drink nectar out of Sanjay's head. This was explained in the comic books: during Homer's Mr. Plow days, his incompetence had left the Kwik-E-Mart doors blocked by snow, and Apu was trapped in the store with Snake, who had just tried to rob him.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "InSPONGEiac", Mr. Krabs falsely accuses SpongeBob of being an insomniac when he doesn't flip a Krabby Patty fully and uses a bit too much mustard.
  • One of the reasons why Cranky the Crane from Thomas & Friends is so cranky is because he works both day and night, never getting a rest, which becomes a plot point in "No Sleep for Cranky". Not even when work at the docks gets delayed due to a fallen shed does he get a break, due to having to listen to the stories that Salty tells to him, Bill, and Ben all night.


Now stop reading TV Tropes and get some sleep already, would you?!

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