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Who needs sleep?

Well you're never gonna get it

Who needs sleep?

Tell me, what's that for?

Who needs sleep?

Be happy with what you're getting, there's a guy who's been awake since The Second World War!

Lets face it, sleep is inconvenient. It leaves you vulnerable to your enemies and it wastes a huge portion of your day that you could use for all sorts of stuff.[1] Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to sleep?

Maybe.

In Real Life when normal people don't sleep they develop a host of physical and mental problems up to and including death. Surprisingly, fiction is usually quite aware of this and takes the time to either handwave the problem or makes the effects a plot point.

This trope comes in two forms: people who don't sleep and people who cannot sleep. Does not include species who don't actually sleep but have some kind of sleep equivalent, such as elves that rest by going into a trance.

Subtrope of The Needless. See also The Insomniac.

Examples of The Sleepless include:


Anime and Manga

  • Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist discovers that his artificial body is incapable of sleep. At one point he claims the greatest reason for wanting his real body back is that he gets so lonely at night. In the manga, Envy also comments upon the supreme weirdness of seeing the old man sleeping. The regular homunculi don't appear to be incapable of sleeping, but also don't appear to actually need it based on their work schedules and things; none of them are ever actually seen to engage in sleep.
  • Gaara of Naruto was like this for a long time, partly because if he did fall asleep Shukaku would take over his body. This almost certainly contributed to his mental instability (though he had a few other issues too).
  • Chevaliers of Blood Plus, who do not need to sleep.
  • Only once is L from Death Note seen sleeping, and even then he slept while sitting at his computer, in his signature crouch/sit. He also has huge bags under his eyes, but seems to suffer from no serious side effects.
    • Guessing Paranoia is overlooked as "serious side effect" because it makes his career a perfect choice.
  • In Sora no Otoshimono, Ikaros says that she and other angeloids do not sleep. She slightly regrets this because she cannot have dreams.
  • In Gate 7, Sakura cannot sleep unless he has "skin contact and human warmth" since the day he has no longer an oni.


Comic Books

  • Malus Darkblade, a dark elf Villain Protagonist of one of Warhammer comic series cannot afford to fall asleep due to being a demonhost (if he loses consciousness, the demon will take his body for a ride). He solves the problem by keeping himself constantly awake through magical means but isn't above drinking a sleep potion if he is facing serious odds.
  • In Elf Quest neither Savah nor Winnowill require sleep.
  • The same unspecified Tibetan masters who taught Batman how to meditate, astral project, and resist mind control also taught him how to replace a full night's sleep with half an hour of meditation. This allows him to maintain his playboy lifestyle and crime-fighting activities. The only time we really see him sleep is when he's been severely injured.


Fan Fiction


Film

  • The Big Bad of Die Another Day, thanks to the interference of Bond.
  • The protagonist of Phenomenon acquires this feature as well as some other paranormal abilities. At first it seems as if he was given these features by some aliens. Later it's discovered that his new features are actually side effects of a brain tumor which eventually kills him.
  • Samara from The Ring. On the tapes of her in observation, she never sleeps over several days. This is revealed to show why setting her free wasn't such a good idea.
  • Averted throughout the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, as teens who stay awake to avoid Freddy's assaults get progressively more messed up by lack of rest, and can't last much longer than a few days.
  • In John Carpenter's The Thing 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...


Literature

  • Vampires in Twilight.
  • Evan Michael Tanner from a series of novels by Lawrence Block, suffered a shrapnel wound in the Korean War that removed both his ability to sleep and the need to do so.
  • Vetinari of Discworld probably sleeps sometime, but no one ever catches him at it. No matter what time you come by his office, he'll be working in there. This is part of why many characters believe him to be a vampire.
  • One of the short stories in Arthur C. Clarke's Tales From The White Hart is about a man who loses the need for sleep.
  • Beggars in Spain involves genetically upgraded humans called the Sleepless (of the "cannot-sleep" variety), and the repercussions of these Born Winners on society. X-Men meets genepunk.
  • Harry of The Dresden Files usually sleeps like any normal person would. However, during the books of the series he is usually on a very short deadline to save the city/world from some impending supernatural doom. This typically results in Harry spending (or trying to spend) two or three days in a non-stop blend of combat, investigation and fleeing. Predictably, this results in one very tired wizard trying to save the world.
    • In addition, after the fourth book, he starts to get increasingly pissed off when people point out that he looks like he could use some sleep. He knows.
    • It also explains his constant pursuit of coffee, Coke, and high-sugar snacks.
      • However, he does have a small Healing Factor, so after the dust settles, he can take a few days and heal up from whatever side-effects his famed showdowns have caused him.
  • According to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, after Palpatine/Darth Sidious killed his Master, Darth Plagueis, in his sleep, he became paranoid that the same thing would happen to him. Palpatine vowed to never repeat his Master's mistake, and never slept again, presumably relying on The Dark Side to sustain himself.
  • One of the stories in Changing Planes concerns a world where, out of fears of impending war, a nation genetically engineered a group of children to no longer require sleep by early childhood. (They still slept in infancy, after the first test revealed that sleep was necessary for newborns to survive.) Their hope was that this would create geniuses; unfortunately, it turned out that sleep was a key component of sentience - the children couldn't even pass the "mirror test", and ended up being no more sentient than some lesser primates. (One of the "failed" subjects, a girl who slept about a fourth as much as an ordinary human, was effectively autistic. This was the best they got.) All of their descendents are still sleepless after infancy, and are sequestered to an island, where they are studied rather like Goodall's chimps.
  • A woman from a Haruki Murakami short story finds one day that she doesn't need to sleep and has more energy. She spends her "sleep" hours reading and drinking expensive liquor.
  • In Charlie Huston's SF/noir novel Sleepless, insomnia is an infectious disease affecting about a tenth of the population; the sleepless die painfully after about a year as their body slowly degrades.


Live Action TV

  • The Super Soldiers from season 6 or 7 of The X-Files. Also, the first case Mulder worked with Krycek on was in an episode entitled 'Sleepless', about soldiers of the 'cannot sleep' variety. Mulder himself is a chronic insomniac.
  • In an episode of Angel, Lorne temporarily had his need for sleep removed. It didn't go well.
    • Similarly, Buffy is said to barely sleep during season 7. It doesn't help her decision-making.
  • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, before his dream-program kicked in.
    • Interestingly, Data was still subject to the standard watch cycle of Starfleet (8 hours on duty, 16 hours off).
  • As part of his inverted Pinocchio Syndrome, Cavil from Battlestar Galactica has engineered away his need for sleep.
  • Cameron "I never sleep" Philips of The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • The (genetically engineered) Tosk race in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • also the genetically engineered Jemhadar. Althought never directly stated the writers had said that the Tosk were also created by the Dominion.
  • Max of Dark Angel at least claimed she didn't need to sleep. She did seem to be awake at all hours, but it was never really verified.
    • In the second season, one of Manticore's former Psych Ops uses poorly-explained neurological powers to make Max forget the last few minutes and be as tired as possible, to get her out of the way. The next day, Max complains that she slept for four hours, and thinks she is getting sick.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: 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.
  • 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.
  • In Supernatural Sam no longer sleeps due to his lack of a soul. It doesn't seem to have had any particular effect on him; his behavior has changed, but it's attributed to the soullessness rather than the permanent wakefulness.
  • Cole's race in Tracker, the Cirronians, don't sleep. Possibly justifed as he's an Energy Being.


Music


Newspaper Comics

  • Dilbert once tried to impress a potential employer at a job interview by claiming that he's such a workaholic, he makes himself ill by never pausing to eat or sleep for days at a time. They rejected his job application because he "wasn't hungry enough".


Tabletop Games

  • In the Dungeons and Dragons setting of Eberron the Warforged cannot sleep at all.
    • In one of the 3rd Edition D&D novellas, Mialee regrets her own elvish inability to sleep, as she's got a terrible hangover and wishes she could sleep it off like a human. (Trance is usually a sleep-analog, but not for this purpose.)
    • Drow and Eladrin from 4e can also trance, but the elf sub race have lost this ability.
  • In Steve Jackson Games In Nomine, the vessels used by celestials (angels and demons) don't require sleep, although they can go to sleep if they want to travel the Marches. Undead also don't need sleep and unlike celestials, CAN'T sleep.
  • Part of the premise of Don't Rest Your Head. People who have gone too long without sleep, for whatever reason, gradually start to become aware of the Mad City, a Dark World version of reality that lies hidden behind normally invisible doors and windows. Once they've "awakened" to its existence, such people can never risk falling asleep again, or the Nightmares that roam the Mad City will come for them.
  • The Tattooed Monks from Dungeons and Dragons get to choose from a variety of Magic Tattooes, one of which, The Ocean, keeps them from needing sleep, food, or drink. They still can do those things if the choose to, but they never need to.
    • Elan (no, not that one) are a race of Psychic Humans who can spend a small amount of psychic energy to support their body without the need for food sleep or drink.


Video Games

  • Most video games that have time passing, such as many Zelda games result in this when there's no need (and often no mechanism) to sleep. While many of these start with the character sleeping, once the game begins, said character can go the rest of the game without resting.
    • Justified in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, where the entire game consists of a three-day time loop. A long time to stay awake, but not inconceivable when the world is at stake. Also, it's one of the few games where you CAN take a nap if you want - by listening to an exceptionally boring story.
    • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Link does sort of sleep for seven full years in the Chamber of Sages.
  • According to side material, complete magicians in Touhou no longer need to sleep. They still can, they just don't need to.
  • Some Pokémon have abilities that prevent them from falling asleep, namely Vital Spirit and Insomnia, either from enemy attacks or from their own moves like the recovery Rest.
  • Danny, the player character in Crush, agrees to be an experimental subject for the C.R.U.S.H. technology to try and cure his insomnia.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, losing the ability to sleep is the second step in Colette's angel transformation, and thus an early warning sign of how much suffering it causes. Supplementary material translated by fans says that the Seraphim are the same way.
  • In Fallout 3 you don't technically need to sleep, but doing so has several bonuses, such as healing you and giving you a 10% bonus to xp gains. In Fallout: New Vegas hardcore mode not sleeping will give you penalties to endurance , intelligence and agility. Two weeks without sleep can kill you.

Web Comics

  • Zimmy of Gunnerkrigg Court cannot sleep, though it's the least of her problems. Her best friend does not have this ability, but she tries to stay up with Zimmy anyway. There's a reason she walks around like a zombie.
  • November's inability to sleep is a driving plot point in No Rest for The Wicked.
  • Zeetha of Girl Genius knows Skifandrian mental exercises that let her go for days without sleep, no problem. They're hardly ever taught to outsiders. Oh, and the Baron knows them (and taught his son).
  • Tina of Wapsi Square does not sleep, being a collection of demons occupying an empty shell of a body. However, she often does put her body into a "standby mode" at night, though this is mostly so she can feel a little bit more human.
  • Canadian Guy from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things doesn't sleep. Instead, he sits in a rowboat in the middle of a lake with a lantern and a buttonbox concertina and an empty stare. It is unclear whether this is an actual sleep substitute, a hobby done while everyone else is sleeping, or some arcane man-ritual.
  • In Homestuck, sleep is still required to some extent but not as much as normal because players have dreamselves that wake up whenever they sleep. Karkat went almost a full month without sleeping once.


Western Animation

  • In one episode of Fairly Oddparents, Timmy is sick of bedtime and wishes it out of existence; the inevitable "catch" is that people still get sleep-deprived.
  • Bionicle: since their evolution into Antidermis, the Makuta do not have to eat, among other things.
  • In the episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" of Avatar: The Last Airbender, 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 3 days straight. In the process he becomes a nervous wreck and begins hallucinating like crazy.
  • Topsy from King of the Hill claims to be the guy the Barenaked Ladies were singing about.


Real Life

  • Fatal familial insomnia is an extremely rare genetic disorder which progressively destroys a person's ability to sleep. Several months after its onset, sleep becomes totally impossible, with insanity and death following shortly after.
  • Are you in full-International Baccalaureate classes? You will, eventually, become accustomed to borderline no sleep.
    • However, Graduate Students might consider such statements "adorable."
  • It is not quite sleeplessness, but humans can adapt to relatively small amounts of sleep. Long-distance solo boat racers will typically sleep only twenty minutes or so every few hours, totaling two or three hours a day, for months at a time. Paul Erdos, the Crazy Awesome mathematician, slept about the same amount for many years, although this may be attributed to amphetamine use.
    • It's known by many as the Ubermensch sleep schedule, and what isn't mentioned is that it pretty much drives you insane. Anyone can do it but that doesn't mean they should.
      • In fact, any extended level of insomnia or general lack of sleep will result in the following (not necessarily in this order): irritability, hunger, irrational anger, increase in violent response, hallucinations, insanity, and death. In other words, GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP.
    • As people age their daily activity levels decrease and their growth and recovery mechanisms slow down or stop. As a result, the amount of sleep required decreases as a person enters and progresses through senescence. The sufficiently old or infirm may appear to not sleep at all due to being sedentary when awake.
  • Thomas Edison only slept for about 15 minutes at a time. Since he worked with electricity, logic states that he should have electrocuted himself, but he didn't.
    • It might have something to do with the fact that he worked exclusively with direct current, which is very difficult to electrocute yourself with, and fanatically opposed alternating current, supported by Nikola Tesla, which you can be electrocuted with, but makes more sense as a large-scale distribution mechanism.
  • People are now using drugs (notably Modafinil) to lower their need for sleep.

Notes

  1. Studies show that you'll waste roughly 30 years of your life sleeping. Sucks to be you.
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