Quotes About Sleep

Discover References to Sleep in Literature

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Sleep has inspired writers, poets, playwrights, major figures, and authors throughout recorded history. Some of the finest writers have commented on sleep, providing memorable quotes and literary passages that capture the essence of this most peculiar state. Take a moment and contemplate some quotes about sleep, including those related to insomnia, snoring, sleeptalking, dreams, and sleep paralysis.

General Quotes About Sleep

Sleep is a common topic of reference in literature, but while some writers love it, others seem to hate it. It is seen as necessary, an integral part of life, and even a glimpse of death. Sleep is incorporated into major works, is a common theme in the plays of William Shakespeare, and has even inspired proverbs in cultures from Africa to Ireland.

"Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast."
-Macbeth (Act II, Sc. ii), Shakespeare

"Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn."
-Mahatma Gandhi

"Never waste any time you can spend sleeping."
-Frank H. Knight

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."
-Irish Proverb

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"
-Ernest Hemingway

"Sometimes at night I would sleep open-eyed underneath a sky dripping with stars. I was alive then."
-Albert Camus

"They slept profoundly, desperately, greedily, as though for the last time, as though they had been condemned to stay awake forever and had to drink in all the sleep in the world during these last hours."
-Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund

"The main facts in human life are five: birth, food, sleep, love and death."
-E.M. Forster

"Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them."
-Edgar Allen Poe

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; 
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
-Hamlet (Act V, Sc. ii), Shakespeare

"Sleep killed the lion."
-African Proverb, Rwanda

"Death was a friend, and sleep was Death's brother."
-John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

"Fatigue is the safest sleeping draught."
-Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room: The Shakespeare Head Press Edition of Virginia Woolf

"Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."
-Phyllis Diller

Quotes About Insomnia

It is sometimes difficult to get to sleep, a condition called insomnia, and this too has inspired writers. Difficulty falling asleep, feeling a rush of thoughts and anxiety in bed, characterize both the condition and its description in literature. The desire for fleeting sleep becomes a burden, a torment. Some writers seem to advocate that an insomniac should capitalize on this inability to sleep, filling the time with productivity.

This may contradict better sleep guidelines, but it is nevertheless the experience of many who suffer from insomnia.

"O sleep! O gentle sleep!
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?"
-Henry IV, Part 2 (Act 3, Sc. i), Shakespeare

"You cannot imagine the craving for rest that I feel—a hunger and thirst. For six long days, since my work was done, my mind has been a whirlpool, swift, unprogressive and incessant, a torrent of thoughts leading nowhere, spinning round swift and steady."
-H.G. Wells, When the Sleeper Wakes

"I don't know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep in bed when I am up, maddens me."
-Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

"And where care lodges, sleep will never lie."
-Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Sc. iii), Shakespeare

"I wonder why I don't go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip one hour more of sleep and live."
-Sylvia Plath

"Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep."
-Fran Lebowitz

"A person who has not done one-half his day's work by ten o'clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone."
-Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

"What hath night to do with sleep?"
-John Milton, Paradise Lost

Quotes About Snoring

For those who endure the consequences of snoring, this quote may strike a familiar chord:

"Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone."
-Anthony Burgess

Quotes About Sleeptalking

Somniloquy, or sleeptalking, is a common occurrence and Albert Camus has a humorous take on this parasomnia:

"Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep."
-Albert Camus

Quotes About Dreams

Dreams are a companion to sleep. It is no surprise, therefore, that dreams serve as a common touchstone in literature. Most often associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, dreams bring the night to life. Though our body may lie still, our mind remains active.

"Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d"
-Sonnet 27, Shakespeare

"But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame"
-Victor Hugo, "I Dreamed a Dream", Les Miserables

"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams."
-Dr. Seuss

"The concept of dreaming is known to the waking mind but to the dreamer there is no waking, no real world, no sanity; there is only the screaming bedlam of sleep."
-Stephen King, Rose Madder

"To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause."
-Hamlet (Act 3, Sc. i), Shakespeare

"Even a soul submerged in sleep
is hard at work and helps
make something of the world."
-Heraclitus, Fragments

Quotes About Sleep Paralysis

Finally, Charles Dickens seems to have been familiar with the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. This condition occurs when elements of REM sleep persist into wakefulness, including the inability to move and vivid dream imagery. Reviewing this passage from Oliver Twist will call to mind the experiences of sleep paralysis for many:

"There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes, which, while it holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things about it, and enable it to ramble at its pleasure. So far as an overpowering heaviness, a prostration of strength, and an utter inability to control our thoughts or power of motion, can be called sleep, this is it; and yet we have a consciousness of all that is going on about us; and if we dream at such a time, words which are really spoken, or sounds which really exist at the moment, accommodate themselves with surprising readiness to our visions, until reality and imagination become so strangely blended that it is afterwards almost a matter of impossibility to separate the two. Nor is this, the most striking phenomenon, incidental to such a state. It is an undoubted fact, that although our senses of touch and sight be for the time dead, yet our sleeping thoughts, and the visionary scenes that pass before us, will be influenced, and materially influenced, by the mere silent presence of some external object: which may not have been near us when we closed our eyes: and of whose vicinity we have had no waking consciousness."
-Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist


"Sleep." Goodreads.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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