34 Sleep Metaphors, Similes and Idioms (That Pop!) - 2023 (2023)

There are countless expressions for going to sleep. Some sleep metaphors include:

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  • Stealing Sleep
  • Catching Zs
  • Hitting the hay

There are also many sleep idioms that we use in our everyday language, like:

  • Going to the land of Nod
  • Counting Sheep
  • Going out like a Light

Below, I’ve outlined 33 examples that are some of the most common sayings about sleep in the English language.

Contents hide

1 List of Expressions for Going to Sleep

2 Idioms and Metaphors about Having a Good Sleep

3 Idioms and Metaphors for Sleep Deprivation

4 Expressions for Waking Up

5 Other Sleep Metaphors and Idioms

Read Also: A List of Dream Metaphors and Idioms

List of Expressions for Going to Sleep

1. Nodding off

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You could imagine that this expression comes from the idea that when someone (maybe they’re sitting up) starts to fall asleep their chin drops to their chest, making the process of falling asleep look like a nod.

Example: “Looks like dad is nodding off while watching the football again.”

2. Steel some Sleep

You steal sleep when you get a short nap between tasks. People talk about stealing sleep when they don’t have much time in their day. They might be able to get to have a nap for 30 minutes between dropping their kids off at school and going to work, for example.

Example: “I’m so tired I might just steal some sleep on my lunch break.”

3. Catch some Zs

When we look at cartoons of people snoring, there are often ZZZ’s written above their head to indicate the snore. So, to “catch Zs” is an idiomatic expression meaning to get some sleep.

Example: “Joe’s in the bedroom catching some Zs.”

4. Hit the Hay

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Hundreds of years ago people didn’t have the nice comfortable spring beds we enjoy today. Instead, they would often sleep on piles of hay. It may be a little uncomfortable, but at least it’s squishy and better than sleeping on the floor. Today, you still hear people saying “I’m going to hit the hay”, meaning that you’re going to bed.

Example: “I’m feeling tired, I’m going to hit the hay early tonight.”

5. Counting Sheep

Counting sleep is a mantra that could help people to fall asleep. You essentially close your eyes and … count! You can imagine sheep passing by your eyes and as each sheep passes by, you count it. This helps to clear your mind of other thoughts that might come into it.

But we often just use this phrase when talking about someone who is going to (or even currently) asleep.

Joe: “Where’s Jane?”

Mark: “She’s in the bedroom counting sheep.”

6. Getting Some Shuteye

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While I would still consider this phrase to be figurative language, you can see the literal origins of the phrase, too. You need to shut your eyes to sleep. So, to “get some shuteye” is to get some time where you can shut your eyes and (hopefully) “nod off”!

Read Also: A List of Eye Metaphors

7. Drifting Off

Imagine a raft in the water ‘drifting’. It slowly gets carried away further and further away until it’s nowhere to be seen. Drifting to sleep is similar. You might be lying there and slowly losing consciousness. You can feel yourself getting more and more drowsy. It doesn’t happen automatically, but before you know it, you are dozing off. So, it has the feel of slowly ‘drifting’ away, much like when your boat or raft drifts in the current of a river.

Idioms and Metaphors about Having a Good Sleep

8. Sleep Tight

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If you tuck the sheets under your bed then slip in, it can feel tight and cozy under there. Now imagine if you toss and turn all night. You’ll probably untuck all those sheets overnight and you’ll wake up with a bundle of sheets at your feet.

So to say “sleep tight” is a way of wishing someone they have a good sleep – so good that you didn’t untuck the sheets and slept cozy under those nice smooth sheets all night long.

Example: “Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

9. Heavy Sleeper

A person who is a heavy sleeper is someone who is hard to wake up when they’re asleep. They are “fast asleep”. Chances are they will also wake up feeling very refreshed because they gave their body and brain a good long time to rest and recover without interruption.

10. Over Slept

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Someone who over slept is considered to have slept too long, which may cause problems! One problem might be that you feel groggy and disoriented. You might also miss work or school!

11. Slept like a Rock

This rock simile invokes the features of rocks (they’re heavy and hard to move) and applies them to someone sleeping. You can imagine someone who sleeps like a rock will be hard to wake up and hard to budge. They’ll be heavily flopped onto the bed, not moving an inch.

12. Fast Asleep

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This doesn’t mean you’re going fast or dreaming about driving a race car. The lesser used definition of “fast” is to be tightly sealed, hard to move, or secure. For example you can say that a rock climber’s harness is tied fast so that they won’t fall.

So a person who is fast asleep is not going to wake up easily.

13. Went out like a Light

A light turns off the minute you flick the switch. A person who falls asleep straight away will “go out like a light”. You’ll hear parents saying this about their child if they manage to get them to go to bed right away – which of course isn’t common!

14. Hit the Sack

Like “hit the hay”, hit the sack is an idiom of yesteryear. Before we had lovely sheets and bedspreads, you could imagine people in the past slept on sacks. You could even imagine people sleeping under hessian sacks to keep them warm, before they had blankets.

15. Slept like a Log

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Like “fast” and “heavy” sleepers, this simile implies someone is hard to wake up. Logs don’t move. They can also be very heavy! So if you sleep like a log, you’re immovable. You’re not tossing and turning. You are perfectly still.

16. Slept like a Baby

This one also means to sleep deeply. I find this one funny because sometimes babies don’t sleep too well at all. But sometimes when they’re asleep they seem to be really enjoying their peaceful moment. So this simile means you have a peaceful enjoyable and “heavy” night’s nap.

Idioms and Metaphors for Sleep Deprivation

17. Rough Sleep

Something that is rough is not comfortable. Imagine sleeping on a rough gravel road. Ouch! We say “rough sleep” to imply someone did not have a good night’s sleep. They may have woken up multiple times throughout the night. Of course, they may have slept on something perfectly comfortable, but this analogy helps us understand how they might have felt all night, given their inability to stay asleep through the night.

Read Also: A List of Sex Metaphors

18. Light Sleeper

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This is the exact opposite of the “heavy” metaphor discussed earlier. A light sleeper is someone who wakes up very easily. They might wake up multiple times through the night to go to the bathroom or when they hear dogs barking outside.

19. Tossed and Turned

This phrase is a common way to talk about someone’s rough sleep. To me, it invokes the image of someone cooking a stir fry and constantly tossing the vegetables in the wok. But, in this idiom, we mean someone has been rolling around in the bed all night long.

20. Over Tired

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If you’re “over tired”, you might start doing crazy things. You’ll often hear parents talking about this when their child is misbehaving. They will explain that their child is misbehaving because they’re “over tired” – they need a good night in bed and the next morning they will be back to normal again.

21. Not Sleeping a Wink

We sleep with our eyes closed. Winking is also closing your eyes – for a split second! So if you didn’t sleep a wink, it means that you didn’t even get to close your eyes for a slight moment.

In practice, we’ll often use this phrase even if we just lay in bed with our eyes closed for hours and hours. It is simply used idiomatically to talk about a sleepless night.

Expressions for Waking Up

22. Rise and Shine

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You might use this phrase when telling someone to get out of bed and enjoy the day. ‘Rise’ means to get out of bed while ‘Shine’ means that the sun’s out so the day has started.

I imagine someone who is really positive and bubbly saying this, rather than someone who is begrudgingly starting their day.

23. Got up at the Crack of Dawn

To get up at the crack of dawn is to wake up very early. You could literally interpret it as getting up as soon as there’s a tiny bit of light in the day. But more realistically, it just means waking up very early and not sleeping in.

You could come up with a few other fun metaphors similar to this one, like “woke up with the cows”, “beat the rooster out of bed”, or “rose with the sun” to create great images in the mind of the person you’re talking (or writing) to.

24. Was an Early Bird

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In English we have a great phrase that goes: “the early bird gets the worm”. It means that people who wake up early have an advantage over others. They get to the shop first so they don’t have to wait in line. They have more time to finish their tasks. And they’re probably more organized, too!

So, an ‘early bird’ is someone who wakes up before everyone else.

Read Also: Bird Symbolism and Meanings

Other Sleep Metaphors and Idioms

25. I’ll Sleep when I’m Dead

This is something people say when they’re really ambitious and living a fast-paced life. They don’t have time to sleep because they have so many things to do! They want to be out at night partying, or might be busy building up a business so they just don’t have time to get to bed.

Read Also: Death Metaphors

26. Night Owl

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A night owl is the opposite to an early bird, and the two metaphors are probably related. I can imagine years ago someone saying “I’m an early bird – I wake up at the crack of dawn!” And their brother responds: “Well I’m a night owl – I stay awake all night.”

Of course, this metaphor works because owls are nocturnal animals, meaning they are awake at night and sleep during the day. So you can use it to talk about anyone you know who stays awake at night to get things done and then sleeps in every morning.

Read Also: Owl Symbolism

27. Sleeping Giant

A sleeping giant has nothing to do with sleep, really. It’s a euphemism we use to refer to something strong and powerful that perhaps isn’t aware of its own strength. The strongest example of this is the old saying that China is a sleeping giant. It’s a big populous nation that could rise to rule the world one day. But through much of the 20th Century it was mired by internal poverty, which meant that it was considered a “sleeping giant” unaware of (or unable to exercise) its true strength.

28. Beauty Sleep

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This idiom comes from the idea that beautiful people need a lot of sleep to keep themselves beautiful. While we might use it jokingly, there’s a grain of truth to it. Skin regenerates during sleep which helps it look healthy.

It may come from the story of sleeping beauty, who was a beautiful Disney character who slept for years until being awoken by her prince charming.

Bob: “Good morning honey, you slept in today. You must have needed your beauty sleep!”

Read Also: Beauty Metaphors

29. Forty Winks

Forty winks means a short sleep during the day. Winking involves closing your eyes, which is required to sleep. And forty is a term to imply ‘many’ or ‘a lot’. So you’re not just closing your eyes for a split moment, but for a sustained amount of time to get your daytime nap.

This term can be traced back to the book The Art of invigorating and prolonging Life, by Food, Clothes, Air, Exercise, Wine, Sleep, &c by William Kitchiner, published in 1821 in London, UK.

30. Got up on the Wrong Side of Bed

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This is an idiom that means you’re grumpy. It implies that your day started wrong from the very beginning and it’s had you in a bad mood all day. If only you had gotten out of bed on the other side, then maybe things might have gone better for you!

31. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

This saying isn’t about sleep at all, really, but it does have the word in it. It really means not to aggravate someone (or something) more than is necessary. Literally – if dogs are asleep, don’t wake them up or they’ll bark and cause a problem. But, figuratively, we might use this saying when we know bringing up a topic might cause your spouse to get angry at you. You might choose not to bring it up because you want to “let sleeping dogs lie” (in other words, you don’t want to cause a fight).

32. I’ll Sleep on It

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If you need time to think about something before making a decision, you can say “I’ll sleep on it.” If you say this, you’re asking for a day to have a think. Maybe after you’ve had a rest and wake up the next day there might be more clarity for you and you can make a better decision.

33. Don’t Lose Sleep over It

If something is really concerning or worrying for you, you might lie awake all night thinking about it. So to tell someone not to lose sleep over an issue, you’re telling them that there’s nothing really worth worrying about. It’s not an important problem, so don’t spend your time thinking about it.

Bob: “Oh Jane, I’m so sorry but I lost the book I borrowed off you!”

Jane: “Don’t lose sleep over it Bob, I didn’t really need it anymore anyway.”

34. In the Land of Nod

This is a funny one! It relates back to the concept that you appear to nod when you fall asleep. Your chin drops to your head in a nodding fashion. To make this a more colorful saying, we have over time developed this idiom of there being a “land of nod” which implies you’re fast asleep, and probably dreaming of a far off magical land!


  • Metaphors for Easy


There are likely countless sleep metaphors and idioms. They range from the absolute cliché through to the unique, strange and inventive. And if none of the examples on this list suit you, why not make one up yourself? Think about what sleep is “like” to you and invent a metaphor that works for your situation. That’s the great thing about figurative speech – you can be as creative as you want!

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I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.


What is a simile and metaphor for sleep? ›

Sleep very soundly, as in I slept like a log, or She said she slept like a top. Both of these similes transfer the immobility of an object to that of a person who is sound asleep (since a top spinning quickly looks immobile). The first dates from the late 1600s; the variant is newer.

What is a good metaphor for sleep? ›

If someone sleeps like a log, they sleep well, not waking at all for a long period: I slept like a log last night – I didn't even hear the rain. Someone who is out for the count or dead to the world is sleeping heavily and not likely to wake soon: It looks like Tom's out for the count.

What is a simile for going to sleep? ›

Slept like a log. Sealed sleep as water-lilies know. Sleep like a top. Sleep as soundly as a constable.

What is the simile in the big sleep? ›

Hard-boiled devotees are sure to gravitate to the famous similes: the face that falls apart “like a bride's pie crust,”the sunshine that's “as empty as a headwaiter's smile,” the old man who uses his strength “as carefully as an out-of-work show-girl using her last good pair of stockings.”

What are 3 examples of a simile? ›

Examples of Similes for Everyday Use
  • As slow as a sloth.
  • As busy as a bee.
  • As innocent as a lamb.
  • As proud as a peacock.
  • As fast as a cheetah.
  • As blind as a bat.
  • As bold as brass.
  • As cold as ice.

What are 3 words for sleep? ›

1 slumber, nap, drowse, doze.

What are the 4 phrases of sleep? ›

There are traditionally 4 stages of sleep: awake, light, deep, and REM sleep. Each one plays an essential role in maintaining your mental and physical health.

What is the idiom of to go to bed? ›

phrase. To go to bed with someone means to have sex with them. Synonyms: retire, turn in [informal], go to sleep, hit the sack [slang] More Synonyms of go to bed. See full dictionary entry for bed.

What is the idiom of to sleep suddenly? ›

crash out. phrasal verb. to suddenly start sleeping, usually when you are very tired.

What are 3 famous metaphors? ›

Famous metaphors
  • “The Big Bang.” ...
  • “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. ...
  • “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ...
  • “I am the good shepherd, … and I lay down my life for the sheep.” ...
  • “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” ...
  • “Chaos is a friend of mine.”

What are 3 similes in English? ›

Examples of Similes Using “As”

He's as sick as a dog. It was as big as an elephant. He is as bright as a button. She's as cold as ice.

What is a metaphor 3? ›

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn't literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

Is like a dream a simile? ›

Life is a dream. (Metaphor) Life is like a dream. (Simile)

What metaphor is used in night? ›

Comparing the camp to hell is a common metaphor throughout the book. Figurative language in Night is essential to the narrative because the experience of surviving a concentration camp is not something a general audience could easily imagine, given the horrific nature of the event.

What is a simile about a pillow? ›

From commons.wikimedia.org. Literal The pillows feel soft. Simile The pillows feel like a cloud. Metaphor The pillows are clouds under my head.

What is 1 example simile? ›

Similes often make use of hyperbole, or exaggeration: He runs as fast as lightning. She's as sweet as honey. You sing like an angel.

What is simile and examples 5? ›

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two unlike things using the words “like” or “as.” Common similes include the descriptive phrases “cool as a cucumber,” “cold as ice,” and “sly like a fox.” Writers often use similes to introduce concrete images into writing about abstract concepts.

What are the 5 types of sleep? ›

Sleep occurs in five stages: wake, N1, N2, N3, and REM. Stages N1 to N3 are considered non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, with each stage a progressively deeper sleep.

What are the 5 forms of sleep? ›

V1 V2 V3 V4 V5 Form of Sleep
Base Form (V1)sleep
Past Form (V2)slept
Past Participle Form (V3)slept
s / es/ es (V4)sleeps
'ing' form (V5)sleeping

What are the 8 metaphors? ›

In his book, Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan lays out eight metaphors for an organization: machines, organisms, brains, cultural systems, political systems, psychic prisons, instruments of domination, and flux and transformation.

What are the 6 elements of sleep? ›

Comfort, light, temperature, sound, air quality, room color, and furnishings –all play together to create a base for a good night's sleep or well-deserved rest.

What are the 6 types of sleeping? ›

According to research, how you sleep and how much you sleep may give you away.
  • Fetal position. It's the most popular sleeping position. ...
  • Yearners. This is someone who sleeps on their side with their arms stretched out in front of them. ...
  • The log. ...
  • The soldier. ...
  • Freefall. ...
  • Starfish.

What is a quote about sleep? ›

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.” “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” “Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.” “Before you fall asleep every day, say something positive to yourself.”

How do you say sleep in slang? ›

hit the hay
  1. crash.
  2. go to sleep.
  3. hit the sack.
  4. kip down.
  5. sack out.
  6. turn in.

Is make the bed an idiom? ›

idiom. : to neatly arrange the sheets, blankets, and bedspread on the bed. Don't forget to make the bed.

How do I get to sleep? ›

  1. Have good sleep routine (sleep hygiene) Having a regular routine helps to improve sleep. ...
  2. Relax, unwind and try sleep meditation. ...
  3. Try mindfulness for sleep. ...
  4. Create the right sleep environment. ...
  5. Do not force sleep. ...
  6. Improve sleep through diet and exercise.

What does catching ZZZ mean? ›

Meaning: 'Catch some Zs' is both an idiom and an onomatopoeiac meaning to get some sleep, referencing the noise a person makes while sleeping.

Is fell asleep an idiom? ›

idiom. She fell asleep during the movie. I woke up and I couldn't fall back asleep.

What is 1 type of metaphor? ›

Similes, hyperbole, antithesis, idioms, and metonymy are all types of metaphors as they use the practice of comparisons between two 'things.

What are some powerful metaphors? ›

Other examples of common metaphors are “night owl”, “cold feet”, “beat a dead horse”, “early bird”, “couch potato”, “eyes were fireflies”, “apple of my eye”, “heart of stone”, “heart of a lion”, “roller coaster of emotions”, and “heart of gold.”

What is a metaphor for love? ›

LOVE-AS-NATURAL-FORCE METAPHOR - love is represented as a storm, flood, or wind, thus highlighting the aspects of the intensity of love and the lack of control of those in love. She swept me off my feet. Waves of passion came over him. She was carried away by love.

What are strong similes? ›

as strong as an ox (about a person with great strength) as light as a feather (when something weighs very little) as busy as a bee. as quiet as a mouse (someone who is shy and untalkative; someone who is being quiet so as not to be heard)

What is as dark as night? ›

Totally black; also, very dark. For example, The well was black as night, or She had eyes that were black as coal. These similes have survived while others—black as ink, a raven, thunder, hell, the devil, my hat, the minister's coat, the ace of spades—are seldom if ever heard today.

What is a simile for beautiful? ›

Some common synonyms of beautiful are comely, fair, handsome, lovely, and pretty.

What is a metaphor Grade 7? ›

What is a Metaphor? • A metaphor shows a resemblance between two totally different objects by saying that one object is another. • It compares these two unlike objects by identifying a single similar common characteristic.

What is a metaphor Grade 5? ›

Metaphors are basically a figure of speech that individuals use to compare things that aren't alike but do have one or more similarities. Unlike similes which describe two things directly (e.g. brave as a lion), metaphors' comparison is indirect and is usually stated as "something is something else."

What are the best similes for tired? ›

  • dog-tired.
  • exhausted.
  • fatigued.
  • kaput.
  • wearied.
  • weary.
  • worn-out.

What is the simile of sleep like a baby? ›

(simile) To sleep very well, especially peacefully.

What is a bed metaphor for? ›

The bed is an object where an action, such as thinking and laying awake takes place. In a metaphorical sense, the bed in my work represents moods and emotions that are psychologically tied to the bed.

What is a metaphor for tiredness? ›

A much more helpful metaphor for states of exhaustion is the notion of heaviness. Heaviness imagery revolves around the sensation of being weighed down by the burden of our thoughts, bodies, tasks, and sorrows. Heaviness metaphors have always chimed with me and my innermost experience.

What is the idiom for so tired? ›

First, "I'm gonna hit the hay" and second, "I'm gonna hit the sack." So these two right here, these are the idioms, "hit the hay" or "hit the sack," hit the hay or hit the sack." So here, we see "hit." The verb "hit" is in both of these expressions.

What is the idiom for being tired? ›

I am worn out. I am wrecked. I am knackered (and watch out how we spell that) I'm exhausted.

What is the idiom for little sleep? ›

5 – A catnap. Do you know what taking a catnap means? This idiom describes taking a short and light nap.

What is a simile for as lazy? ›

Lazy as a toad at the bottom of a well. Lazy as Joe the Marine, who laid down his musket to sneeze. Lazy as a lobster. Lazy as Ludham's dog that leaned his head against the wall to bark.

What is a simile for night? ›

Totally black; also, very dark. For example, The well was black as night, or She had eyes that were black as coal. These similes have survived while others—black as ink, a raven, thunder, hell, the devil, my hat, the minister's coat, the ace of spades—are seldom if ever heard today.

What are the 5 example of metaphor? ›

Common metaphor examples
  • Life is a highway.
  • Her eyes were diamonds.
  • He is a shining star.
  • The snow is a white blanket.
  • She is an early bird.
Jan 12, 2021

Is black as night a simile? ›

This is one of many phrases used to describe blackness or darkness with a simile. It is related to phrases like black as coal, black as pitch (tar), and pitch-black. All of these phrases are commonly used today, as is black as night. They are all synonymous.

Do we dream in metaphors? ›

Fifth, since dreams are a form of thought, dreams make use of metaphor because thought typically makes use of metaphor. Since dreams are not consciously monitored, they do not make consciously monitored use of metaphor. Thus, the use of metaphor in dreams may seem to the conscious mind wild and incoherent.

Is sleeping like a log a metaphor? ›

The expression is thought to be a metaphor, as the logs cut were large heavy blocks that were difficult to move, and the lumberjacks, once asleep, could be compared to these immovable logs. Whatever your favourite expression might be, a good night's sleep most definitely starts with a good mattress.

Why is it called bed? ›

Bed comes from the Teutonic word "bhedh" (to dig). Historians explain that, at one time, resting places for both animals and people were dug out of the ground. These resting places were the models for the flower beds of today. "Garden bed" has been used by the English since at least AD 1000.


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