How is Sleeping Portrayed in Pop Culture?

Sleep is a natural process in the body’s natural circadian rhythm (the cycle of mental and physical activities within a 24-hour period). It helps restore energy and promote recovery from physical or mental fatigue. Adequate sleep helps reduce stress, improve concentration, regulate mood and strengthen the immune system, so it also plays an important role in maintaining a good health. 

Pop culture refers to the collection of ideas, attitudes, beliefs, images, and behaviors that are considered popular by a certain group of people at a specific time. When thinking of pop culture, images of over-the-top parties, glamorous fashion, and exciting action often come to mind. Yet in reality, pop culture also includes the activities that form our daily lives, including how we sleep. 

Popular culture continually shapes the way individuals perceive life and understand the world around them. From films to TV shows and music to advertising, it has a lasting impact on society’s perception of events, topics and trends. 

All that Glitters is Not Gold

We often overlook how integral sleep is in our lives and how it affects us both physically and mentally. So it is fascinating to look at how sleeping is depicted in popular culture and how it has evolved over the years. Yet, how it is portrayed in popular culture is not always an accurate representation of its importance. Oftentimes, it glamorizes lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of developing certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. While many think that sleeping is merely about shutting off the brain for a few hours, it is actually a critical part of physical health and well-being.

This blog post explores the portrayal of sleeping in pop culture, such as movies and TV shows. It discusses everything from the comical portrayal of sleep deprivation to the philosophical exploration of the role sleep plays in our lives. So, grab your favorite blanket and read on to learn more about the ways in which pop culture is portraying sleep.

Sleeping in Movies

an empty movie theater 

Sleep appears in films in various ways, typically being used as an analogy for death or relaxation and comfort. It can be portrayed as a state of respite or as something that is easily disrupted by some external force. It has frequently been featured in various movies, both comedically and seriously. Let’s look at how some of the popular in movies depict sleep and what it means in it:

A Nightmare on Elm Street

One of the most famous, and most sinister, horror movie franchises of all time is 1984’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. Here, the villain Freddy Krueger kills his victims through their dreams. This movie makes it clear that the stakes of getting enough appropriate sleep are very high, as insomnia can literally result in your death in this world.


On the other side of the coin is 2010’s mind-bending science fiction movie ‘Inception’. Here, Director Christopher Nolan creates a world where dreams are explored as a form of escapism and a way to communicate with people even when they’re not awake. Throughout the movie characters use dream manipulation to bend reality and complete complex tasks or communicate effectively with each other.

The Notebook

Aside from action and science fiction flicks, sleep can be an important factor in romantic movies like 2004’s ‘The Notebook’. Known for its tear-jerking scenes, this movie also shows the importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy relationship. When Allie and Noah realize they cannot be together, Allie is said to have “slept without dreaming” as her way to cope with her grief. 

The Revenant

Sleep is also important for physical health and endurance, as showcased in 2015’s ‘The Revenant’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass. The character goes through immense physical trauma during his journey for survival. With little access to food or proper sleep, Hugh is constantly fighting against his own body in order to survive. 

Inside Out 

The importance of sleeping isn’t just limited to adults. Young children need enough proper rest too in order to grow and develop properly. Pixar’s 2015 movie ‘Inside Out’ shows how a lack of quality sleep affects 11-year-old Riley’s emotions. When she starts going through puberty, her emotions start becoming chaotic because she isn’t getting enough rest due to her changing body clock. 

The Terminator 

Finally, we take a look at 1984’s classic sci-fi action flick ‘The Terminator’. In this movie, sleeping isn’t necessarily depicted as a good thing; rather it’s highlighted how something we consider simple and passive can turn into life-threatening danger. When a seemingly unkillable cyborg from the future tries to hunt down Sarah Connors while she sleeps. 

In films like The Revenant, characters use sleep as a way to rest up before facing adversity. On the contrary, films like The Terminator often depict characters struggling to stay awake due to constant threats around them. 

In some movies, it is also frequently depicted as a way to show characters’ exhaustion from life events. For example, The Notebook used sleeping scenes to demonstrate Noah’s love for Allie even when she had forgotten him due to Alzheimer’s disease. Whereas movies such as Inside Out used sleeping scenes to provide insight into characters’ subconscious minds. 

Sleeping in TV Shows

person preparing to watch a TV show

Similar to movies, TV shows use sleep as a way to highlight different aspects of characters’ lives. It is often portrayed in television shows as a sign of comfort or relaxation after long days filled with drama or laborious tasks such as parenting or working multiple jobs. 

Let’s look at how popular fictional television shows depict the concept of sleep in relation to their characters and stories.


The sleeping habits of Seinfeld’s characters are far from ideal. Jerry Seinfeld in particular tends to be very particular about his sleep schedule, often dismissing social obligations or meetings simply because he wants to get some rest. His sleep routine also plays an important role in how he interacts with his friends. As shown in one particular episode where he refuses to help them with their tasks so he can focus on getting enough sleep. Plus, Jerry also often complains about how tired he is during the day, which serves to highlight the importance of getting enough rest. 


Friends takes a much more comedic approach when talking about sleep. While the characters do still acknowledge the need for it, they often find themselves making sacrifices in order to fit other activities into their days. The show highlights this concept by having all the characters constantly sacrificing their sleep for their work and relationships. This inevitably leads to many humorous situations in which their lack of sleep makes them say or do strange things. 

Grey’s Anatomy 

Unlike its predecessor, Grey’s Anatomy has a much more serious take on sleeping habits. The characters often face long shifts and other stressful tasks, which makes getting enough rest a vital part of their lives in order to survive the day. Lack of sleep is depicted as a major problem throughout the show, with characters having to face serious consequences as a result of not getting enough rest. 

House MD

House MD is another medical drama that offers an interesting perspective on sleep problems. The main character, Gregory House, struggles with insomnia throughout the course of the series. His self-medication with Vicodin (a highly regulated prescription pain relieving drug) affects his ability to rest and viewers are exposed to a multitude of real-life scenarios where insomnia can wreak havoc on someone’s life both at work and at home. As such, House’s team must always make sure they are well rested before taking on a challenging task otherwise, they risk making mistakes that could cost somebody’s life. 

Game of Thrones 

Game of Thrones brings a unique spin on sleeping habits as it takes place in a world without electricity or running water. Characters are often forced to take quick naps due to their dangerous lifestyles or spend entire nights awake anticipating attacks from invading forces. By embodying this harsh reality upon its characters, Game of Thrones teaches us that taking care of our bodies should be prioritized no matter how busy life can become.

tired man yawning widely

One genre that has been particularly fascinated by sleep is reality TV shows. Let’s see the ways that sleep is depicted in this medium. 

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

This reality TV show follows the lives of the Kardashian family as they navigate fame. In the show, sleep takes a back seat to the daily drama of being part of a famous family. The show often features moments of the Kardashians struggling to get enough rest amidst all the chaos surrounding them. This can be seen in episodes where the family stays up late discussing upcoming plans or deals that need to be made. 


Survivor is a show where contestants are put in extreme situations and compete against one another to win a grand prize. Sleep is essential in order for the contestants to stay physically and mentally alert during their time in the game. But how to catch some well-deserved Zs when there are no proper sleeping arrangements like beds or mattresses of any kind

Being without sleep for extended periods of time can lead to lapses in judgment which could mean that a contestant could be voted off or even eliminated from the competition. 

The different types of mattresses currently available on the market 

Big Brother 

Big Brother is a show where contestants live together in a house equipped with cameras and microphones monitoring all their moves. Sleep is a challenge for contestants in this environment since they do not have any privacy or quiet time away from each other. 

Contestants are often seen trying to make themselves comfortable to get some rest amidst all the chaos around them, such as by covering their eyes with bedsheets or creating makeshift sleeping arrangements on different pieces of furniture. 

This type of content helps viewers understand the importance of achieving quality sleep for peak performance levels in everyday life, proving that even traditional entertainment can be educational.

How Z-z-z-z-z-z Became a Symbol of Sleep

woman wakes up after a restful slumber 

The sound “z-z-z-z” has become synonymous with sleeping and snoring. In this year, the American Dialect Society formalized it and since then has been in frequent use in pop culture media such as cartoons and comic books throughout history. Some popular idioms, like catching some Zs also followed. 

It is thought that the sound first appeared in print media when cartoonists began using it as a visual representation for someone snoring while asleep. It has become an iconic sound effect used whenever someone is shown sleeping on screen or in comics. 

The Z-z-z-z is still as popular as ever in today’s pop culture, from television shows and video games to comics and books. It is often used as a way to indicate a character sleeping or being tired and it continues to bring humor and levity to many stories. 

At its core, the Z-z-z-z is more than just a funny sound; it has become iconic for representing sleep in our culture. Whether you hear it in a cartoon, movie, or comic strip, you can’t help but chuckle when a character starts snoring or lets out an exaggerated Zzzzz. 


Sleep plays an important role in pop culture by providing viewers with various depictions that reflect their daily lives. From humorous scenarios to more serious moments that delve into characters’ psyches or highlight the powerlessness associated with insomnia or fatigue. And while some may think that sleeping is only good for health, not entertainment, the unique symbolism associated with those three little letters (zzz) prove otherwise! Ultimately, it’s clear that prioritizing quality sleep should be at the top of any person’s mental wellbeing checklist, both in entertainment and real life.