The 9 Weirdest Naps in Literature

Before you drift off, take a tour through how bizarre things can get while you’re out cold

Listen, we’re all tired, pretty much all the time. But is it really safe to nod off? For you, probably yes, but for the characters in these nine novels and stories, definitely not. Some of them awaken from a deep slumber to discover that decades (even centuries) have passed and that the world they knew no longer exists. For others, it’s the opposite—it turns out they’ve been dreaming all along. And sometimes, they just wake up covered in tiny men. Before you snooze, read up on all the ways naps can go really, really weird. And then, good luck getting to sleep!

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

This whole comic series is about sleep—the main character is Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams (not the guy from The Matrix). But one nap stands out as particularly chilling. Morpheus punishes one of his enemies by cursing him with “eternal waking.” From the outside, the man is in a coma-like permanent sleep. But inside his head, he’s constantly waking from a horrible nightmare—into an even more horrible nightmare. People who cross the Lord of Dreams don’t often sleep well.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver, a failed English surgeon, takes to the sea to find his fortune, only to find himself shipwrecked after getting caught in a storm. He swims to a nearby island, passes out from exhaustion and awakens when the island’s six-inch-tall inhabitants tie him up with miniature ropes. If you think it sucks waking up with the couch pattern imprinted on your face, imagine waking up with your hair staked to the ground and a tiny man standing on your chest.

Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

Perhaps the canonical Weird Nap in Literature. Rip Van Winkle is a lazy Dutch colonial villager in the Catskills who wants nothing more than enjoy some alone time away from his nagging wife. He runs away to the mountain and bumps into some mysterious bearded men who offer him a drink. He drinks some of their gin, falls fast asleep, and wakes up… twenty years later. PSA: Never accept alcohol from a green dwarf with glowing eyes.

The Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault

An evil fairy feels snubbed that the King and Queen forgot to invite her to the royal christening, so she shows up uninvited anyways. To make matters worse, her meal is served on plain old china while the other silly fairies, not even half as senior as her, get gold plates. Rude, much? So the evil fairy has to curse the baby princess to prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a deep slumber for 100 years until a prince’s kiss awakens her. The evil fairy really didn’t want to be the bad guy, but she had her reputation to protect, after all.

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice was sitting by the river with her sister, bored to tears with nothing to do, when suddenly a White Rabbit with a pocket watch appeared and “down the rabbit hole” she went. She falls into a surreal world inhabited by a chain-smoking Caterpillar, an invisible Cheshire Cat, a Mad Hatter hosting a tea party and other eccentric talking animals. Just as a hysterical Queen of Hearts orders the girl to be decapitated, her sister rouses Alice from her sleep, leaving a confused Alice wondering if her adventures were real or just a dream.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Juliet follows some bad advice from a well-meaning friar and becomes convinces that the best way to reunited with her lover is to drink a potion that induces a death-like sleep. A distraught Romeo finds his sweetheart interred in the family crypt and consumes real poison. Juliet finally wakes up, all refreshed and well-rested, only to find her beloved’s lifeless body. Damn, so much for that plan. Juliet then dramatically stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger. Everyone dies, the end.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Christine Lucas wakes up every day in an unfamiliar house next a strange man who insists that he is her husband. She suffers from anterograde amnesia and her daily memories are erased in her sleep. Unsettled, Christine tries to piece together the 20-year gap in her memory with the help of a diary and her therapist.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

The women in a small Maine town fall asleep and don’t wake up (probably because of boredom and lack of stimulating activities), instead growing giant tendrils of cocoons. The men in the town try to destroy the cocoons which of course turns the sleeping women into homicidal zombies. They should have attached a Do-No-Disturb: Dangerous Sleepwalker sign.

Dawn by Octavia Butler

Two hundred fifty years after a nuclear war that devastates the earth, Lilith lyapo awakens from a deep sleep. She is one of the last human survivors, held captive aboard a spaceship by strange beings who offer to make her world inhabitable again. But of course there is a catch: The aliens have rescued (wo)mankind in order to make little tentacled babies with their human captives.

More Like This

7 Books About Objects That Changed the World

Amy Brady, author of "Ice," recommends the secret histories behind everyday items

Nov 8 - Amy Brady

This Android Hopes You’ll Swipe Right

A poetry debut by Kid Kassidy

Nov 8 - Kid Kassidy

12 Literary Podcasts for Writers and Readers

Listen to authors, poets, and book enthusiasts as they keep you company and teach you a thing or two

Sep 15 - Laura Schmitt
Thank You!