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to take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake.
Botany. to assume, especially at night, a state similar to the sleep of animals, marked by closing of petals, leaves, etc.
to be dormant, quiescent, or inactive, as faculties.
to be careless or unalert; allow one’s alertness, vigilance, or attentiveness to lie dormant:
While England slept, Germany prepared for war.
to lie in death:
They are sleeping in their tombs.
to take rest in (a specified kind of sleep):
He slept the sleep of the innocent.
to accommodate for sleeping; have sleeping accommodations for:
This trailer sleeps three people.
to spend or pass in sleep (usually followed by away or out):
to sleep the day away.
to recover from the effects of (a headache, hangover, etc.) by sleeping (usually followed by off or away).
the state of a person, animal, or plant that sleeps.
a period of sleeping:
a brief sleep.
dormancy or inactivity.
the repose of death.
(def 10).
sleep around, Informal. to have sexual relations with many partners, especially in a casual way; be sexually promiscuous.
sleep in,

(especially of domestic help) to sleep where one is employed.
to sleep beyond one’s usual time of arising.

sleep on, to postpone making a decision about for at least a day:
to sleep on a proposal till the end of the week.
sleep out,

(especially of domestic help) to sleep away from one’s place of employment.
Chiefly Northern U.S. to sleep away from one’s home.
to sleep outdoors.

sleep over, to spend one or more nights in a place other than one’s own home:
Two friends will sleep over this weekend.
sleep together, to be sexual partners; have a sexual relationship.
sleep with, to have sexual relations with.
put to sleep, to put (an animal) to death in a humane way:
to put a sick old dog to sleep.
Contemporary Examples

My sleep is hot and jaw-tensed and filled with dreams of death.
Gaza, You’re No Good For My Marriage Josh Robin August 8, 2014

These perceptions are as equally damning as the lack of sleep itself, Winter says.
6 Sleep Myths to Finally Put to Bed DailyBurn March 22, 2014

Marine biologists have found that that while dolphins may not snore, they do vocalize in their sleep.
Why Aristotle Deserves A Posthumous Nobel Nick Romeo October 17, 2014

On this occasion, the scoutmaster asked me to sleep in his tent.
Joe Paterno Should Rot in Jail Patrick McDonald November 10, 2011

In the meantime, Tour de France devotees will still have visions of Versailles and the Alpe d’Huez to sleep on.
Lance Armstrong’s Shadow Looms Large Over 100th Edition of Tour de France Tracy McNicoll October 24, 2012

Historical Examples

As for me, I was convinced we must and should refuse, and I went to sleep in that conviction.
A Writer’s Recollections (In Two Volumes), Volume I Mrs. Humphry Ward

Phœbus protect me, but this is an awful place to speak of those who sleep.
Philothea Lydia Maria Child

But he was just out of the den after his long winter sleep and savage with hunger.
The House in the Water Charles G. D. Roberts

They say you couldn’t walk in your sleep without spending money.
The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson

“We can sleep here very comfortably, kid,” said Mike Delavan.
Pluck on the Long Trail Edwin L. Sabin

a periodic state of physiological rest during which consciousness is suspended and metabolic rate is decreased See also paradoxical sleep
(botany) the nontechnical name for nyctitropism
a period spent sleeping
a state of quiescence or dormancy
a poetic or euphemistic word for death
(informal) the dried mucoid particles often found in the corners of the eyes after sleeping
verb sleeps, sleeping, slept
(intransitive) to be in or as in the state of sleep
(intransitive) (of plants) to show nyctitropism
(intransitive) to be inactive or quiescent
(transitive) to have sleeping accommodation for (a certain number): the boat could sleep six
(transitive) foll by away. to pass (time) sleeping
(intransitive) to fail to pay attention
(intransitive) (poetic or euphemistic) to be dead
sleep on it, to give (something) extended consideration, esp overnight

Old English slæpan “to be or fall asleep; be dormant or inactive” (class VII strong verb; past tense slep, past participle slæpen), from Proto-Germanic *slepan (cf. Old Saxon slapan, Old Frisian slepa, Middle Dutch slapen, Dutch slapen, Old High German slafen, German schlafen, Gothic slepan “to sleep”), from PIE root *sleb- “to be weak, sleep” (cf. Old Church Slavonic slabu “lax, weak,” Lithuanian silpnas “weak”), which perhaps is connected to the root of slack (adj.). Sleep with “do the sex act with” is in Old English:

Gif hwa fæmnan beswice unbeweddode, and hire mid slæpe … [Laws of King Alfred, c.900]

Related: Slept; sleeping. Sleep around first attested 1928.


Old English slæp “sleep, sleepiness, inactivity,” from Proto-Germanic *slepaz, from the root of sleep (v.); cf. cognate Old Saxon slap, Old Frisian slep, Middle Dutch slæp, Dutch slaap, Old High German slaf, German Schlaf, Gothic sleps.

Personified in English from late 14c., on model of Latin Somnus), Greek Hypnos. Figurative use for “repose of death” was in Old English; to put (an animal) to sleep “kill painlessly” is recorded from 1923 (a similar imagery is in cemetery). Sleep deprivation attested from 1906. Sleep-walker “somnambulist” is attested from 1747; sleep-walking is from 1840. To be able to do something in (one’s) sleep “easily” is recorded from 1953.

sleep (slēp)
A natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli. During sleep the brain in humans and other mammals undergoes a characteristic cycle of brain-wave activity that includes intervals of dreaming. v. slept (slěpt), sleep·ing, sleeps
To be in the state of sleep.
A natural, reversible state of rest in most vertebrate animals, occurring at regular intervals and necessary for the maintenance of health. During sleep, the eyes usually close, the muscles relax, and responsiveness to external stimuli decreases. Growth and repair of the tissues of the body are thought to occur, and energy is conserved and stored. In humans and certain other animals, sleep occurs in five stages, the first four consisting of non-REM sleep and the last stage consisting of REM sleep. These stages constitute a sleep cycle that repeats itself about five times during a normal episode of sleep. Each cycle is longer that the one preceding it because the length of the REM stage increases with every cycle until waking occurs. Stage I is characterized by drowsiness, Stage II by light sleep, and Stages III and IV by deep sleep. Stages II and III repeat themselves before REM sleep (Stage V), which occurs about 90 minutes after the onset of sleep. During REM sleep, dreams occur, and memory is thought to be organized. In the stages of non-REM sleep, there are no dreams, and brain activity decreases while the body recovers from wakeful activity. The amount and periodicity of sleep in humans vary with age, with infants sleeping frequently for shorter periods, and mature adults sleeping for longer uninterrupted periods. See also non-REM sleep, REM sleep.

1. (Or “block”) When a process on a multitasking system asks the scheduler to deactivate it until some given external event (e.g. an interrupt or a specified time delay) occurs.
The alternative is to poll or “busy wait” for the event but this uses processing power.
Also used in the phrase “sleep on” (or “block on”) some external event, meaning to wait for it.
E.g. the Unix command of the same name which pauses the current process for a given number of seconds.
2. To go into partial deactivation to save power.
[Jargon File]

sleep a wink, not
sleep around
sleep in
sleep like a log
sleep on something
sleep out
sleep over
sleep through
sleep with

also see:

let sleeping dogs lie
lose sleep over
put to sleep

also see under:


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