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Anyone who knows how the human body handles sleep knows that being woken up suddenly isn't pleasant, and it takes a while to adjust. Not so in Hollywood. In a lot of movies and other works of fiction, characters who are suddenly woken from bed seem to be on full alertness as soon as they get out of bed. Guess they must have Instant Waking Skills.

There is some Truth in Television to this. In general, awakening with a shot of adrenaline, such as may be caused by a very loud sound or pain, sometimes can cause a person to reach full alertness instantly. Sudden shocking information can do it too, but it usually relies on the person being awake enough to understand what they're being told.

Additionally, there are several distinct stages of sleep that a human goes through over the course of a night, some of which are deeper than others. If one is not in a deep stage of sleep when awoken, one can achieve full alertness fairly quickly - though not as quickly as some of the examples here. (Deep Sleep usually negates such skills even for those who usually have them.)

Contrast Not a Morning Person. Compare Wake Up Fighting.

Examples of Instant Waking Skills include:

Anime and Manga

  • Inverted by Osaka in Azumanga Daioh , insofar as she was partially asleep at one point even when fully mobile.
  • Despite getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night tops, Shirou never seems particularly impaired and even wakes up automatically at 5 am every morning. However, he's basically unique among the cast in this, with the rest basically being normal and Tohsaka on the other side of the spectrum. In fact his exhaustion upon waking up after sleeping with Sakura in Heavens Feel actually serves as a big warning flag that something is wrong with her. Apart from what we already know.
  • On Gundam Wing, when Heero wakes up captured by OZ, he manages to somehow do so without triggering the slightest increase in his pulse or brainwaves, which keeps his captors from noticing he's woken up at all.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: It's unclear if Kenshin's this trope or just a very light sleeper, but when he's on watch he rests sitting up, with his sword in his lap and his forehead resting on the hilt. Once, he heard someone sneaking up on him, started a draw with his thumb...when it turns out to be Kaoru, he drops the sword back down in relief and cuts said thumb.
    • In the flashback arc, Kenshin almost slices a major character's neck when she approaches him while asleep. This actually subverts Instant Waking Skills by having Kenshin being so out of it that he almost could not identify his "attacker" in time to push her away. Just a moment more and the fully drawn katana would have drawn blood.
  • Zoro from One Piece has been able to go from sleeping to full-on fight mode, as seen when the Franky Family attempted to attack him while he was sleeping and he blocked the swinging sword with his own half-sheathed sword. Fans have hypothesized it's either this trope or Zoro being a light sleeper or he pretends to be sleeping to mislead people.

Comic Books

  • Nick Fury is apparently a light sleeper, being able to take out two HYDRA goons after he wakes up hearing their footsteps.


  • Aversion in the Bridge to Terabithia movie, where Jess wakes up realistically dazed and out-of-it. In the actor's commentary, Josh Hutcherson, who played Jess, specifically says that he can't stand movies in which characters wake up instantly, and he wanted to add some realism to the movie.
  • In the film Explorers, not only does the main character wake instantly from strange dreams, he has the presence of mind and coherence to write and draw what he saw in those strange dreams.
    • This one might be slightly justified because the dreams are Phlebotium induced.
    • He does have trouble remembering what he saw, and it's only by the second or third dream, which all the boys share, that they gets all of the details.
      • Somewhat Truth in Television as keeping a dream journel increases your ability to remember your dreams.



 Conan woke from a sound sleep as quickly and instantly as a cat. And like a cat he was on his feet with his sword out before the man who had touched him could so much as draw back.

  • In Doc Savage novels, Doc could do this. Justified, in that he had been specifically trained in the ability by an aged Ubangi tribesman.
  • Aly tends to leap up with knives in hand when woken up unexpectedly.
  • In the Discworld book Witches Abroad, Granny Weatherwax is described as having Instant Waking Skills due to her ironclad sense of self: when other people wake up, they think, "Where am I? Why am I here? Who's that in bed next to me? Who am I?!" Granny skips all that.
    • And in Interesting Times, the Bursar is so acclimated to being roused at the crack of dawn by the Archchancellor's bellows that he even skips the waking up part, getting dressed and exiting his room while he's technically still asleep.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, Ender takes a few seconds to become fully alert when someone wakes him up. And remembers how, back in Battle School, he would be fully alert upon being awoken. This may be justified, or at least mitigated, by the fact that Battle School was military training, and Ender was raised there for a significant portion of his childhood.
  • Bud Not Buddy. Book' title character brags about them.
  • Tarzan can do this. Justified and frequently lampshaded in the books as being a result of his growing up in a treacherous jungle full of predators.
  • Roland of Gilead in The Dark Tower books has this, thanks to his brutal training as a Gunslinger.
  • In one of the Star Wars novels, Han Solo is described as having developed Instant Waking Skills by necessity, given the kind of illegal lifestyle he used to have.
  • Melles, a character in Storm Breaking, has Instant Waking Skills. Most people who know this assume it's because he has a guilty conscience. The truth is that he trained himself to wake instantly because as a trained assassin he knows exactly how vulnerable a sleeping person is. (He has no feelings of guilt over any of his kills.)
  • In Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, one of the side-characters experiences this trope when a vampire invades his house. It's played a little better than most by explaining that he developed the skill when he served as a soldier in Vietnam and lost it when he came back to the States. In such a high state of panic, it comes back to him and wakes him up almost immediately. Not that it helps much against the hungry vamp....
  • Flinx, of the Humanx Commonwealth series, possesses this trait. He doesn't know if it comes from his abnormal genetic heritage or his early life as a petty thief on the streets of the planet Moth, but it comes in handy a few times. He also needs only a few hours of sleep each day and can adjust his circadian rhythm more or less at will.
  • Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster, as opposed to Bertie, who's Not a Morning Person: "It's a mystery to me how he does it."
  • From the Wheel of Time series, the Aiel Wise Ones, and after receiving training, Egwene. This thoroughly annoys Suian, who cannot figure out how Egwene can don and doff sleep like a robe.

Live Action TV

  • Spoofed in Gilmore Girls; after Rory joins the Powderpuffs, Lorelai wakes her up early and tells her to wear cute pajamas, put on makeup, and fix her hair before the other girls arrive to "kidnap" her for initiation.
    • Further spoofed in a later episode, where Lorelai supposedly tried, unsuccessfully, to wake Rory before finally leaving a sticky note on her head to tell her to meet her for lunch later.
  • In one episode of Myth Busters, we learn that Jamie is a very light sleeper. We don't learn if it goes all the way to Instant Waking Skills, because Adam is too impatient to let Jamie get fully asleep.
  • Sayid from Lost demonstrates Instant Waking Skills when in a doctor's office - upon waking up from drug-induced unconsciousness, he immediately reaches out and begins to strangle the doctor, Jack. It takes him a few seconds to realize where he is and what he's doing. Justified, being a military man who had originally been knocked out in the middle of a fight.
  • Pierce is shown to have this in Community episode English as a Second Language. It just takes the right phrase to trigger.

 Jeff: Discrimination lawsuit!

Pierce: Preposterous!.



Real Life

  • The Masai warriors were legendary for being able to go from asleep to battle ready within seconds.
  • Just for fun, try grabbing a Marine by the throat while he is asleep and then once you recover try to figure out how long it took him to wake up and hand you your ass. Sometimes it happens before they are fully awake. Of course, that is only if the Marine doesn't kill you to begin with.
  • If you wake up suddenly, you will really be fully alert for a few seconds; if you don't get up and get the adrenaline pumpin', you will get sleepy and lose the Instant Waking Skills. That's why you usually stumble slowly out of bed but can jump out of it when you're late.
    • In a similar fashion, some people can will themselves awake, albeit only when planned in advance and at a similar time to when they usually get up.
  • Elijah Wood, according to his castmates on Lord of the Rings, has this ability, as well as Instant Napping Skills. The moment a take is over, if they have to reset, he'll go sit on something and be asleep instantly, and when someone says, "Elijah!" he'll instantly wake up: "Right. Scene. Here's my mark? Let's do it." Quite a handy skill for an actor.
  • Apparently Winston Churchill had the same knack as Elijah Wood, too.
  • Some anecdotes attribute this skill to Bill Clinton, saying that he could wake up, and five minutes later be fully dressed, coiffed, and on his way to a meeting.
  • This is not an uncommon skill among doctors, picked up during residency when they had to work those 36-hour hospital shifts (now only slightly reduced). In order to get the job done, they'd have to learn to be able to wake up immediately at the sound of the pager *and* be able to think clearly enough to prescribe correct dosages of medicine.
  • Sailors also tend to be able to do this. When you're on watch, you're on watch, and someone can call all hands any hour of the night.
    • And ten minutes into anchor watch you're starting to conk out again because it's so damned dull. Well, until it isn't.
  • If you wake up at the right point in your sleep cycle, you pretty much have these. An alarm clock app exists for smartphones that uses an accelerometer to calculate how deeply asleep you are and wake you at the optimum point.

Tabletop Games

  • Despite the name, Combat Reflexes gives you this ability in GURPS.
  • The Lightsleep Talent in Hero System
  • In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5e; the spell Vigilant Slumber does this, but you have to set conditions for it and are limitted by what you could observe while awake.

Video Games

  • The 'wake' command in Achaea takes a randomised but annoyingly long amount of time to go through, unless the player levels up in 'Survival' enough to get 'Metawake', which gives Instant Waking Skills. Characters will also wake instantly if attacked while asleep. ("The pain jerks you awake!")
  • In the 3D Super Mario Bros. games, Mario will go to sleep if the controls are left alone for long enough, but will instantly wake up and resume his usual running and jumping around as soon as you push something.
  • Wander from Shadow of the Colossus; just press a button upon resuming your game and he'll be on his feet and back to business as usual.
    • Ico, on the other hand, has to take a few seconds stretching and yawning when you reload a saved game, and Yorda takes a few seconds to rouse herself as well. And it's adorable.
  • Snake from Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty will wake up instantly if the player points a gun at him.
  • Dwarf Fortress leaves anything which recovers from unconsciousness (whether from sleeping or pain) stunned for a few turns and needing to use one turn to get up.
  • In The Sims, Sims with a low Active stat will take roughly A WHOLE (in-game) HOUR to get out of bed, while those with a high Active stat will jump straight out.
  • In Fallout 3 and New Vegas, you can wake up any sleeping character at anytime to speak to them. After exiting the conversation, they will usually go right back to sleep.

Western Animation

  • Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The last time Zuko saw his mother was when she woke him up, told him something, and left... but the whole thing happens before he can compose himself, so he doesn't pay attention and falls back asleep shortly.
    • Played straight with Zuko in other times in the series. For instance, when falling asleep waiting for Iroh to finish a meeting, when the door opens, Zuko goes from asleep to battle ready in half a second. (Of course, at that point he'd had a certain amount of need to develop the skill.)
  • In the Tex Avery short Rock-a-Bye Bear, a dog is house-sitting for a bear that's going into hybernation; but this bear will instantly wake up at the sound of a pin drop and pummel the dog yelling "QUIET!! SHADDUP! QUIET!!" Hilarity Ensues as a rival dog attempts to wake the bear up and steal the watchdog's job.

Web Comics

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dr. McNinja has these (and such intense combat reflexes that his sidekick is terrified of actually waking him up), it is explained that when your mother tries to stab you in your sleep all the time, certain instincts are developed.
  • Cale gets woken up to alarms caused by a surprise night attack on the gnome city he's in, and is instantly in the middle of the fight, killing everyone in fast he doesn't even have time to put his clothes on.
  • Homestuck seems to have this at play, too; the Kids (and the Trolls) have both physical bodies (which lived on their home planet, prior to entering the Medium) and 'dream selves' (which lived on Prospit or Derse). Switching from physical to dream (or vice versa) requires that you fall asleep in order to wake up in the other mode. The waking part seems to happen quite quickly, so long as your dream self has awakened to begin with.
  • In El Goonish Shive the improbability of this trope is one of the first clues that Grace is not actually awake at the beginning of this strip as pointed out in this follow up strip.

Web Original

  • In the Whateley Universe, it seems like Chaka and Bladedancer both have this, due to their Ki abilities. Both of them have roommmates who do not, and who gripe about it.