why do I keep falling asleep during movies?
Questions And Answers

Why Do I Always Fall Asleep When I Watch A Movie?

(Last Updated On: September 30, 2022)

Whether attending a movie theater or viewing at home, watching movies is one of the most popular recreational activities in the world. It’s also considered a social pursuit, often forming the backdrop of dates, which makes it disappointing if somebody falls asleep.

As watching a movie is a passive experience, often indulged in at night when completely relaxed, the mind and body seize the opportunity to regain any lost sleep. If you have built up a sleep debt during the week, this will likely be repaid while trying to watch a movie.

Women are likelier to fall asleep while watching movies than men. The Journal of Women’s Health explains that women are 40% likelier to struggle with insomnia than men and thus find it harder to stay awake. Lost sleep will be regained during these relaxing times.

You can train your body and mind to stay awake during a movie, but ask yourself if you would benefit from doing so. Sleeping enhances your health more than watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Why Do I Keep Falling Asleep During Movies?

Watching movies is an almost ritualistic activity, especially for couples and families. Many people build their evening around the events on the screen, preparing snacks and looking forward to being told a riveting tale.

Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t always match up to expectations. Many of us doze off during a movie, often quite early into the running time, and some people can even sleep in the loud confines of a movie theater.

This isn’t necessarily a reflection on the filmmaking craft or a sign that you find the movie dull. Upon realizing that they nodded off, many people will rewind and catch up on what they missed.

Naturally, staying awake would be preferable, especially when watching movies with other people. There are four fundamental reasons why you may sleep through movies at night:

Sleep Deficit

Modern life is busy, and it’s often hard to fit eight hours of sleep into a daily routine. This will lead to a sleep deficit, also known as sleep debt. These lost hours of sleep need to be regained eventually.

Sitting down to watch a movie is arguably the ultimate opportunity to catch up on lost sleep, whether by accident or design. You’ll relax, stop making conscious decisions and choices, and potentially fall into a natural, restful sleep.

As much as this can be annoying if you want to watch the movie, it’s advisable not to fight the need to sleep. Movies can be caught at your leisure in the age of streaming and home video. Sleep will always be a more immediate priority.

why do movies make me fall asleep?

Lack of Stimulants

If you follow traditional advice surrounding sleep hygiene, any trace of stimulants will have left your body by the time you watch a movie at night. Coffee, for example, has a half-life of six hours and should have expired by the evening.

These stimulants will keep you functional and can be especially important to fight off morning grogginess and a mid-afternoon energy slump. They need to be purged by the evening if you are to sleep.

Of course, this can mean you’re much likelier to fall asleep. If you spend all day in front of a computer screen at work, relaxing in front of a TV screen will feel like an effort for your body or mind. Without stimulants to keep you alert, you may doze off.

Conditioned Response

Falling asleep once while watching a movie can happen to anybody, and falling asleep twice in front of the TV is also common. If you regularly doze off watching movies, it can become a Pavlovian response.

The more often you find yourself sleeping through films, the likelier you’ll do so again in the future. Sitting down and turning on a movie can be associated with sleep, and when stirring music plays over credits, your brain will start shutting down.


Anecdotally, many people claim that women are likelier to fall asleep during a movie than men. Sleep Medicine Research explains how female biology and hormones dictate that women need more sleep, making it likelier that a female viewer will doze off once relaxed.

Another potential explanation comes courtesy of The Journal of Clinical Investigation – women have a lower metabolic rate than men and will thus grow colder while static and watching a movie. This lower body temperature will encourage sleep.

We also need to consider that many movies are arguably made with male viewers in mind. According to a study entitled “Gender inequality in English-speaking film industry,” –

  • 24% of female characters are portrayed in revealing or sexy attire, compared to 4% of males.
  • 18.5% of films include at least partial nudity of a female character, compared to 5% of men.
  • 14% of female characters in contemporary movies meet traditional standards of beauty, compared to 3.6% of male counterparts.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s no accounting for personal preferences. However, this study could suggest why women are less likely to be stimulated enough to stay awake during a movie.

How To Not Sleep While Watching a Movie

It can be frustrating if you constantly fall asleep while watching a movie. As well as missing out on crucial pot developments and storytelling beats, you may upset a partner who wants to share a movie with you or waste money on tickets to a theater.

While it’s never advisable to ignore a need for sleep, there are ways to minimize the risk of dozing off while watching a movie.

Watch Earlier in the Day

Most of us watch movies at night when we can fully relax and focus on events on the screen, and it is debatable if this is advisable. Sleep experts recommend avoiding screens for the last hour of the evening and suggest you read a book instead.

You’re less likely to be exhausted if you watch a movie earlier in the day. You may also have traces of stimulants in your body, such as your morning coffee.

There are no guarantees that swapping a late-night movie for a matinee will help you stay awake. If you’re still operating on a sleep deficiency, your body and brain may seize the opportunity to nap. Changing your schedule enhances your chances, though.

As well as time, consider a different place to watch a movie. If you watch movies in bed, try switching to the living room or den. This change in scenery can trick the brain into remaining awake, while Behavioral Sleep Medicine suggests it will encourage earlier bedtimes.

Choose a Stimulating Movie

We previously alluded to the fundamental differences in how men and women are often portrayed on film. To combat this, choose a movie that holds interest, especially with female viewers.

One thing to look out for is the so-called “Bechdel test.” Named after feminist comic artist Alison Bechdel, a movie must contain three elements to pass the Bechdel test:

  • The movie must have at least two female characters.
  • These characters must have at least one conversation.
  • This conversation can’t be about a male character.

You may be surprised how many major releases fail to pass the Bechdel test. If this is the case, it’s understandable that female audiences may not be as engaged with events on screen.

How do I stop falling asleep while watching a movie?

Avoid Growing Too Comfortable

As discussed, comfort plays a significant role in falling asleep during a movie. You can combat this by not making yourself quite so cozy before turning on the TV. This way, you’ll find it easier to remain attentive to the events playing on the screen.

Comfort is subjective, and there’s little to gain by making yourself outright uncomfortable. Don’t risk injury. Just think about sitting upright rather than lying down, not reclining your easy chair or sofa, or lowering the temperature in the room.

If you’re worried that you may fall asleep despite these techniques, try holding onto something small, like a teaspoon. If you fall asleep, you will drop this spoon. The noise the item makes upon touching the floor may jolt you awake if you start to doze.

Keep Your Hands Occupied

If you can keep your hands occupied while watching a movie, you’re less likely to switch off mentally and fall asleep. Don’t play with your cellphone, as that’s too many screens.

Knitting is a popular pastime while watching TV and movies, as once mastered, it becomes a rhythmic movement that doesn’t require intense concentration.

You don’t need to learn to knit to stay awake during a movie. Find something else involving the hands, even if it’s just squeezing a stress ball. This will prevent your mind from closing down and drifting into sleep.

Occasionally Pause and Stand Up

This approach won’t appeal to everybody, especially if you’re watching a movie with others or in a theater. However, standing up and wandering around a little, occasionally taking a break, will help you stay awake.

You can also use this opportunity to grab a drink of water. Hydrating the brain will increase mental clarity and help you stay awake a little longer. You will also find it easier to concentrate on the movie for the remainder of the running time.

Converse to Keep the Mind Active

Much like the segment above, this approach won’t suit everybody. Some people loathe conversing during movies, and we certainly don’t advocate talking in a movie theater.

If you’re watching the movie with somebody that doesn’t mind talking, pause it and discuss events on-screen. This engagement will help keep your mind active and remain awake.

Watching movies is a popular hobby for many people, and it’s a shame if you can’t make it through the running time without nodding off. You can train yourself to stay awake during movies, but don’t do so at the expense of gaining much-needed sleep.