How To Say “Sleep” In Japanese

If you want to know how to say sleep in Japanese, then you’ve come to the right place. There are a number of ways to say this word in Japanese, and I’m going to give you the four most common.

Read each section to see how they are similar, and also how they are different from each other. Some can be used when a person is sleeping in a chair, but others can only be used when laying down in a bed.

Let’s begin!

1. 寝る (neru)

The most common word that I see used for “sleep” in Japanese is 寝る (neru). This word can’t be used in all situations however, as it specifically refers to when a person is sleeping by lying down.

Of course, this is going to coincide perfectly for most people since they go to sleep when they go to bed at night.

  • 寝る時間だ。
  • neru jikan da.
  • It’s time for bed.

That being said, I have a friend who used to sleep in a recliner due to the very limited amount of space in his room. If he wanted to say that he is going to sleep soon, then he would actually need to use the word in the next section since he wouldn’t be lying down to do so.

But for most of us, getting enough sleep in a comfortable bed is definitely a sacred, and sometimes rare thing. There is even a Japanese proverb about the importance of sleep.

  • 寝る子は育つ
  • neru ko wa sodatsu
  • sleep brings up a child well

So be sure to get enough sleep each night and use this word when speaking in Japanese.

2. 眠る (nemuru)

Now we get to the other way that you can say sleep in Japanese, and it is 眠る (nemuru). As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this word is said nearly the same way as the first. The only difference is that 眠る has an extra む right in the middle of it.

This word means to sleep, and can also be used when people are lying down, but doesn’t have to be. You can also use it when people sleep in other positions such as falling asleep at your desk during work, or half-upright in a chair.

  • いつの間にか眠ってしまいました。
  • itsuno manika nemutte shimai mashita.
  • (She) fell soundly asleep in an instant.

Something also good to know about this word is that it is very close to another one in both meaning and reading. The other word I’m talking about is 眠い (nemui) which means “sleepy” or “drowsy.”

So that means you can use this word when you want to tell someone that you are tired and therefore want to go catch some shuteye.

One thing that I’ve always like about this kanji is that the radical on the left is the kanji for “eye” 目 (me) which has such a strong connection with sleep. The radical on the right in a combination of different elements, but personally I always liked to imagine that it was a stick-figure guy sleeping on a pillow.

That being said, there is another kanji that can be used for this word. It means the same thing, and is read the same way, but just looks different.

It is 睡る or 睡い depending on which word your using. Again we have the radical for eye on the left, but this time the one on the right means “to droop” 垂 which is so perfect! The kanji 睡 literally means “eyes drooping!”

3. 横になる (yoko ni naru)

Remember earlier when I used an English expression instead of the S-Word? I said “catch some shuteye” instead of “sleep” as a way to vary the vocabulary of this post and hopefully make it a bit more interesting to read.

Well, there is also an expression in Japanese that can be used instead of the earlier two that we covered. This expression is 横になる (yoko ni naru) which means “to lie down (and rest)” and can be used when someone goes to bed and such.

This phrase is literally saying “to become sideways” which means that it’s similar to the first word we covered in that the person has to physically lay down for it to correctly be used.

I see this word used more in books than I actually hear people say it in normal conversation, but perhaps that is just my experience with it.

Have you run into this one before? Let me know in the comments if you have.

4. 睡眠 (suimin)

The last word that I want to cover is 睡眠 (suimin) and is a noun that means “sleep” so it’s a little different from the others we’ve covered. This one should be used when talking about the concept of sleeping, and not used as a verb like the other ones can be.

  • あなたこそ睡眠が 必要じゃない
  • anata koso suimin ga hitsuyou ja nai
  • No. You’re the one who needs sleep.


I think the most common way that I see this word used is in the compound word 睡眠不足 (suimin busoku) which means “lack of sleep” and is often used when a person only got a few hours of rest before having to get up and get to work on the new day.

But there are plenty of other example words such as 睡眠薬 (suimin yaku) for “sleeping pills” and such.

Something that I find both interesting and useful is the two kanji that are used in this word. We covered both of them before in the second part of this article!

Here we have two separate kanji for sleep put together to form yet another way to say sleep in Japanese.

As if there weren’t already enough words to learn in this language!

Did This Post Put You To Sleep?

Hopefully I didn’t bore you too much with all of the information in this post.

You should know enough to handle most situations about this word, but if you have any questions on anything then be sure to let me know.

I always strive to deliver the information in an easy to understand way, but sometimes I make things more complicated than they need to be when I try to fully explain a concept.

As always, thanks for reading!

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