The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Confessions of a Cinema Snoozer

with 29 comments

Do you suffer from Cinema Snooze Disorder?

I do. Whenever I’m planning to watch a movie that I suspect can be somewhat slow and subtle, I need to make a strategic plan for how to get through it without start nodding.

  • Did I get a decent sleep the night before?
  • Have I had a light dinner that doesn’t put me into overeating-coma?
  • Have I been a frequent visitor of the coffee machine during the day?

The last point is the trickiest one. On one hand I know I need the caffeine. On the other hand I dread having to run to the bathroom mid show. That Must Not Happen. It’s a case where you need to find the perfect balance and know exactly at which point you can take your last drink and still be certain that it will have time to make its way out. If you’re brave you can take a last-minute coffee shot and hope it won’t come through until the movie is over. But it’s a gamble and nothing to recommend.

Why we fall asleep
It boggles my mind why I so easily fall asleep in cinemas. After all the armchairs in the cinemas in my city offer far from the comfort I’ve encountered in UK and US. They’re so small and the space is so limited that it feels as if you’re sitting in the tourist class in an airplane. (And then I’m a small sized person! I can only imagine how bad they must be for fully grown people.) I should be fully awake, cursing inside over the discomfort!

On the other hand falling asleep in my ordinary bed can be a bit of a struggle, especially if I’ve spent the night half on half snoozing in a theatre.

I guess there is some psychological factor at play there. You go to the movies to relax. And th fact that there’s no pressure for you to fall asleep, no alarm clock informing you that it’s just six hours until you need to get up, adds to that relaxation. It’s ever so easy to cross the line and go from “relaxed” to “snoozing”.

Movies that put me into trouble
So what movies are most likely to put me into trouble? Well, there isn’t much of a surprise there. The more artsy they are, the more likely is it that I’ll start to nod. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I will fall asleep. But it means that I’ll need to take measures not to do so. I need to be pretty hard with myself, for instance pinching and clawing myself brutally, chugging my nails or in extreme cases slapping myself a couple of times. The pain will clear my mind enough to keep me going for a while longer.

If you’ve ever been in this position you know how frustrating it is. Falling asleep during a movie seems like the cinema goer’s ultimate insult – a public statement that “this movie is so boring that I can’t stay awake”. But I swear: I’m not doing it on purpose! Given the choice I’d be fully awake every second of it. After all I’ve paid for the ticket to see a movie, not to sleep through it.

Most times it’s not that I don’t like what I’m watching. It’s just that my body refuses to cooperate. It’s as if it’s got a will of its own, like the in the case of Mr Bean during the church sermon.

Top snoozing movies of 2011
So let me share my top list of sleep-inducing movies of 2011, the movies I had to struggle hardest to remain awake. It goes like this: 

  1. Tree of Life
  2. Certified Copy
  3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Those movies are quite good, especially Tree of Life and TTSS. Certified Copy was one that I unfortunately couldn’t appreciate as much as others did. But maybe I will if I return to it one day.

However none of those movies were anywhere my sleepiest movie experience ever, the one and only time I can recall fully falling asleep in a cinema (at home it happens now and then in the sofa, but then I can always rewind and re-watch whatever I’ve missed.)

Wings of Desire
My deepest movie sleep ever occurred as I watched Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire in 1988. It didn’t take more than five minutes into the movie before I was sound asleep and I didn’t wake up until the very end, having no idea of what had happened. There was something about angels listening to the thoughts of people… and then just a big void. Sadly enough exactly the same thing happened to my husband, who usually is better at staying awake. This time he couldn’t update me on what the movie had been like and I left the cinema feeling cheated on my film experience.

This week I finally got my redemption as my local film club showed this very film.

You can imagine I was a bit nervous about it; I paid a few extra visits to the coffee machine to be on the safe side. I’ll save the full review for another day, but I can say as much as that I stayed fully awake all the way through this time. And I didn’t have to pinch myself, not even once!

I’m not sure of the causes. Maybe I should attribute this to the fact that the chairs in the cinema are extremely uncomfortable. It’s an old cinema that has been restored to how it looked in 1914, and back in those days people can’t have been that picky about comfort so to say.

Or perhaps it was just something in the movie that was more engaging to me at this point in life, something that pulled me in. But for whatever reason I watched the entire movie and I’ll tell you what I thought about it sometime next week.

A source of embarrassment
It’s time to wrap up this post. By now I think you’ve got a good view into the predicament of someone with a cinema snoozing disorder.

It makes you struggle to stay awake rather than just enjoying the ride. It causes frustration, disappointment and in worst case even loss. As a cinema snoozer you never know for sure. Did I just close my eye for a second or was that in fact a micro-nap. Did I miss out something important?

It’s also a source of embarrassment. If you end up snoozing, at least you don’t want anyone else to notice.

And from that point of view I suppose I should be grateful. At least I don’t snore.

The toast of this week goes to my fellow cinema snoozers wherever you are. This one is for you.


Written by Jessica

February 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

29 Responses

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  1. I don’t have a general tendency to fall asleep while watching films, especially at the theatre, but from time to time there is definitely a temptation. Most recently the second Sherlock Holmes movie was challenging me. My experience watching Where The Wild Things Are was a pretty miserable one, that I may have unfairly taken out on the film, as I was hungover and suffering from agonizingly tiredness. I probably had no business being in a movie theatre. Another film I remember drifting off during was Addams Family when I was younger.

    At home it’s a bit more likely as I’m either lying down on a couch or my bed when watching a movie. Afternoons can actually be the worst time for me, especially if I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before. I don’t really do caffeine though, I’d worry that if you are relying on caffeine to get through, you’d hit a point halfway through where it has given out and you crash big-time from withdrawal.


    February 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    • Hm. I wonder if the caffein effect wears off that easily. You know, I drink a lot. LIke a litre a day as a minimum. And it builds up I believe (which probably also is one of the reasons why it later on gets hard to sleep in a proper bed.)

      I’m careful not to trash movies at a whims if I’ve had a hard time staying awake. Mostly I blame it on myself, not on the movie. And as you say – there are some conditions in which you have no business being in a movie.

      I struggle a lot when I watch movies lying on a couch. But at least then I can re-watch whatever I’ve missed out.


      February 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

  2. Haha, great post Jessica! I am lucky enough to not be a cinema snoozer. Even when I can be quite tired I always find the energy to stay awake in the theater. The only film I ever fell asleep during in a theater was Superman Returns, which was justified. At home is a different story, and I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m not a captive audience there, I have no real obligation at least in my mind to necessarily pay attention the whole time. If I go to a movie in the theater I am going because I want to see the movie. Sometimes at home I will watch things that I feel I have to watch or catch up with and my motivation is slightly lower to experience everything I can from start to finish. [/confession]


    February 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    • Thanks Corndog! Superman Returns isn’t the first movie that comes to mind as being a potential trap for people with cinema snooze disorder. But again: you’d be surprised. My number 4 spot for last year wasn’t an arthouse movie. It was Tintin. I had to pinch myself quite a bit to stay awake.


      February 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm

  3. I finally know what my mum is suffering from: she’s an EXTREME case of a Cinema Snoozer! It amuses me every time I try to watch a film with her, because she nearly falls asleep every time – I hope I’ll understand her better now.

    Personally I think I’ve never fallen asleep during a film, but there have been times were I have closed my eyes a lot… for example, the main film in our repertory plays at 20:30, and after a long day of school I’m always very tired when I go there… The Tree of Life was very bad for me (I loved it though), because I found the “nature”-scenes very relaxing… Another one was Winter’s Bone, which I watched at home and almost fell asleep after a tiring week – in the afternoon! Oh, and the last one was Planet of the Apes, which I didn’t like that much, maybe because I didn’t really get the end between my small drift-aways.


    February 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    • It’s so personal what makes you feel sleepy. As of Tree of Life I actually was very much awake during the nature scenes. But the childhood memories on the other hand made me very, very sleepy. Winter’s Bone kept me completely hooked. No risk of falling asleep there. And the same with Planet of the Apes. I was super alert. But one person’s sleeping pill will be another persons adrenaline shot. It really varies a lot. Unless you’re a truly bad case like your mother of course. 🙂


      February 24, 2012 at 11:04 pm

  4. To sit is to sleep, but I don’t want to miss a thing, so I’m constantly battling it out. I think Mr. Bean has the right idea. Thanks for the fun post.


    February 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    • Thanks Sandy! Well you can’t blame Mr Bean for not making an effort at least! I’ve always loved that scene. It really makes good use of his extreme talent as a physical actor.


      February 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm

  5. I’ve not done that myself. But I snore, so I’m terrified of doing so! Amusingly I’ve noticed Pavlovian responses to things when I do feel sleepy. We used to go to sleep to an Enigma cd a few years ago, and when I went to work one day, someone in the office was playing it. It took me a fair few coffees to overthrow that! I’ll happily fall asleep in front of a DVD at home though. I have yet to see the end of “Gladiator”…

    We also go to sleep to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a lot. There’s a live version of the radio show happening this year. He wants to see it. I’m afraid we’ll react in a similar way.


    February 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    • Hehe what funny stories you were sharing. Fortunately for me I’ve never felt inclined to fall asleep at live performances. That would make me feel very much embarrassed. What if the performer would notice?!

      Perhaps the live show is enough different to the radio show for you not to fall asleep just at the sound of it. But I understand your hesitation, especially if you snore…


      February 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm

  6. You speak to my heart, Jessica. My achilles heel is black and white or drab colours. If I’m even a little bit tired while watching a black and white film in a dark room I’m gone. No saving me. I will fall asleep for sure. I think it’s biological.

    I had no trouble staying awake during Tree of Life, but you already know my story with Tinker Tailor. I fell asleep within the first five minutes and stayed asleep through the whole thing. It was wonderful. We’ve discussed Certified Copy before, and I’m glad to see you’re willing to give it another chance some day. I can totally understand finding it a little boring because the discussions and characters won’t interest everybody, but in this case I think you gave up on it way too quickly. You might find another viewing doesn’t grab you either, but it’s worth a try, especially for a film that others have found so much love for. I found Werckmeister Harmonies incredibly boring and almost fell asleep several times, but I’ll still probably watch it again, or at the very least watch some of Bela Tarr’s other films. It’s always possible I was just not in the right frame of mind for such a film. It happens. Just like falling asleep through all of Tinker Tailor happens.

    I also tend not to hold a film responsible for putting me to sleep because I know how easily I can lose focus and fall asleep on my own. There are plenty of films I absolutely love that took me a few tries because I kept watching them at bad times and falling asleep. Last Year at Marienbad, for example. I try to be mindful of my head being in the wrong place to watch a certain film at a certain time. It’s why I still haven’t watched Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas despite adoring Wings of Desire.

    Corey Atad

    February 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    • I think CC was a combination of sleepiness and giving up. But again: I rarely if ever blame movies for my shortcomings in staying awake.

      The sad thing is that if you fall asleep and really miss out a movie, like you did with TT, you can’t really just stay in the theatre and watch the next show. We have set seats here so you might be on the seat of someone else. You really need to go and buy a new ticket and that feels a bit tough.
      I haven’t bought a second ticket to rewatch a movie that made me fall asleep yet. I would have to be very motivated to spend double the sum of a ticket on it.

      And yes, I think black and white in a dark room is pretty challanging too. Of course it depends on the movie. But it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.


      February 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm

  7. Fortunately I have never had that particular problem. Unless you count that time I had gone to a rellay nice after work-session before the movie. My excuse? It was “Lilla Jönssonligan” and the only way to bear it was WUI, watching under the influence. But I digress…

    My particular problem is more connected with your coffee thoughts — I have a hummingbird sized bladder. Drinking any beverage what so ever at the movies is completely out of the question.


    February 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    • It must be wonderful never having to struggle with sleepiness! I think you were excused for not paying attention to Lilla Jönssonligan. While good fun for the kids it’s really not something to waste tears over missing.


      February 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm

  8. I’ve luckily never fallen asleep in the theater. At home, though, that’s a different matter. I fall asleep all the time while watching movies (of course, I watch movies while lying on my bed–that’s some sleep just waiting to happen). I don’t even remember how many times it took me to finish watching Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

    Dave Enkosky

    February 25, 2012 at 5:05 am

    • Hehe I can imagine that Solaris and a comfortable bed makes a pretty challenging combination. I actually remember staying awake and liking Solaris very much when I loved it, but that was in my youth when I was still alert and awake. 🙂


      February 25, 2012 at 8:52 am

  9. Cheers and thank you. I´m having a hard to bee awake at the cinemas. If a movie is just a little bit boring i start to snore. My kids always chose my wife as company at the movies. They felt ashamed for their sleeping dad. I always try to see the late show cause i´m kind of more alert then.


    February 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

    • Awww. Poor creature! Being picked on by your kids and everything. Good thing that you’re more alert later though. I should watch movies in the morning but unfortunately my life and the theatre’s showing times aren’t arranged to make this happen.


      February 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

  10. Hi Jessica, I just blogwalk through your blog. Never fell asleep in the cinema because I’m aware for paying the tickets, but many times I wanted to. Usually my mind wondered in another place, but that’s almost the same. Interesting post!


    February 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    • Hi Andina, nice to see you here! I’ve never wanted to fall asleep in a cinema; whenever I’m close to it’s completely against my will and very annoying. But if you let go you REALLY sleep wll there, that’s for sure!


      February 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm

  11. As you know, both my parents are film people. I grew up within the film industry. The beginning of my life as a film enthusiast was not auspicious, however.

    The very first time my father took me to the cinema I was four years old. We were going to watch the Disney version of Peter Pan.

    I, however, simply failed to understand what it was all about and upon coming home, I enthusiastically gushed to my my mother about a wonderful place I’d been with dad, where an elderly man tore a piece of paper one bought in a little kiosk, whereupon one entered a large room where one could take a nap, smack in the middle of the city centre. Yes, I promptly fell asleep before the film started and did not wake up until the light was turned on.

    My father was somewhat disappointed. Luckily, I have remedied this view on what a cinema is for since then.

    All the best,


    February 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

    • Hehe what a cute little story! I’m glad they didn’t give up on you. And thanks for not giving me crap about my tendency to get tired in cinemas. We’ve been over it before as you know. 😉


      February 27, 2012 at 8:31 am

  12. I’ve always had a terrible problem of falling asleep during lectures or seminars. But can only recall falling asleep in the cinema on just a couple of occasions and both times were due to having eaten a large dinner and being slightly intoxicated before entering.

    I do often get drowsy when watching films at home, and whenever that happens I usually pause the film and get up and do a couple sets of exercises to get the blood flowing, or on the odd occasion give in and take a nap and continue later.

    I am looking forward to reading your review of Wings of Desire. That was the single most amazing film I saw last year. I fell in love with it instantly.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    February 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

    • I have a few movies in my write-up queue but I think I’ll make Wings of Desire a priority. I think it’s a good clue to what I thought about it that I didn’t fall asleep this time… 🙂


      February 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

  13. Hi Jessica,

    Ok, you got me – recently I’ve been having trouble with this falling asleep at the theatre problem. The last movie I saw was Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides.

    It’s not that I didn’t get enough sleep before – though I’ll admit, with food and drink prices being what they are these days at the theatre, I didn’t get a soda – it’s just that I don’t usually go to the theatre much these days, preferring to wait for things to come out on DVD/BR. So, when I sit in a chair for a couple hours at a time, and there are lulls in the pace of the film, it’s a recipe for zzz’s for me.

    It’s one of the reasons why I prefer watching movies at home, unless I know it’ll hold my attention, like an Iron Man or Lord of the Rings, where the visuals are breathtaking, the action and story well paced, and the soundtrack exciting. While Pirates 4 had most of these, there were some slow parts, and it lost me.

    And with that in mind, I really pick and choose what movies I go to see in the theatre – especially with the current costs involved. This year, I’m thinking it’s just going to be The Avengers, The Hobbit, and Les Miserables, all of which I’m very certain will hold my attention well enough to fight off the dreaded Sandman.

    I completely sympathize with all those out there who have difficulty with this! You are not alone!

    My 2 yen,



    February 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    • Hehe, the pirates series isn’t the first one that comes to my mind as an example of sleep inducing movies. But then I’ve only watched the first two. On the other hand – I know that action packed movies can be rather tiresome as well. I barely kept away during Tintin, so yeah, those things happen. I think having emotional investment really helps you not to drift away and finally fall asleep.

      I watch a lot of movies in the cinema and I prefer it to watch at home. At home the risk is even bigger that I’ll have to put up a fight not to fall asleep.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one with those issues!


      February 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm

  14. I rarely get sleepy in the theatre, but I’ve gotten to where if I start a movie at home after about 8pm, I’m in serious trouble. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older, or having to get up earlier for work is affecting me, or just that I’ve unfortunately managed to let myself get in the habit of falling asleep if I’m just watching a movie. Probably a combination of all three. I find it extremely frustrating, because it isn’t really tied to the movie itself being sleep-inducing. I can be really interested and fascinated by a movie and STILL fall asleep if the time is right (wrong?).


    March 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    • I know the feeling too well. 😦 It’s nothing you can control by your will and it’s nothing that necessarily reflects on a bad quality in the movie. It’s just frustrating. And many of us can’t decide when to watch a movie as we’d like to. I’d love to watch a movie in the morning with a fresh mind, but then I’m at work….


      March 5, 2012 at 11:19 pm

  15. […] I want disclosure I’ve previously written a confessional post about being a cinema snoozer. I fall asleep pretty easily when I’m watching movies, especially if I’m at home on the couch. […]

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