French Language Blog

French Expressions about Sleep Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 in Vocabulary


Don’t sleep on these French sleep expressions.

After une longue journée de travail (a long day of work), c’est normal d’avoir sommeil (it’s normal to feel sleepy), but if you can’t fall asleep, then you probably suffer from une insomnie (insomnia.)

If you go to bed early, then you are a couche-tôt (early sleeper); if not, then you’re a couche-tard (late sleeper)!

To go to bed in French is called aller au lit. You can also say: “Je vais dormir” (“I’m going to sleep”) or “Je vais me coucher.In French Slang (l’argot), you can hear some people use the word “roupiller” (“to snooze”), “pieuter“, or the expression “aller au pieu” (“pieu” being a slang word for bed.)

Before you do so, it would be nice to wish everyone une bonne nuit (a good night) and tell them “dormez bien” (“sleep tight”), or “faites de beaux rêves” (“Sweet dreams”)… Of course, if you watched a scary movie in that evening, chances are, you will instead end up having un cauchemar (a nightmare)!

And if -like we said earlier- you have une insomnie, then you are an insomniaque. The next day, you would complain: “J’ai passé une nuit blanche” (literally “I spent a white night”), Je n’ai pas pu fermer l’œil de la nuit” (literally “I couldn’t close [my] eye the whole night.”)

And if all solutions fail, like compter les moutons (to count sheep), or, say, trying to kick out ton camarade de chambre (your roommate) qui ronfle beaucoup (who snores a lot), then you most likely would have to start thinking of taking des somnifères (sleeping pills)…

An ingenious French anti-ronflement (anti-snoring) solution?

On the other hand, if you are a heavy sleeper, in French “dormir d’un sommeil lourd” or “sommeil profond” (“deep sleep”), then “dormir à poings fermés” is what you do best (for either “to be fast asleep”, or “to sleep deeply”, “to sleep soundly.”) In a similar context, you can also say “dormir comme un bébé” (“to sleep like a baby”), or, as the funny expression goes, “dormir sur ses deux oreilles” (“to sleep on both ears”), meaning “dormir tranquille“, namely to rest easy, to sleep without any worries whatsoever.

All you need for dormir is un lit (a bed), and maybe des oreillers (pillows), des draps (sheets), and une couverture (a blanket.)
Of course, other elements can prove necessary, such as a rope or a chain to tightly tie you to your bed, in case you are a somnambule (sleepwalker)!

Est-il dangereux de réveiller un somnambule? (Is it dangerous to wake up a sleepwalker?)

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  1. Claire:

    Je ne sais pas si cela se dit en anglais. Mais pour dire joliment que l’on va dormir, il arrive d’entendre: “Aller retrouver les bras de Morphée” =)

    Très chouette article!

  2. Jennie:

    Très claire, merci!