Dropping off and snoozing (Talking about sleep, Part 2)

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

a young woman resting her head on her folded arms as she sleeps at her desk
Witthaya Prasongsin / Moment / GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

I recently published an article on the word ‘sleep’ and its related collocations and idioms. Continuing the theme, this week’s post looks at the range of alternatives to the word ‘sleep’ and the phrase ‘fall asleep’. As you might expect, it includes a good number of phrasal verbs.

A very common word for a short sleep is nap. It’s both a noun and a verb and it’s generally used for sleeping in the day. You have or take a nap.

My two-year-old usually takes a nap after lunch.

I find if I nap during the day, I don’t sleep so well at night.

We use the verb doze to mean ‘sleep lightly for a short while’. In UK English, we also use this as a noun:

I wasn’t properly asleep – I was just dozing.

He drifted into a fitful doze.

The slightly informal word snooze (noun and verb) is generally used for short, daytime sleeping, though usually on a couch or in a hammock, etc. rather than in a bed:

He’s having a snooze on the sofa.

The dog was snoozing in the sun.

The noun catnap emphasizes that a sleep is short, usually during the day. ‘Catnap’ is also a verb. A power nap is similar but is specifically intended to give you energy, often for work:

He needs catnaps to get through the day. / I can catnap pretty much anywhere.

She often has a power nap between important meetings.

A rather literary word (both noun and verb) for ‘sleep’ is slumber:

She sank into a fitful slumber. / We slumbered under the stars.

Meanwhile, if you (informal) crash at someone else’s home, you sleep there for the night, especially when this is not planned:

If it’s late, he sometimes crashes on a friend’s sofa.

Let’s look now at the range of phrasal verbs for ‘start to sleep’. You can say that you drop off or drop off to sleep, meaning that you fall asleep:

I must have dropped off because I don’t remember anything after this point.

To doze off (informal) is to start to sleep, especially during the day, and to drift off is to gradually start to sleep:

He dozed off halfway through the show.

It was around two o’clock when she finally drifted off to sleep.

If you nod off (informal), you start to sleep, often when you don’t intend to:

I was so tired in the meeting, I was worried I was going to nod off.

Finally, someone who crashes out starts to sleep very quickly because they are so tired:

He came home and crashed out without eating anything.

If you’ve enjoyed Part 2 of my sleep post, you might want to look out for Part 3 which will include words and phrases related to not sleeping.

23 thoughts on “Dropping off and snoozing (Talking about sleep, Part 2)

    1. Fokhruddin Pintu

      I’ve discovered this article today, and I have to say it’s great! I love the audio option as well as I can listen while reading, which is quite helpful for my pronunciation. Thank you very much!

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