Does one notice being affected by the sleep spell?

The reason I ask is because I want to ensure someone who is already asleep via natural means will not wake up for the next 60 seconds. To do so, I will cast sleep on the already sleeping target(s).

Might the target be awoken by this action if the sleep spell fails to take effect?


3 Answers 3


This spell sends creatures into a magical slumber. Roll 5d8; the total is how many hit points of creatures this spell can affect. Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected in ascending order of their current hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures). Starting with the creature that has the lowest current hit points, each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious until the spell ends, the sleeper takes damage, or someone uses an action to shake or slap the sleeper awake.

A sleeping creature is considered unconscious (as the spell's effect suggests). Therefore, your sleeping target is not affected by the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So, for the sake of making sure anyone "who is already asleep via natural means will not wake up for the next 60 seconds", one could wake them up first (GOOD MORNING!!!) to lift the unconscious tag and THEN put them back to sleep with the spell (assuming the added hit points of the creatures is equal or inferior to the number rolled by the caster)... \$\endgroup\$
    – Meta4ic
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Meta4ic Perfectly true. However a there's a concern OP expressed in the original version of the question which has lost significance in the edits: part of the reason for the question was that OP wanted to find out if creatures whose hitpoints fall above the total affected could be woken up by the spell. Obviously the question becomes moot if you start by waking everyone up. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 4:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Meta4ic: true, craig is right. the original intension was the actually natural sleeping targets should be sure not waking up for at least the next 60 seconds. so waking them up would fail this req. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zaibis
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 8:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CraigYoung, Zaibis - I knew my comment didn't strictly adress the question (if it did, I would have made it my own answer), but I couldn't help myself sharing my thought about the paradoxal idea of waking up someone to ensure he'll be asleep. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Meta4ic
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 11:04

The spell doesn't affect already sleeping creatures at all. Strictly speaking, the spell doesn't target creatures, it targets an area; and affects or ignores creatures according to their current hitpoints and whether they're already unconscious.

Creatures ... are affected in ascending order of their current hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures).
... each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious until ...

As a result, you won't wake them up. You also won't be able to extend the duration of their sleep.

Note however: When they do wake up, they will probably be prone, and you should have little trouble putting them back to sleep if desired.

Some of the effects of being unconscious:

  • The creature drops whatever it's holding and falls prone.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
  • Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker if within 5 feet.

Given the above, the creature would be quite lucky to wake up alive. ;)

In comments and edits to your question: you clarify that you're asking about creatures that are sleeping naturally.

1) Presumably you're trying to ensure they are affected by magical sleep which would prevent them from waking up in the commotion of battle.

Anything you do close to the creatures may risk disturbing them (possibly need a stealth check to avoid waking any of them - either at a low DC or with advantage). Note that Sleep has a 90 foot range so you can easily keep your distance.

However, as already stated, the sleep spell has no effect on sleeping creatures (sleep is a form of unconsciousness); it will not convert natural sleep into magical sleep, nor will it wake any of the creatures up.

So your best course of action would probably be to have the stealthiest character in the party sneak up and slit their throats. While the magic user stands ready to cast Sleep if any do wake up.


  • Each attack will have advantage.
  • Each attack that hits is an automatic critical hit (and will probably kill the target).
  • A creature waking should almost certainly be considered surprised, and not be able to act on its first turn.

2) Alternatively if you're intending to sneak around and do things without waking them up or starting a fight, then again:

  • Do the sneaking and stand ready to cast sleep if any of the creatures do happen to wake up.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't the original plan work, though? The spell is not instantaneous; it has a duration of one minute. So assuming the spell hasn't already put to sleep enough creatures to reach the HP limit, wouldn't a creature that woke up during this time be targeted by the spell, and put back to sleep? \$\endgroup\$
    – coffee
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 3:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sumelic No, the duration is for those affected to remain sleeping. The determination of which creatures are affected is instantaneous. (I'll have to double-check the specifics in the rules first and report back this evening.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I realised where your question was coming from when you asked it. As I said, I'm going to have to check when I get home. I believe the spell is not a concentration spell and that can play a part in how it behaves. However: I'd like to suggest you post that as brand new question. It is an interesting thought definitely worth getting more general feedback. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 4:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, done: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/78265/… \$\endgroup\$
    – coffee
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 4:39

On the one hand,

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature’s thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise.

So the Sleep spell itself won't wake up a creature who it fails to affect, since it didn't have a perceptible effect. Or any effect at all, for that matter!

On the other hand, Sleep has a verbal component.

Most spells require the chanting of mystic words.

If someone was chanting mystic words at me, I'd like to think that I'd wake up. So you might wake the creature up by casting the spell, even though the spell itself wouldn't wake them up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Sleep spell lists specific conditions under which an unconscious creature will wake up: spell ends, creature takes damage, or someone uses an action to wake the creature. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CraigYoung Did you read the question? It's about creatures who aren't affected by the sleep spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman That's one interpretation of the question but it's not exactly clear that that is what the question is asking. It only says "therefor casting sleep on sleeping targets" and does not specify why the targets are already sleeping, whether due to magic or otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ they are sleeping because it is at night. I thought it would be clear enough when I say to make sure they won't awake for the next 60 seconds that they actually are just naturally sleeping because otherwise it wouldn't be to "be sure" the won't wake but to "prevent them from waking again before 60 seconds are over" but as said, maybe it wasn't clear enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zaibis
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman There's no need to be sarcastic. Until the edit, nothing in the question stated the "intended targets" weren't under the effects of the sleep spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 16:45

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