I thought this was a thing, that the expression "little death" refers to sleep and suggests that time spent sleeping is time not used for something else; one is, in a way, dead while asleep. Apparently, that's not what the expression stands for; I'm not sure where I got that.

So is there an alternative expression that would convey the idea of sleep as something to be kept to a minimum because time could be better used ?

  • Down time? (or do I spend to much time in server rooms?) Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 22:19
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    I believe you're thinking of "I can sleep when I'm dead." Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 22:20
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    La petite mort? In France, it's not sleep they're talking about: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_petite_mort Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 0:19
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    "The death of each day's life" (Shakespeare). "Little slice of death" (Poe? Longfellow?).
    – JEL
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 7:26
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    thanks @JEL, it was the "slice of death", I think - but I like the Shakespeare one even better. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 11:08

5 Answers 5


The expression the early bird catches the worm can be used to convey the idea of not wasting too much time sleeping:

  • Prov. If you wake up and get to work early, you will succeed. (Sometimes used to remark that someone is awake and working surprisingly early, as in the first example.) Fred: What are you doing in the office at 7:30 A.M.? Jane: The early bird catches the worm. I didn't expect to see you studying at the library at this hour of the morning. The early bird catches the worm, huh?

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms)

  • nice; strange how these proverbs tend to be present in many cultures; in Romania we have a saying "he who gets up early, will get farther", and I'm sure it's the same in many others. Still, something shorter would be even better. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 22:24
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    @MihaiRotaru - There is also the expression "to be an early bird": thefreedictionary.com/early+bird
    – user66974
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 22:26
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    @MihaiRotaru - The French equivalent is "l'avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt" (the future belongs to those who get up early).
    – Graffito
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 22:49
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    But early worm gets the death.
    – Zikato
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 11:07

"I'll sleep when I'm dead" is an idiom used by people who are trying to get the maximum out of life, biological necessity be damned. The phrase has been used as the title of several songs and at least one movie. It's usually used as a retort when someone has urged you to get some rest.

There's also "I must work while it is day (for the night is coming)" which is a quote from Jesus, in John 9:4.


THE QUESTION HAS BEEN EDITED - It's a different scenario now and I suggest "do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."

No, I don't think there is an expression conveying the idea that "sleep is something to be avoided". That would be the same as saying "breathing or eating should be avoided. One might jokingly regret: "oh, it's a shame to spend one third of our lives sleeping" but, as I said before, it wouldn't be serious.

  • Fair enough; but I didn't mean avoiding it completely; more like, keeping it to a minimum. Will update the question. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 22:30

The little death originates in the French expression la petite mort, which refers to a brief loss of consciousness as in fainting, but later came to mean the interruption of the ordinary consciousness by an orgasm. Sensationalistic meanings invariably crowd out subtler nuances, so now the little death exclusively connotes the orgasmic mind.


The saying that sleep is the little death is a biblical and older saying. It was said that our spirits traveled to the spirit world, the land of the dead also known as the dream world every night to recharge us. Without this recharge, we die. Strangely enough there are modern reports that prove that the lack of dreaming/ sleep leads to death.

  • The question is asking for a saying that conveys that "sleep [is] something to be kept to a minimum because time could be better used", and OP already considered "the little death" as an option, but doesn't think it has the meaning they want. If you disagree you need to prove that people use "the little death" with the intended meaning.
    – Laurel
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 7:26

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