I've been awake for 3 days. I want to paraphrase this sentence:

I haven't been sleeping for 3 days.

I haven't slept for 3 days.

Do these sentences have the same meaning ?

Thank you.

  • 1
    The first is not particularly idiomatic, but it implies that you have suffered from severely restless sleep for the past 3 days. The second can be taken literally (you've been awake for 3 days) or figuratively (you've had restless sleep for 3 days). – Hot Licks Oct 26 '15 at 1:48
  • I will comment that I literally used the phrase "I haven't slept for three days" once when describing my situation while suffering from a kidney stone. During that time I may have snatched bits of sleep for 15 minutes at a time, but was severely sleep-deprived. – Hot Licks Oct 26 '15 at 1:52
  • @HotLicks Would you be able to explain to a nonnative speaker what's going on? Is it just that you're intuitively evoking the familiar phrase "...haven't been sleeping well for..."? Or am I missing some of them native past perfect neurons to understand those intricacies? – user143977 Aug 15 '16 at 21:17
  • 1
    @Jakub - Yes, the first version implies that you haven't slept well for three days. The second version implies that you have been unable to sleep at all for that time period, or have only been able to sleep for a few minutes at a time. Though the second may be used in a figurative sense when, eg, you've been too worried to sleep well. – Hot Licks Aug 15 '16 at 22:58

I've been awake for 3 days. I want to paraphrase


I haven't slept for 3 days.


A. I haven't been sleeping for 3 days.

My immediate reaction to this as a native speaker is that the person has had difficulty sleeping--over the past three days. They have slept, but only fitfully.

When someone mentions in conversation that they haven't been sleeping, it often means they have been worrying about something and the worry has been keeping them awake.

Real-life examples

I haven't been sleeping lately i have only been sleeping for 3-4 hours a night.. usually i get like 6 hours. This has been going on all this week so far.

I haven't been sleeping the past few days... I just sleep like 5 hours at most and it takes me like 2 hours to fall alseep.

B. I haven't slept for 3 days.

This just means that you have not slept at all.

  • Bull's eye. That's my immediate reaction as a hockey player. – Ricky Oct 26 '15 at 0:48
  • Saying “I haven’t been sleeping for three days” sounds really weird. The for three days throws it off completely, and does not lead me to think what you’re thinking. I might expect something like “I haven’t been sleep for three days: I’ve been working for three days.” – tchrist Oct 26 '15 at 1:46
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    @tchrist "I haven't been sleep for three days"??? – Hot Licks Oct 26 '15 at 1:49
  • @HotLicks Typo for “I haven’t been sleeping for three days: I’ve been working for three days.” – tchrist Oct 26 '15 at 1:56
  • "I haven't slept well for 3 days" would be an idiomatic way of saying that sleep has been fitful or difficult. – coneslayer Oct 26 '15 at 2:08

Jon hasn't been watching Games of Thrones this season

This means Jon has missed a number of episodes; however, season 8 is still in progress, so Jon could binge-watch and catch up on all the episodes he missed

I haven't been watching TV for three days

This construction is acceptable, it suggests a temporary situation that could change in the future. It generally infers that the speaker did not watch TV for three days or that they watched very little.

I haven't watched TV for three years.

The speaker stopped watching TV three years ago. This non-activity seems deliberate and will probably continue to the future.

Jon hasn't been sleeping well for three nights

In this situation, Jon has been sleeping badly, he probably managed a few hours of sleep but he didn't awake refreshed and rested as he should have.

From The Royal College of Psychiatrists

“There is evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy can be helpful if you haven't been sleeping well for some time”.


I haven't slept for three nights (in a row)

It is possible that the insonnia continues for a fourth night (in which case consult a doctor!) In this case, the inability to sleep is connected to the present (Today I feel like crap. Don't ask me to do anything.)

If we use the simple past tense…

I didn't sleep for three days or nights

Without more context, we might think the speaker is referring to a specific period in their life. The sleepless nights occurred in the past but since then they have had no further episodes of multiple nights of insomnia.

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