A Russian user posted this sentence as an example of the usage of the verb “sleep on“ to mean “underestimate.“ I’ve lived in the United States my entire life and I’ve never heard anything of the sort. Does this sound weird to any other natives?

Hey, don't sleep on MAX DUGAN RETURNS. It's a classic.

  • 1
    Maybe he meant "sleep through..." And could you please post a link to the sentence so we can see the context? Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 16:43
  • It could mean several different things -- it's not idiomatic.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


It is certainly a valid usage, but one that you should choose your audience for, as evinced by the response elsewhere to this question. Slate magazine was writing about it back in 2015:

Look no further for evidence of the continuing War on Sleep than the recent transformation of the idiom “to sleep on.” If the phrase once meant taking an issue seriously enough not to treat it hastily, now these words suggest the blinkered and irresponsible opposite: to underestimate or ignore a problem. “Don’t sleep on me hoe,” threatened the rapper Pouya in 2012. He meant: Be awake or alert to the power of my flow. A Key and Peele sketch from that same year featured Peele as a college-aged Barack Obama, talking about how to throw the most inspirational party in campus history. “Don’t sleep on Barry O,” the POTUS-to-be instructed the camera

in an article Don’t Sleep on “Don’t Sleep on.” The Phrase Is Evidence of the War on Sleep which traced the phrase to at least 2009 when it was used in an episode of 'How I met Your Mother', and found its precursor in a truncated form, 'don't sleep', in the rap work of Tupac and Juicy J in the late 1990s.

The phrase is probably more closely related to 'don't get/be caught napping' than it is to 'sleep on it'.

from The Free Dictionary

be caught napping:

To have one's inattention (or, sometimes, literal sleep) exploited or capitalized on by someone else. The other team scored because our defense was caught napping.


"To sleep on" something means:

To postpone a decision until the following day so that one has additional time to consider it.

Rather than "acting on it," you're "sleeping on it" :)

It doesn't mean to underestimate; however, if you are sleeping on something important, then it could be said that you are underestimating it. Again, though, this is not related to the meaning of the term in N.Am.E., AFAIK.

  • I agree 100%. I feel that assigning the definition “underestimate“ to this verb is quite a stretch.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 13:11
  • It's not a stretch, it's a break! :D
    – tidbertum
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 13:12
  • Absolutely 😂 you made me laugh.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 13:19

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