25

The types of stories told in Doctor Who usually happen quickly, one event after another. For instance The Unicorn and the Wasp seems to happen in one afternoon running into the evening.

These stories rarely show anything happening over days where the characters are asleep.

Do Timelords sleep? Do they need to, or is it a choice? Is there anything that brings up whether they need sleep or how often they need to eat or just what their needs are to survive physically?

And, on the sleep issue, I don't mean in something like Family of Blood, where the Doctor has changed himself into a human, or in situations like right after a regeneration where a Timelord may need time to deal with the regeneration. I mean in general, as in day-to-day living when not under extreme conditions.

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  • 1
    I believe one of the minisodes on the S6 DVD released had the Doctor state that he needs to sleep less than humans, which would imply that Time Lords need at least some level of sleep (though how much, I have no idea). I'll try to find that reference if I can.
    – waiwai933
    May 29, 2012 at 4:03
  • 1
    He seems to have a fondness for bunk beds and hammocks, at least. He also falls asleep several times in "Amy's Choice", and although the sleep itself was unnatural, I find it interesting he didn't complain about it in a "so this is what humans do for 8 hours a night" sort of way like he does for things like waiting around or observing time in proper order (and proper speed). Neither is conclusive, but given that and other comments/answers it seems the likely conclusion that he does sleep (though not whether that is out of necessity, or how much)
    – PeterL
    Sep 28, 2012 at 16:02
  • 1
    After regenerating into David Tennant, didn't The Doctor sleep for multiple days in Rose's home..
    – user931
    Dec 29, 2018 at 14:58

13 Answers 13

27

The Season 6 'mini-episode' "Good Night" contains the following exchange:

Amy: Do you do this every night?

Doctor: Oh, Hello.

Amy: You're trying to conceal a euphonium. Guiltily. Has that ever been attempted before?

Doctor: What? Oh, this. Oh, yeah, it's just one of those euphoniums.

Amy: Okay, so is this what you do at night when we're sleeping. Have extra adventures?

Doctor: I don't sleep as much as you. I keep busy.

So apparently the Doctor does sleep, just not as much as a human.

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    You shouldn't take everything the Doctor says at face value. I'm pretty sure if confronted he would say that "not at all" would count as "not as much as you". May 29, 2012 at 13:35
  • 3
    Similarly, he could just be saying Amy sleeps a lot. He may still sleep 6-8 hours or so, but Amy tends to sleep in or sleep 6-9 hours. Or he could just be making an excuse.
    – PeterL
    Sep 28, 2012 at 15:58
  • @PeterL - The clear implication of the episode is he sleeps very little, sufficiently little that he can live an entire other-life without his companions knowing about it.
    – Valorum
    Apr 27, 2014 at 19:48
  • @Richard: Doctor Who doesn't really work that way :P Nov 15, 2015 at 13:45
23

I know this is an old question, but I just wanted to add this interaction from the 9th episode of season 9, Sleep No More:

DOCTOR: Sleep is vital. Sleep is wonderful. Even I sleep.

CLARA: When?

DOCTOR: Well, when you're not looking.

Later in the episode, the Doctor discusses the importance of sleep to every living creature (which of course includes Time Lords) (emphasis mine):

DOCTOR: Sleep is essential to every sentient being in the universe . . . Sleep isn't just a function. It's blessed. Every night we dive deep into that inky pool, deep into the arms of Morpheus. Every morning we wake up and wipe the sleep from our eyes.

  • In the first quote, he clearly states that sleep is vital (even to him), and that he enjoys it (sleep is wonderful).
  • In the second quote, he essentially admits to sleeping every night and waking up every morning, by using the pronoun we when he could have easily used another.

And there you have it. I felt I should add my answer despite the existing ones because unlike the Doctor-Amy interaction, this time the Doctor leaves no room for interpretation. When he said "I don't sleep as much as you", he could have meant that he doesn't sleep at all, because 0 hours is not as much as 8 hours. In other words, he was being too vague to provide any actual facts to back up a claim.

But if the Doctor sleeps as night, how come we believed he only sleeps very little? Because he has a time machine, and because no one would watch a show about a man sleeping.

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    "no one would watch a show about a man sleeping" I dunno, Big Brother has always pulled in decent viewing figures ;p Nov 15, 2015 at 13:47
  • "I couldn't find a script" - check chakoteya.net/DoctorWho/35-9.html
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 15, 2015 at 14:39
  • Thanks, @randal'thor. I made the small changes but it seems I wasn't too far off to begin with, so no harm done :-) Nov 15, 2015 at 16:22
9

I couldn't find or remember if it is ever explicitly stated that the Doctor, or Timelords, sleep, but it is implied heavily throughout the series when he talks about dreams, or is forced into one through whatever means.

On 'The Day Of The Doctor', the 50th anniversary special, at the 1:14:30 mark, The Doctor says:

"Clara sometimes ask me if I dream. 'Of course I dream', I tell her. 'Everybody dreams'. 'What do you dream about?' she'll ask. 'Same thing everybody dreams about', I tell her. 'I dream about where I'm going.'"

On the Christmas special of 2014 'The Last Christmas', The Doctor explains several times how dreams are funny, how the mind works to fill the gaps so we don't realize it's a dream, he asks Clara:

"Have you ever woken from a dream and discovered you're still dreaming?"

which sounds like he's talking from personal experience. And there's that sentence which he says later on the episode:

"No one knows they're not dreaming. Not one of us. Not ever. Not for one single moment of our lives."

Plus, there is the fact that the psychic manifestation of the evil side of the Doctor in the episode 'Amy's Choice' (S05E07) chose to call itself The Dream Lord after being awoken by psychic pollen and used dreams to torture The Doctor, Amy and Rory.

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    The first quote could be talking about day dreaming to of course but the second two are more explicit.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 3, 2018 at 9:22
6

We see the doctor asleep as a child in Listen, or at least waking up.

Clara holding the doctor's leg add a child

Furthermore, the discussion that we hear implies that this is normal for them to sleep.

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    Nice catch, but at that time he was merely a Gallifreyian, not a Time Lord.
    – user931
    Nov 15, 2015 at 20:00
3

If you watch the original series, especially the first series with William Hartnell, they (the doctor and his grand daughter) go to sleep.

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    In which episodes?
    – Valorum
    yesterday
3

In the Big Finish audio story "Davros", the Doctor claims that Time Lords only require an hour of sleep, as opposed to the six to eight hours that the average human requires.

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    Can you provide a quote?
    – Rogue Jedi
    Nov 17, 2015 at 22:47
3

Capaldi chimed in on this question in his first episode.

VASTRA: I'm having difficulty sleeping.

DOCTOR Oh? Oh, well, I wouldn't bother with that, I never bother with sleep, and I just do standy-up catnaps.

VASTRA: Oh really, how interesting. And when do you do those?

DOCTOR: Well, generally whenever anyone else starts talking. I like to skip ahead to my bits. It saves time.

(Deep Breath)

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    I think he was being facetious
    – Valorum
    yesterday
3

In the 1979 New Season advertisement the Fourth Doctor complained about being woken up in the middle of August and ended the encounter with a comment about the difficulty of getting a few months rest. (I've seen vastly worse things called canon in doctor who! So i will happily take an amusing classic who commercial that doesn't contradict anything.)

I conclude he not only sleeps but does so for months at a time. But also stays awake for extended periods too, as indicated in other answers.

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I've noticed several things about the Doctor. 1: He does keep his personal needs and such to himself. He did, although, in the newest season 8, he confessed that he forced himself into a dreamstate. 2: Regeneration. I've noticed that as the doctor regenerates the power of the regeneration becomes greater. When he first regenerated he slowly and peacefully changed his face, although when he last regenerated (from Smith to Capaldi) he blew a Dalek armada ship the size of a town out of the sky, plus great damage to the buildings.

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    I dispute that regenerations are getting more violent simply as the Doctor gets older. 10 to 11 was extremely violent because he'd held off for hours to say goodbye to lots of people; 11 to 12 was extremely violent because it was a fresh regeneration cycle and/or his body had a lot of regenerating to do, having grown so very very old as 11. 8 to W wasn't violent but sounded painful, probably because it was unnatural and 8 was only alive at that point by artificial means (thanks, Sisterhood of Karn!). In all other scenarios, e.g. W to 9, 9 to 10, it just looks like a special effects change. Nov 15, 2015 at 13:49
0

After his regeneration into David Tennant, IIRC, he had to sleep for a while, to recover. This is not conclusive, but at least indicates that Time Lords do get weary, which implies that they would need sleep. Although, as @BobWarwick points out, not as much as us mere humans.

Which probably explains why they choose increasingly hyperactive actors for the role. William Hartnell excluded.

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  • Re-read the last paragraph of the question -- I addressed this and specifically reference this as a possible exception.
    – Tango
    May 29, 2012 at 18:12
  • 1
    @TangoOversway - re-read, and I accept that after a regeneration is exceptional, but it does indicate that Time Lords get weary. That was my point. It may be that only regenerations weary them, but is suggests that some of their other work might also, therefore that they need some sleep. May 30, 2012 at 8:06
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I don’t think it’s so much a question of whether or not the Doctor NEEDS to sleep, because I don’t think that’s ever been in question. In the classic Doctor Who story “Tomb of The Cyberman”, the second doctor appears to sleep for several hours while Victoria is on guard. He asks her “why didn’t you wake me?” And she comments that she believed that at his age he needed a great deal of sleep. If he didn’t need sleep I doubt he would have left the child sitting alone and scared for that long. Personally, I think Timelords do need sleep, but rather than a regular cycle like humans, it may depend on convenience and on how much exertion or trauma has been endured over the recent period. For example: after the long exhausting matters of “The Key to Time” and The Black Guardian we see the fourth Doctor deeply snoring in a chair on a deserted beach. Also Romana is a Timelady and has a bedroom she clearly makes use of. I think it’s more about the Doctor’s personal relationship with sleep. It’s far more common to see a classic Doctor sleep than a post Timewar Doctor. As someone who deals with a lot of past trauma myself and struggles with both insomnia and depression, I’ve noticed a lot of behavior patterns in the Doctor that mirror my own. Sleep may be needed, but after all he’s seen and done and lost, I doubt it always comes easy. Trying to wind down into sleep is the time when the bad memories come calling, and if I have a hard time quieting my little human mind with an experience of less than four decades, I can’t imagine what it’s like for our lonely traveler. In his speech during “The Zygon Inversion”the 12th Doctor painfully shared how hard it is even to close his eyes. Trying to sleep when you’re “supposed to“ is an ordeal at best under those circumstances, so it’s a lot easier to sleep at unusual times: during the day when the world is bustling and you feel less alone, with a movie on right after dinner, at a friends house, or even in little bursts. The Doctor spends most of his time running, focusing on the current moment, on the adrenaline, on the needs of others. Trying to sleep makes him stop, it makes him think, and thinking makes him look inwards. The Doctor can come across as a little pompous or conceited at times, but in his later years that veil of self importance has become a clear method he uses to hide how much guilt and self-loathing he carries. When stopping to try and rest can be so painful, sometimes it really does just feel easier to keep on running until your body forces you to crash. We know the Doctor usually likes to downplay anything regarding his own needs and to keep things focused on others, so when he says he “Sleeps less”, “feels cold very little”, or works differently in some other way, it may be true, but knowing rule number one: “the Doctor lies” I think it’s a mistake to take any of those statements at face value. I sincerely hope that the 14th Doctor is making up for centuries of lost sleep now that he’s finally found a home.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This would be easier to read if you broke it into paragraphs, with one example per paragraph.
    – DavidW
    yesterday
-1

When looking at this question you are forgetting several key things. One is how Timelords and all other species are portrayed on the screen. Second is the general time flow of the show.

When looking at how Timelords and other species are portrayed on the screen you need to remember that in general biological functions are pretty boring. What that means is that unless it is needed for a plot point you won't see any of them on the screen. This includes sleeping, eating, removing of biological waste (think restroom) or general hygiene matters. Unless there was a need for it to be on screen you will not see it.

The timeline of the stories is also important. It should be remembered as it has been stated and talked about many times in the stories that time passing for the companions is not the same as for the doctor. What I mean by this is that while there may be a new adventure for the companion each day that is not the case for the doctor. From what we are able to determine on the screen is that there is generally a much longer time lapse between events from the doctors perspective then the companions. At times it has been over a hundred years and at other times it is the same. It should be remembered that in a show that deals with time travel it is very easy to get around the boring aspects of it such as sleep.

-2

To quote 'The Lying Poet' who answered up top, "In the Big Finish audio story "Davros", the Doctor claims that Time Lords only require an hour of sleep, as opposed to the six to eight hours that the average human requires." Edit: here is the Audio clip of the story where this is mentioned by The Sixth Doctor

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  • This would have been better as an edit to his answer rather than an answer in its own right.
    – Valorum
    Oct 11, 2018 at 7:05

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