Difference Between Sleep and Asleep

Main Difference – Sleep vs Asleep

Sleep refers to slumber, rest or a state of inactivity and is a basic need of a human being. The term ‘sleep’ is used both as a noun and a verb. Asleep is an adjective that describes the activity of sleeping. Thus, the main difference between sleep and asleep is that sleep is a noun and a verb while asleep is an adjective and an adverb describing the activity of sleeping. However, many second language users misuse these two terms as they sound and look similar. So we are going to look at the difference between sleep and asleep in this article, in the hope that this will clear your confusions about the two words.

Sleep – Meaning and Usage

Oxford dictionary defines sleep as  ‘a condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended’. According to this definition, sleep refers to a state of inactivity where your body is relaxed and peaceful. The examples below show how ‘sleep’ is used in a sentence.

“I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and got dressed.”

“You will feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep.”

“She still sleeps in her parent’s bed.”

In a grammatical sense, ‘sleep’ is used as a noun as well as a verb. In the second example, ‘sleep’ functions as a noun. However, keep in mind that the term ‘sleep’ has several connotations as well.

Different Connotations of Sleep

Sleep could refer to death

“He sleeps in Cornwell cemetery.”

“He didn’t want to put his pet to sleep, but he had no choice as the dog had been diagnosed with rabies.”

Sleep implies having sexual intercourse with someone.

“Everybody knew that she was sleeping with Alex.”

“She didn’t want to sleep with a man who didn’t respect her.”

Sleep also refer to inactivity

“It was named as the city that never sleeps.”

difference between sleep and asleep

Is he sleeping?

Asleep – Meaning and Usage

Asleep is used as an adjective and an adverb.

Asleep refers to the state of sleep.

“The baby soon fell asleep.”

“He had been asleep for whole 24 hours.”

Asleep refers to inactivity or in alertness

“My brain was asleep after listing to her lecture for 2 hours.”

Asleep can also imply  numbness

“My legs were asleep.”

We often use asleep with the be verb form to indicate that someone is sleeping. We don’t generally use ‘sleep’ in the simple present tense to indicate this. For example, we don’t say “he sleeps”, instead we say “he is sleeping”, or “he is asleep.”

main difference - sleep vs asleep

Boy and the dog soon fell asleep.

Difference Between Sleep and Asleep


Sleep: Sleep is a noun and a verb.

Asleep: Asleep is an adverb and an adjective.


Sleep: Sleep is a gradual process.

Asleep: When you say  “asleep”, that person is already  in the grip of sleep.


Sleep: Sleep refers to the act of slumbering, death, inactivity or sexual intercourse.

Asleep: Asleep refers to the state of sleep or inactivity. It is not used to refer to sexual intercourse.


“sleep.” oxforddictionaries, n.d. Web. 26 August 2015. </ >.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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