This spell sends creatures into a magical slumber. Roll 5d8; the total is how many hit points of creatures this spell can affect. Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected in ascending order of their current hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures).

Starting with the creature that has the lowest current hit points, each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious until the spell ends, the sleeper takes damage, or someone uses an action to shake or slap the sleeper awake. Subtract each creature’s hit points from the total before moving on to the creature with the next lowest hit points. A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total for that creature to be affected.

Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren’t affected by this spell.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, roll an additional 2d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S, M (a pinch of find sand, rose petals, or a cricket)
Duration: 1 minute
School: 1st-level enchantment

Player’s Handbook, pg. 276

Sleep 5e

Sleep is a solid low-level enchantment spell that can put a few baddies down for a nap. This can either set up big damage from an ally or help reduce the damage coming in.

Who Can Cast Sleep in 5e?

The following classes have Sleep on their spell list:

  • Bard

  • Sorcerer

  • Wizard

The following subclasses get Sleep for free:

  • Warlock (The Archfey)

  • Paladin (Oath of Redemption) (XGtE 39)

  • Cleric (Twilight Domain) (TCoE 34)

What Does Sleep Do in 5e?

Sleep is one of the most confusing spells for first-time players (second- and third-time players as well). Let’s break down how Sleep works step by step:

  • Choose a location within 90 feet

  • Roll 5d8

  • Add up the results

  • Enemies within a 20-foot radius of your targeted location are affected by Sleep spell in the following way:

    • The enemy with the lowest current hit points falls asleep first

    • Move up in ascending order of current hit points from there

    • Once you cannot reach all of an enemy’s hit points, or all enemies within range are already asleep, you are done causing the effects of sleep

An example should help make this even clearer:

  • There are 2 Goblins and 1 Hobgoblin bunched up together — they have 6, 7, and 11 hit points, respectively.

  • A Bard casts Sleep, targeting their location. They roll 5d8 and get a total of 23.

  • Subtract the Goblin hit points from your total pool of 23:

    • 23 – 6 = 17

    • 17 – 7 = 10

    • 10 – 11 = -1

    Once you reach a negative number, that creature is not affected by Sleep and you are done.

  • The 2 Goblins with the lowest current hit points fall sleep, while the Hobgoblin stays standing.

Sleep makes affected creatures fall unconscious. Unconscious creatures:

  • Fall prone

  • Drop what they’re holding

  • Are incapacitated

  • Can’t take actions or reactions

  • Can’t concentrate on spells (and lose concentration on current spells)

  • Can’t move or speak

  • Are unaware of their surroundings

  • Automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saving throws

Additionally, creatures who attack a sleeping (unconscious) target:

  • Have advantage on attack rolls

  • Automatically score a critical hit if within 5 feet of the target

Sleep lasts for one minute, which is 10 rounds of combat.

Undead and creatures that are immune to being Charmed can’t be affected by Sleep. When you upcast Sleep, you can roll +2d8 for each slot level above the first.

At first level, Sleep’s average roll is 22.5. This scales by +9 per level of upcast.

What Are the Rules for Sleep in 5e?

The rules for Sleep 5e are as follows:

  • There is no saving throw for Sleep. It just works. New DMs are often perplexed at how “overpowered” Sleep seems at early levels because of this. But Sleep pays for this early game power with horrible scaling (more on that below).

  • Sleep is special compared to other “compulsion” spells. Some players look at spells like Command and Suggestion and try to make it into a pseudo-Sleep spell. The reason this doesn’t work is because commanding/suggesting someone to sleep doesn’t somehow make their brain instantly switch to sleep mode.

    Rather, enemies commanded/suggested to sleep will try their best to fall asleep however they normally do (lying down, closing eyes, etc.) The spell Sleep, however, is different. It instantly forces the affected creature to fall asleep, like turning a switch in their brain.

  • Sleeping creatures are considered unconscious (DMG 248). This goes for both magical and regular sleep. Here it is confirmed by Jeremy Crawford on Sage Advice.

  • Sleep can affect allies. As an area of effect spell that doesn’t specify only affecting enemies, Sleep can affect your allies. Make sure your allies (and you, if you’re in range of the spell’s effect) have a decent amount of current hit points, or they might fall down for a snooze before that Goblin you were aiming for.

  • Sleep affects a 20-foot radius. Here’s confirmation that Sleep is “functionally spherical.” If you’re using a battle map with 5 square foot scaling, you can select a point, then draw an X centered on it. Each of the 4 legs of the X should be 4 lines long. Then, draw a circle using the endpoints of the X.

  • sleep area of effect

  • Does a creature in water under the effects of Sleep drown? Probably not — Sleep only lasts for one minute, so if the creature instinctively holds its breath, it should be fine. If, on the other hand, it keeps breathing, it will begin to drown (which I think most humans/DMs can agree is “taking damage”) and will therefore wake up.

    This is up to DM discretion though.

  • Other creatures must spend an action to wake up a sleeping creature. So if your DM tries to get one goblin to wake up his buddy and then follow up with an attack from that same goblin, shut that down.

  • Sleep doesn’t affect unconscious creatures, undead, or creatures immune to being charmed.

  • Sleep uses current hit points, not total hit points.

sleep 5e

How Do I Use Sleep in 5e?

Sleep has a number of applications in the early levels of a DND 5e campaign:

  • Take out groups of enemies. Early opponents often come in hordes (think of kobolds, goblins, and the like). They don’t hit very hard, but collectively they can get in a lot of hits and wear your party down.

    Sleep’s average roll of 22.5 means you can usually put 2-4 low-level opponents to sleep, making the group much more manageable for your party. Plus, when you do decide to smack the sleeping goblin awake, you’ll have advantage and a guaranteed critical strike (if you’re in melee range).

  • Stealth missions. Oftentimes, violence isn’t the best answer in DnD. Say there are a couple of guards blocking the door to your true target. Sure, you could engage in a melee and run the risk of the alarm being sounded.

    Or you could help those poor fellows catch up on their beauty sleep. Just note that Sleep only lasts for one minute, so you’ll have to do your business quickly or make sure your enemy remains incapacitated even after waking up.

  • Escape. If things get to be too much and you’d rather put some space between you and your foes than keep on fighting, Sleep can be just the spell you’re looking for. Bonus points if you put an enemy’s mount to sleep, putting a real damper on his chances of chasing you.

  • Set up big finishers. One important element of the incapacitated element of the Sleep spell is that it affords attackers advantage on attack rolls. And if the attacker is within 5 feet, they’re also guaranteed to land a critical strike.

    Put a target (or two) to sleep and watch your party’s Fighter, Rogue, or Barbarian deliver massive damage.

  • Wear enemies down pre-cast. Sleep’s utility falls off hard as enemies start getting bigger hit point pools. One way to counteract this weakness is to chip away at a few foes with some area of effect damage spells, and then follow up with a Sleep that sends the recently-Fireball’d baddies to bed.

Who Can I Target With Sleep 5e?

Technically, you target an area with Sleep, not a creature. This means you can accidentally “target” an ally if you fail to consider their hit point pool relative to the creatures in the same area.

Sleep does affect most creatures, except for Undead and creatures immune to being charmed, like doppelgangers. That being said, the average roll for a level 1 sleep spell is 22.5, which goes up by 9 for each spell slot above the first.

This means that Sleep isn’t likely to put creatures with higher hit points to sleep.

Is Sleep 5e a Good Spell?

No, Sleep is not a good spell. It’s a very tempting trap for players, because it truly is “overpowered” at early levels. A no-save, no-concentration, area of effect spell that instantly controls 3-4 creatures is absolutely incredible.

The trouble is, enemies hit point pools scale much more quickly than Sleep’s upcast potential. Adding an average of 9 hit points per upcast level brings us to a total of 94.5 hit points as a ninth-level spell. That’s barely enough to bring down a single challenge rating 3 enemy, let alone a group of them.

Of course, softening up your enemies with some area of effect damage spells and following up with Sleep is still a viable option in combat.

And if you like Sleep for its out-of-combat utility against basic humanoids and the like, then it’s still a sweet spell. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking its early-game in-combat dominance will last very long.

Sleep 5e Compared to Color Spray

If you’re a Wizard or a Bard, you have access to both Sleep and Color Spray at 1st-level. Color Spray is cast in closer range (a 15-foot cone emanating from the caster), blinds affected creatures, and lasts for just one round.

It’s very similar to Sleep in that you roll 6d10 and use that hit point pool to determine how many creatures are affected, using their current hit points in ascending order. It has the same upcast formula of +2d10 per level. Neither requires an attack roll or saving throw.

For starters, Color Spray has a higher average roll (33) and better scaling (+11 per level). Second, Blind is a great condition to put on enemies. In combat, it causes a creature to have disadvantage on all attack rolls, and attacks against that creature have advantage. The creature obviously also can’t see and therefore can’t cast spells that require sight of the target.

The downsides of Color Spray are that it only lasts for 1 round as opposed to Sleep’s 1 minute and that it requires the caster to be in closer range of the creatures they hope to affect.

Overall, it depends on what sort of playstyle you’re hoping to build your character around. Color Spray offers a potentially bigger net damage payoff (via taking less damage from affected creatures AND dealing more damage to them for one round of combat) and scales slightly better into later levels. Sleep, on the other hand, has more out-of-combat utility.

Sleep 5e DM Tips

One thing that Sleep’s rules don’t explicitly cover is how the targets react when they wake up. In a combat scenario, it’s fairly obvious that they realize what happened and immediately re-enter the fray.

But if players use Sleep to put guards down, you need to remember that they only have 1 minute to get past them and into a place where they can avoid notice. Now, are the guards suspicious of their sudden slumber, or do they chalk it up to long hours and decide to keep their lapse of duty a secret?

Think about how various creatures, roles, and personalities would respond to the sudden effects of magically-induced sleep.

Also, a common thing that players will attempt is the ol’ Sleep and drown trick. Decide how you want to play this — does the creature just sit in the water holding their breath, or choke and immediately wake up? Or do they drown stupidly, as their body ignores every instinct and continues attempting to respirate a liquid? It’s your world.

Sleep 5e Simple Spell Text

Sleep: (1st-level, 90 feet, V/S/M (a pinch of fine sand, rose petals, or a cricket)) Roll 5d8. You can affect this many total hit points of creatures. Choose a point; creatures within 20 feet of that point are affected in ascending order starting with the creature with the lowest hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures). Affected creatures fall unconscious until the spell ends, they take damage, or someone uses an action to wake them up. Subtract each creature’s hit points from the total pool before moving on. A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total to be affected. Undead and creatures immune to charm aren’t affected by this spell | +2d8 per slot level above second

How Other Enchantment Spells Work in DnD 5e

How does Friends work?
How does Mind Sliver work?
How does Vicious Mockery work?
How does Animal Friendship work?
How does Bless work?
How does Charm Person work?
How does Command work?
How does Dissonant Whispers work?
How does Hex work?
How does Crown of Madness work?
How does Hold Person work?
How does Suggestion work?