What Does To Sleep On It Mean?

To Sleep On It Meaning

Definition: Decide something the next day, after a night’s rest.

Origin of To Sleep On It

Many people find that making difficult decisions is easier if they are well-rested. In addition to this, “sleeping on something” allows someone to separate oneself from the immediate issue to examine it more objectively at a later time. This is the reasoning behind this idiom, which has been around since at least the 1500s.

An early example can be found in the State Paper of Henry VIII (1519):

  • His Grace…sayd that the wold slepe and drem upon the matter.

Some people might assume that the idea that sleep can help people make the best decision is a silly one, an old wives’ tale. However, there is scientific evidence that suggests that sleep can have a positive influence on decision-making. The unconscious mind may be better at synthesizing information than the conscious mind. Also, someone who is fatigued makes more mistakes than someone who is alert and wide awake.

Although many people may use this expression because they believe sleep will actually help them decide, others may use it simply as an excuse to postpone a final decision.

Examples of To Sleep On It

define sleep on itThe first dialogue shows a brother and sister discussing which couch to buy for their house.

Luke: Ella, you’ll have to agree that this leather couch is the best choice. It’s beautiful, it’s comfortable, and it’s even affordable!

Ella: It’s not bad, but I like this corduroy couch better. It reminds me of the one we had growing up. Also, it converts into a bed, so it is more useful.

Luke: Mine will last longer because it is harder to break.

Ella: Look, we just keep arguing about this. I don’t think we’ll agree tonight. Why don’t we both sleep on it and come to a final decision in the morning.

Luke: Fine. But I don’t think I’ll change my mind.

to sleep on it sayingThe second example shows two friends discussing the best way to afford a trip around the world.

Ray: I’m really excited about taking this journey with you, but I’m not sure how we’ll afford it. Maybe we should wait before committing to buying the tickets.

Ricardo: I guess that’s true. The cost of the tickets is small compared to the cost of accommodations. Maybe we could work online while traveling.

Ray: That’s a good idea. Or, maybe we could hitchhike instead of buying tickets.

Ricardo: That’s also a possibility. Let’s sleep on it and make a firm plan tomorrow.

More Examples

This excerpt is from a horoscope.

  • Dealings with bosses, parents and VIPs might be tough today because whatever they say will shake you up a bit. If you are caught off guard, don’t respond until you feel calm. Give matters a sober second thought; perhaps sleep on it. –Chicago Sun Times

This excerpt is about how to purchase a mattress.

  • Considering most people spend a large chunk of their day sleeping (or on their phone) in their bed, it makes sense to invest in a mattress.Test out options and sleep on it — literally and metaphorically. –USA Today


The phrase to sleep on it means to wait to make a decision until the following day, after everyone has slept.