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It won't kill you. No, what it will do is far worse. Your body will be your tomb, and you'll be in there with nothing but dreams formed of your own regrets.

—The Evil Queen to Snow White src

The Sleeping Curse and the Sleeping Spell are a curse and spell featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It first appears in the first episode of the first season.

The sleeping curse is based on the wicked fairy's curse from the fairytale "Sleeping Beauty", on Maleficent's curse from the Disney film Sleeping Beauty, on the poisoned apple's suspended animation in the "Snow White" fairytale, and on the Sleeping Death[1] curse from the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


Before First Curse

The Sleeping Spell appears to be a relatively generic use of magic that anyone suitably powerful can use. The Sleeping Curse, however, is more mysterious. The immortal enchantress Maleficent identifies the spell as "hers", implying she was the first magic user to develop it for reasons unknown. At a moment in Maleficent's life when she falls into a deep depression, she develops a habit of spiking her alcohol with a single drop of the sleeping curse potion. ("The Thing You Love Most", "Enter the Dragon")

The earliest known victim of the sleeping curse is a criminal named Brennan Jones, who is placed under the curse after he is captured. While his soul wanders the infinite void of the Netherworld, dreaming of his life's regrets and failures, his seemingly-dead body lies in stasis for decades. During this time, his body comes under the care of a nurse. Brennan hears his kind and gentle caregiver and falls in love with her. In the waking world, the nurse reciprocates her patient's feelings and eventually saves him with true love's kiss. With his second chance at life, Brennan vows to be a better man, marrying his rescuer and having a child with her named Liam. ("Swan Song")

After casting a sleeping curse on her nemesis, Briar Rose, Maleficent's vengeance is short-lived as King Stefan lifts the enchantment with true love's kiss. With her revenge ruined, Maleficent loses all her confidence, but with help from Regina, she finds her spark in life again by cursing Briar Rose's daughter, Aurora, into an eternal sleep. For her assistance, Regina is given a small dose of the sleeping curse, which she then uses on Snow White's horse. ("Broken", "Enter the Dragon")

Sometime following this, Maleficent retires into a castle and lives contently with a pet unicorn. Sometime prior to this, Regina trades the Dark Curse given to her by Rumplestiltskin for the sleeping curse to get rid of her nemesis, Snow White. Casting the sleeping curse on an apple, she offers it to Snow White, who eats it to save Prince Charming. Under the curse's influence, her body gives no signs of life, leading her friends to assume she is dead. After her "death", Prince Charming gives Snow White a final kiss as a goodbye, accidentally using true love's kiss to break the curse. As a side effect of waking up from the curse, Snow White experiences recurring nightmares, in which she is trapped in the Netherworld's fiery room. Over time, the nightmares gradually fade. ("The Thing You Love Most", "True North", "An Apple Red as Blood", "Into the Deep")

When all else fails, Regina steals the Dark Curse from Maleficent with plans of using it to destroy Snow White. ("The Thing You Love Most")

Fearing Regina will cast the Dark Curse and doom her life along with everyone else's, Maleficent and her allies, Cruella De Vil and Ursula, head for the castle to consult with Snow White and Prince Charming. On arrival, Maleficent casts a sleeping spell on the guards and everyone within the castle gates. When the royals finally return home, they rush in to find the villains awaiting them. After a failed attempt to gain answers from the Tree of Wisdom about how to stop the curse, Maleficent realizes Snow White is pregnant and the child is neither good or evil but has the potential to be either. Late at night, Maleficent reappears in the castle bedroom, putting Prince Charming under her sleeping spell, while she reveals her own pregnancy to Snow White. As they are both mothers who want to protect their children, she tries convincing the royal princess to help her stop Regina. Instead, Snow White refuses to side with a villain, as doing so might darken her own child. ("Unforgiven")

During First Curse
In Storybrooke, Regina brainstorms a plan to get rid of the savior of the Dark Curse, Emma, without killing her, which will break the curse. In a deal between her and the former portal jumper, Jefferson, Regina sacrifices magic in her former engagement ring to his magical hat; reaching into the past to retrieve the poisoned apple. Baking it into an apple turnover, she gifts the toxic treat to Emma, who agrees to leave town as long as she has visitation rights to see Henry. As Emma is saying her goodbyes to Henry, he becomes fear-stricken upon seeing the apple turnover. Desperate to make her believe in the curse, he takes a bite and falls into a coma. Later, after his heart flatlines, Emma kisses his forehead as a farewell, accidentally using true love's kiss, which breaks his curse as well as the Dark Curse. ("An Apple Red as Blood", "A Land Without Magic")

After First Curse

After the Dark Curse is lifted, Princess Aurora awakens from the sleeping curse from the power of Prince Phillip's kiss of true love. She begins to suffer from nightmares of being in a fiery room, which she tells Mary Margaret about. Having experienced the same side effects in her life, Mary Margaret reassures Aurora that the dreams will eventually stop. In Storybrooke, Henry suffers from the same symptoms, and at one point, both he and Aurora see each other in the Netherworld. ("Broken", "Tallahassee")

When Henry's nightmares do not stop, David and Regina learn from Mr. Gold that the dreams are caused by the sleeping curse. As he explains, a person's soul travels to the Netherworld under the curse, and if the curse is broken, the victim will awaken but will suffer through a period of continuously traveling to the Netherworld while asleep. Given a magic amulet to protect himself from the Netherworld's flames, Henry journeys to the dream world once again and fends off the fire separating him and Aurora. From talking with the boy, Aurora discovers his name is Henry, and she informs Emma and Mary Margaret about the development. With this line of communication, Mr. Gold tells Henry to let Aurora know of a way Emma and Mary Margaret can defeat Cora, but Aurora is forced awake before she hears him. Due to repeatedly returning to the Netherworld, Henry suffers burn marks, so David volunteers to go under the sleeping curse by pricking his finger on a spindle. Simultaneously, Mary Margaret uses poppy dust to induce and mimic the effects of the sleeping curse. Meeting in the fiery room, they trade information, and as Mary Margaret tries to give him true love's kiss, she discovers they cannot physically touch in this realm. Upon her return to Storybrooke, she rushes to David's side and revives him with true love's kiss. ("Child of the Moon", "Into the Deep", "Queen of Hearts")

Before Second Curse
After Regina takes magical preventive measures to undo Pan's casting of the Dark Curse, all the inhabitants of Storybrooke pay the price by returning to the Enchanted Forest and reverting to their prior personas. However, it also means that Emma Swan and Henry Mills must stay behind as they do not belong to the Enchanted Forest, only to find themselves unable to enter their castle as someone powerful has hijacked the magical shield around the palace. Regina proposes to Prince Charming and Snow White that she break into the palace by using the underground tunnels, which are not protected by the spell, and afterward, lower the shield so everyone can lead an army in. Robin Hood secretly joins her. After passing through numerous traps, the pair arrives at the castle. At the bedchamber, she begins mixing ingredients for a Sleeping Curse and admits her desire to use the curse on herself. Regina wishes for the curse to be broken by the only true love in her life—Henry—since she wants to live for him. After taking down the shield, Regina apologizes to Henry before preparing to prick herself with the curse. The Wicked Witch of the West enters, revealing herself as the one who took over the castle, takes it away, and introduces herself as Zelena. The woman claims they are half-sisters, with Cora as their shared parent, though Regina is in disbelief. Zelena is embittered by the abandonment, yet her sister had everything, though Regina considers her lucky to have escaped Cora's grip. Nonetheless, Zelena describes her true intent as "her dreams being realized" while Regina will suffer a "fate worse than death". Motivated by an enemy, Regina decides not to curse herself, and instead, she'll wreck Zelena's life. ("New York City Serenade", "Witch Hunt")

After Second Curse

Rushing to the hospital to kidnap newborn Prince Neal, Zelena, followed by Mr. Gold, who she controls using his dagger, casts a sleeping spell on Robin Hood and his Merry Men when they try to stop her. On her way, Zelena also meets Belle and makes her fall asleep as well. Upon arriving in the room where Mary Margaret recovers, Zelena puts Dr. Whale to sleep and, after a brief altercation with David, leaves the room carrying the baby. ("Kansas")

Desiring to change their fates as villains, Cruella, Maleficent and Mr. Gold seek out the storybook's Author, who they believe in trapped behind a door. Pretending to be on the villains' side, Regina procures a snapshot of the door illustration. While the villains believe the door is somewhere in Storybrooke, a light glare in the photo helps Mr. Gold realize the Author is actually trapped in the illustration. Not wanting to tip off the heroes, Maleficent casts a sleeping spell on the entire town, so she and her allies can secretly grab the illustration. Those previously affected by a sleeping curse, such as David, Henry and Mary Margaret, remain immune to the spell. Fearing the villains are after the illustration, Henry takes it with him to the Sorcerer's mansion. Regina, still pretending to work with the villains, demands the illustration from Henry while also subtly hinting that she wants the forged page, not the real one. Upon entering the diner, David and Mary Margaret find many people passed out and quickly realize Maleficent is responsible. Later when Mr. Gold discovers the illustration is fake, he has Maleficent cast a sleeping spell on Regina. ("Best Laid Plans")

After Third Curse

On the upper hospital floor, Nurse Ratched tries to stop Zelena from getting to the baby incubator room, but the witch puts her to sleep with a spell and continues on her way. Later that day, Hook uses his recently acquired Dark One magic to cause Merida to fall asleep so that he can talk to Emma. ("Broken Heart")

Sent back to Oz, Zelena tries to get the Silver Slippers from Dorothy Gale so that she can return home to her daughter. Although Dorothy attempts to sneak attack her, Zelena easily puts the girl under a sleeping curse. Not long after, Dorothy's friend Ruby follows Zelena to the Underworld and is encouraged by Snow to attempt True Love's Kiss on Dorothy and returns to Oz to do so, successfully breaking the curse. ("Ruby Slippers")

Worried that Mr. Gold's deal with Hades will cause her to lose her unborn son, Belle uses Zelena's sleeping curse on herself to stop her pregnancy, telling Mr. Gold to have her father awaken her when the deal is broken and they are back in Storybrooke. After Mr. Gold convinces Hades to tear up the contract, he attempts to awaken Belle himself, but cannot because they no longer share true love. Furthermore, when they make it back to Storybrooke, Belle's father refuses to wake her up because he does not want her to be with Mr. Gold. As such, Mr. Gold is forced to take Mr. Hyde's advice and go to the Temple of Morpheus, where he uses the Sands of Morpheus to enter Belle's Dream World, which she shares with her unborn son, though Mr. Gold is unaware of this. He tries to use her dream to make her fall in love with him again, but once she realizes what is going on she puts a stop to it. Fortunately, her son kisses her on the forehead, waking her up. ("Ruby Slippers", "Firebird", "Last Rites", "The Savior")

After the Evil Queen decimates Snow's and David's plans of defeating her, the couple forfeit their hearts to her in order to stop her from killing everyone in Storybrooke. By Snow and David's request, Regina removes the protection spell she placed on their hearts, allowing the Queen to rip out the hearts. However, instead of killing the two, the Queen curses the heart halves with a sleeping curse and also places a fail-safe to keep the curse from being lifted. Only after David awakens Snow with true love's kiss, he himself falls under the curse's effects. This prevents both of them from being awake at the same time and makes the curse seemingly unbreakable. ("Heartless", "Awake")

Under the joint curse, Snow and David attempt to make their relationship work, with both of them taking turns being awake and leaving behind notes as well as gifts for each other. Emma, unhappy over her parents' separation, looks for a way to break the curse and even tries to track down the Dragon, but when she's unable to locate him in New York, she goes to Regina for help. Meanwhile, Snow and David both grow disillusioned with the curse keeping them apart yet are unable to do anything about it. When Jasmine gives David the chance to use the genie lamp to wish away his and Snow's curse, David declines out of fear the wish will backfire. With Emma's disappearance and Gideon's arrival to town, David allows Snow to remain asleep under the curse as he deals with both issues, but after Emma defeats Gideon in a duel, he collapses from exhaustion because of lack of sleep, which finally prompts him to uncurse Snow. Sometime later, Regina gives Emma some magic ingredients to hopefully help break the sleeping curse. When the Queen is redeemed with Regina's help, she gives her all known information about the joint sleeping curse, but it's not enough to actually break it. Regina begins researching a way to break the curse and later receives help from Henry to get ingredients from Emma's shed. ("I'll Be Your Mirror", "Wish You Were Here", "Tougher Than the Rest", "Murder Most Foul", "Page 23")

Eventually, Regina and Zelena brew a potion and place Snow and David's hearts in it to remove the hearts' darknesses and lift the curse. It works momentarily before causing the hearts to weaken instead of the curse because of the Queen's fail-safe. In a race to remove the curse before Snow and David are cursed to sleep for forever, Emma and Snow try to collect pixie flowers to undo the curse, but their attempt is thwarted by the Black Fairy. Gideon manages to leave one flower untouched so they can use it, however, Snow goes to sleep after forfeiting the petals to let Emma save Hook instead. As one last alternative, Regina persuades some of the townspeople to join her in drinking a liquid form of the sleeping curse, in the hopes the curse will dilute itself among all of them and will be enough to break Snow and David's curse. Regina's plan works, with everyone falling asleep but waking shortly after Snow and David awaken. ("Awake")

During Fifth Curse
At the altar where the Dark Curse will be cast, Rapunzel confronts her daughter Drizella, begrudging her for trusting Gothel and warning her that the witch is only using her. Drizella, brushing off the remarks as her mother's attempt at continuing to control her, casts a sleeping spell on her to put an end to the conversation. ("The Eighth Witch")

Curse Types

Curse Effects

  • The victim remains eternally asleep, but the soul is sent to the Netherworld where the person experiences dreams made of his or her own regrets. ("An Apple Red as Blood")
    • When recalling her ordeal under the curse, Mary Margaret describes being lost and alone, only able to think of her loved ones and the hopelessness of ever seeing them again. ("Into the Deep")
  • While under the influence of the curse, the victim's body mimics the appearance of death with no involuntary movement or breathing. ("Pilot", "An Apple Red as Blood")
    • But victims can actually hear everything that is happening near them, like a real coma. This is proven when Emma kisses Henry with the true love's kiss and says that she loves him and Henry immediately wakes up and says that he loves her too. Another case is while Brennan is under the curse, he hears his nurse's voice and falls in love with her. After that, the nurse wakes him up with the true love's kiss. ("A Land Without Magic", "Swan Song")
  • According to the Evil Queen, the sleeping curse does not work if inflicted by force. In fact, Snow White, Henry, David and Belle all cursed themselves voluntarily. ("An Apple Red as Blood", "Into the Deep", "Ruby Slippers")
  • A single drop of the sleeping curse, mixed with sea water and toadstool, puts the person in a state of catatonia. ("Enter the Dragon")
  • Post-curse victims are repeatedly subject to common, horrible nightmares, which feature a red doorless, windowless room, with fiery curtains and engulfing flames. The dreams fade over a prolonged period of time. ("Tallahassee", "Into the Deep")
    • According to Mr. Gold, even after a person is awoken from the state of eternal sleep, the soul may still instinctively travel to the Netherworld while unconscious because of the victim's habitual residence there when the curse was still in effect. ("Into the Deep")
  • If a sleeping curse has been cast on someone, that person is immune to the effects of a large-scale sleeping spell. This left Mary Margaret, David, and Henry unaffected after Maleficent put the residents of Storybrooke to sleep, but they still fell under the sleeping spell cast by Emma in Camelot. ("Best Laid Plans", "Broken Heart")
    • However, victims of a previous sleeping curse can succumb to the same enchantment again, as demonstrated when the Evil Queen curses Snow and David's shared heart, trapping them in a joint sleeping curse. ("Heartless")
  • A sleeping curse can also stop one's pregnancy and make someone unable to accelerate it with an aging spell. ("Ruby Slippers")
  • If a person is under a sleeping spell, it may be dangerous to wake them up with magic. The reason for this is unknown. ("Nasty Habits")

Curse Breaking

  • True love's kiss – The sleeping curse's effects can be lifted with the power of a kiss of true love. Whereas the existence of unconditional true love can be romantic, such in the case of Snow White and Prince Charming, it can also be parental; exemplified by Emma using true love's kiss to free Henry from the sleeping curse. ("Pilot", "A Land Without Magic", "Queen of Hearts")
  • Pixie dust – The sleeping curse can theoretically be lifted in the name of "reuniting the true loves" by sprinkling the pixie dust over the victim(s) who also must have a true love. However, they are very hard to come by, as they only grow in Neverland and the presence of great evil. ("Awake")
  • Sharing the curse – Rarely, the sleeping curse's effect can be turned into sleeping spells by creating exactly the same curse and having it taken by lots of people so that its normal effects can be lowered. ("Awake")

List of Victims

Sleeping Curse Victims

Sleeping Spell Victims


Props Notes

Ingredients to break Sleeping Curse
1) Tongue of newt Eye Tongue!!!
2) Otter spleen
3) Goat tears
("Mother's Little Helper", "Awake")



Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.