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Are both expressions correct? If yes, do they have different meanings? It seems to me that I came across both of them in books, but I'm not sure.

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Obligatory: George Carlin on flying. People often use "on" when they should use "in" and vice versa... – Darrel Hoffman Jan 27 at 18:15
Possible duplicate of Sleep in bed or sleep on bed – Nathan Tuggy Jan 27 at 20:16
Of course monsters sleep under the bed - until you turn off the light – Hagen von Eitzen Jan 27 at 22:01
Note that there's an idiomatic phrase "in bed", without an article ("time to get in bed", "he's in bed with..."); there's no similar phrase *"on bed". – david Jan 28 at 9:57
up vote 6 down vote accepted

They are both correct, but convey slightly different ideas.

I will sleep on a bed.

Implies that I will sleep on the piece of furniture I refer to as a bed. As opposed to sleeping on the couch or sleeping on the floor.

I will sleep in a bed

Specifically conveys the idea that I will be inside the bedclothes, typically underneath a blanket or duvet.

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+1, but "bedclothes" is a new one to me. Had to look that up. Would normally call that "bedding", "sheets", "covers", or "blankets". – DCShannon Jan 28 at 0:30
Ha, now you've drawn my attention to it, it is an odd sounding word - like clothes to dress the bed in! Maybe it's a north UK thing - growing up, it's what my mother and grandmothers always called them. Looked it up, it's pretty old - apparently from when 'clothes' was still the plural of 'cloth'. So I guess it makes a little more sense in that context. – Easy Tiger Jan 28 at 17:47
In tropical countries, some places are so hot that we never use the bedding clothes to sleep in. So does it mean literally we don't sleep in bed? – Martin Mkenda Apr 25 at 2:48

Both expressions are correct and can have different meanings. A bed usually is made of a surface for sleeping upon and a warm cover of some kind. The phrase on the bed would be taken to imply that something is placed upon both. Take this example:

I placed my luggage on the bed.

This would mean the luggage was placed upon the top of the upper surface of the bed and bedding.

The phrase in the bed would be taken that something is placed between the warm covering (or bed cover) and above the sleeping surface. It is placed inside the bed, as illustrated by this example:

The hot water bottle was placed in the bed.

If the hot water bottle was placed on the bed it would get cold and not warm the bed properly.

Thus if we use sleep as the action being performed, you can see that we can both sleep in the bed and sleep on the bed. For example:

He was too drunk to sleep in the bed and was found sleeping on it.

There is a very famous bed in event which can also be used to illustrate the difference:

This is John and Yoko on the bed:

Wikipedia image of John and Yoko

This is John and Yoko in the bed:

Image of John and Yoko

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+1. Nice way to explain it. – Ustanak Jan 27 at 15:51
+1 for the picture, although I think this answer makes the distinction seem more significant and more clear-cut than it actually is in practical usage. – DCShannon Jan 28 at 0:32

Sleeping in the bed would actually mean to be inside the bed(covered by under the sheets") however, Sleeping on the bed logically mean laying on the bed on the surface of it, don't go deep into the holy crap of English literature.

Conclusion: *

"Sleeping in the bed", is correct one to use.

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