JavaLatte’s answer of “in one’s sleep” is the best answer to this in general. It is understood that anything done asleep is done unconsciously. It is also the best formulation available to describe the dog grabbing Tom in the cartoon.
However, it is also worth noting the common word “sleepwalk,” a verb meaning
- (intransitive) To walk and/or perform other actions while sleeping; to somnambulate.
(Wiktionary on “sleepwalk”)
Per ngrams, “sleepwalk” is much more common than “walk in his sleep.”¹ And using “sleep-” as a prefix is somewhat productive, that is, we sometimes see other verbs use it as a modifier to also mean that the action is done while asleep. “Sleeptalk” (or “sleep-talk” or “sleep talk”) is common enough to be the primary title of the relevant Wikpedia article, for example.²
However, “sleepwalk” is an intransitive verb, and so are the words that use “sleep-” in this analogous manner. That means you can say “he was sleeptalking,” but you can’t say “he sleeptalked the ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ speech from Julius Caesar,” for that you would say “he delivered the ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ speech from Julius Caesar in his sleep.”³
Which means that “sleepgrab” isn’t a thing, and isn’t going to be. You can’t say “the dog sleepgrabbed Tom,” and “the dog sleepgrabbed” doesn’t actually make much sense. So “sleepgrab” isn’t a word that’s going to work for English speakers. However, for intransitive verbs, it might work, and it may be worth considering such a formulation, seeing if it’s been used before, etc.
And the margin is vast enough that I don’t feel much need to try other pronouns.
But it is also uncommon enough that Firefox flags it as a spelling error for me—then again, it also does that with “somnambulate,” though oddly not “somniloquy.”
Note the existence of an idiomatic phrase “one could [...] in one’s sleep,” meaning that one has so thoroughly mastered a process and memorized its steps that one need not be consciously aware in order to perform them. Such idiomatic usage isn’t generally intended literally, it’s just a figurative indication of a high degree of skill. In the case of my example character above, we don’t say he could deliver the speech in his sleep—we say he actually did. That takes it away from the idiom and makes it a more typical, literal statement of fact.