nanosleep — high-resolution sleep


#include <time.h>
int nanosleep( const struct timespec *req,
  struct timespec *rem);
[Note] Note
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 199309L


nanosleep() suspends the execution of the calling thread until either at least the time specified in *req has elapsed, or the delivery of a signal that triggers the invocation of a handler in the calling thread or that terminates the process.

If the call is interrupted by a signal handler, nanosleep() returns −1, sets errno to EINTR, and writes the remaining time into the structure pointed to by rem unless rem is NULL. The value of *rem can then be used to call nanosleep() again and complete the specified pause (but see NOTES).

The structure timespec is used to specify intervals of time with nanosecond precision. It is defined as follows:

struct timespec {
  time_t   tv_sec;
/* seconds */
  long   tv_nsec;
/* nanoseconds */

The value of the nanoseconds field must be in the range 0 to 999999999.

Compared to sleep(3) and usleep(3), nanosleep() has the following advantages: it provides a higher resolution for specifying the sleep interval; POSIX.1 explicitly specifies that it does not interact with signals; and it makes the task of resuming a sleep that has been interrupted by a signal handler easier.


On successfully sleeping for the requested interval, nanosleep() returns 0. If the call is interrupted by a signal handler or encounters an error, then it returns −1, with errno set to indicate the error.



Problem with copying information from user space.


The pause has been interrupted by a signal that was delivered to the thread (see signal(7)). The remaining sleep time has been written into *rem so that the thread can easily call nanosleep() again and continue with the pause.


The value in the tv_nsec field was not in the range 0 to 999999999 or tv_sec was negative.


POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008.


If the interval specified in req is not an exact multiple of the granularity underlying clock (see time(7)), then the interval will be rounded up to the next multiple. Furthermore, after the sleep completes, there may still be a delay before the CPU becomes free to once again execute the calling thread.

The fact that nanosleep() sleeps for a relative interval can be problematic if the call is repeatedly restarted after being interrupted by signals, since the time between the interruptions and restarts of the call will lead to drift in the time when the sleep finally completes. This problem can be avoided by using clock_nanosleep(2) with an absolute time value.

POSIX.1 specifies that nanosleep() should measure time against the CLOCK_REALTIME clock. However, Linux measures the time using the CLOCK_MONOTONIC clock. This probably does not matter, since the POSIX.1 specification for clock_settime(2) says that discontinuous changes in CLOCK_REALTIME should not affect nanosleep():

Setting the value of the CLOCK_REALTIME clock via clock_settime(2) shall have no effect on threads that are blocked waiting for a relative time service based upon this clock, including the nanosleep() function; ... Consequently, these time services shall expire when the requested relative interval elapses, independently of the new or old value of the clock.

Old behavior

In order to support applications requiring much more precise pauses (e.g., in order to control some time-critical hardware), nanosleep() would handle pauses of up to 2 ms by busy waiting with microsecond precision when called from a thread scheduled under a real-time policy like SCHED_FIFO or SCHED_RR. This special extension was removed in kernel 2.5.39, hence is still present in current 2.4 kernels, but not in 2.6 kernels.


In Linux 2.4, if nanosleep() is stopped by a signal (e.g., SIGTSTP), then the call fails with the error EINTR after the thread is resumed by a SIGCONT signal. If the system call is subsequently restarted, then the time that the thread spent in the stopped state is not counted against the sleep interval.


clock_nanosleep(2), restart_syscall(2), sched_setscheduler(2), timer_create(2), sleep(3), usleep(3), time(7)


This page is part of release 4.07 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at−pages/.

  Copyright (C) Markus Kuhn, 1996
and Copyright (C) Linux Foundation, 2008, written by Michael Kerrisk

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1996-04-10  Markus Kuhn <>
            First version written
Modified, 2004-10-24, aeb
2008-06-24, mtk
    Minor rewrites of some parts.
    NOTES: describe case where clock_nanosleep() can be preferable.
    Replace crufty discussion of HZ with a pointer to time(7).