How to snooze your browser tabs

Having a bajillion open tabs might look messy, but it's not slowing you down.
close up on hands typing on laptop keyboard
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Browsing sessions can quickly lead to dozens of tabs popping up along the top of your screen. And when you can no longer read the tab titles, you know you’re in trouble. This is not only demanding on your brain, but also on the available memory and battery life of your computer. 

Luckily, web browsers are getting savvier when it comes to managing that tab overload. To help mitigate the issue, they’ve added a feature that allows you to snooze tabs you haven’t visited in a while, reawakening them only when you need them.

Your browser doesn’t let go of the contents of these sleeping tabs, it just puts them into storage until it’s time to go back to them. This reduces the demand on your computer’s resources, making the tabs you are actually using fast and responsive.

How to put tabs to sleep on Google Chrome

Google Chrome has a built-in Memory Saver function to target inactive tabs and limit the impact they have on your system. When you’re ready to go back to these tabs they automatically reload back to the state they were in when you left them.

To turn this feature on and off, click the three dots (top right), and choose Performance. If Memory Saver is on, you can prevent certain tabs (such as music sites on pause or chat pages, for example) from going to sleep. To do this, just click the Add button and enter the site URL.

[Related: Google Chrome’s new search function will help you keep tabs on your tabs]

But that is only a precaution, as Chrome is smart enough to know what tabs need to stay active, even if you haven’t manually added them to the list. Pages with partially filled-out forms, active audio or video playback, live screen sharing, or active downloads won’t get snoozed.

If you need more control over the process, you can get browser extensions like Snoozz. The free add-on for Chrome gives you more choices over which tabs get tucked into sleep, how long they need to be inactive for before they’re targeted, and when they come back.

How to put tabs to sleep on Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge offers the ability to put tabs to sleep as an integrated feature, which means they’re automatically unloaded from memory until you switch back to them. Each sleeping tab saves 85 percent of its memory and 99 percent of its CPU usage, Microsoft says.

You can find the feature by clicking the three dots (top right), then choosing Settings and System and performance. There you can toggle the feature on and off, choose whether or not sleeping tabs show as faded on the tab bar, and set the period of inactivity required before a tab goes to sleep.

Certain websites won’t be snoozed automatically, such as those playing audio or those currently using your microphone or webcam, even if they’re in the background. You’ll also be able to prevent certain pages from getting paused: Just click on the Add button to specify one of these URLs.

If the built-in feature isn’t giving you what you need, you can choose one of several third-party alternatives. A free option is Tab Suspender, which offers settings including a customizable idle time and the ability to disable tab suspensions until your laptop reaches a certain battery level.

How to put tabs to sleep on Mozilla Firefox

In Mozilla Firefox, the sleeping tabs feature is called Tab Unloading, and it’s built right into the browser. Firefox says it reduces memory usage and will automatically kick in when system memory is running low. The program will retain details like your scroll position and data in unfilled forms for when a tab wakes back up, and Firefox won’t unload tabs playing media or running in picture-in-picture mode.

The feature isn’t quite as easy to access as it is in other browsers. Type about:unloads into the address bar and hit Enter to see the system resources each open tab is using up, and when you last accessed them. The sites at the top of the list will be first in line for snoozing—but remember Firefox will only do it when memory is running low.

Clicking the Unload button will manually snooze “the least-recently-used” tabs, though the exact criteria for this aren’t clear. If you’d rather disable the feature completely, type about:config in the address bar, hit Enter, and then change the browser.tabs.unloadOnLowMemory value to false (search for it using the box at the top, and then double-click to change its value).

A busy third-party extension market has built up around Firefox, and several tools will let you snooze tabs in a slightly more user-friendly way. One that you might want to try out is the free New Tab Suspender, which automatically puts inactive tabs into stasis after a period you specify.

How to put tabs to sleep on Apple Safari

Safari is something of an outlier because it doesn’t include a visible and native tab snoozing tool. We’re assuming the software uses some optimization techniques to reduce system resource load when you have a lot of tabs open, but we can’t find any official documentation from Apple on the topic.

[Related: How to organize your browser tabs vertically—and why you should do it]

Unfortunately, there aren’t any third-party extensions you can turn to either. Safari is quite restrictive when it comes to what add-ons are allowed to do, and functionality such as putting tabs to sleep is off-limits to outside developers. If this is a feature you absolutely need, you’re going to have to swap browsers.