I have a machine with 8 core CPU, but each day all the CPU core gets blocked by sleeping processes and requires manual killing to restore the CPU.

I want to automate the killing of the processes that are

  • sleeping for more than 2 hours and
  • have CPU usage greater than 90%

How can I find the PID of such processes and kill them?

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Output from htop that shows process with PID: 134425 in the sleeping state and blocking a CPU core


This gives PIDs for all sleeping processes but doesn't take CPU usage into consideration

awk '/sleeping/{ $0=FILENAME; gsub(/[^0-9]/, ""); print $0 }' /proc/[0-9]*/status

  • 4
    Sleeping processes by definition don’t use CPU. Are you sure that’s what you’re looking for? Aug 18, 2022 at 5:30
  • Yes, I think so. A process goes to sleep and keeps on occupying the CPU for phusion passenger if the number of active requests increases the threshold.
    – red-devil
    Aug 18, 2022 at 6:13
  • If you are having problems with certain processes, then the correct solution is to fix the underlying problem, not to restart them.
    – Bib
    Aug 18, 2022 at 9:02
  • 1
    I blame the parents. Seriously. Dump a ps -ef snapshot, open it in an editor, and backtrack through the parent pids until you find the common parent. Then figure whether it has a bug (like not processing SIGCHLD), or a bad config (like allowing 20,000 worker threads). Aug 18, 2022 at 14:51
  • 1
    @StephenKitt a process with two threads, running sleep(9999); in the main thread and a while (1) x++; in the other thread shows as state "S" but >90% CPU in top on a Centos 7 virt. github.com/thrig/scripts/blob/master/signal/busythread.c
    – thrig
    Aug 18, 2022 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


It might be better to find the root cause of the processes going out of control, but to find any process in state S but using some amount of CPU one could use a script along the lines of:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
ps ahxo pid,state,%cpu |\
while read pid state cpu; do
   if [[ "$state" = S ]]; then
      if [[ "${cpu%%.*}" -gt 90 ]]; then
         echo "woe betide pid $pid"

with a kill instead of the echo once you are sure the script is not going to destroy your system. This could be made less dangerous by restricting the match based on the command field, or by first filtering for suitable PID with the pgrep command. "More than 2 hours" is difficult to capture from the ps output given that time is humanized; parsing that information out of /proc/$pid/stat can be dangerous if whitespace ever shows up in the process name. Or the monitoring script could be made more complicated and maintain a state counter for how many times it has seen a PID with the required conditions. Maybe see if the above script works, first, before going for a more complicated "more than 2 hours" check?

Another method might be to have a monitoring system that makes periodic requests to the service, and to have that issue a service restart if the requests start timing out or taking too long. But such band-aids aren't really a good long term solution for something that needs to be whacked with a broom now and then.

If the service has some sort of log file indication that things are broken, that can be another method to automatically detect faults and "turn it off and back on again."

Of course such restart automation can go terribly wrong if it kills the wrong process, or kills the process when it should not; this might be used as a rationale for finding and fixing the problem, or retiring the software, in the event management is not willing to spend the necessary resources to fix the problem. I've had */5 * * * * /reboot-service crontab jobs because something management wouldn't allow to be fixed was leaking that much memory... oh yeah you probably want to document the auto-restart script somewhere, to disable it when doing updates, and so on. More work.

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