The Bizarre Sleep Habits Of 8 Highly Successful People

Most sleep experts and researchers agree that the average adult needs about six to eight hours of sleep a night, but according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, of people who work more than 40 hours a week — which includes, let’s face it, most of us — 36% get fewer than six hours of shut eye each night. That means that many American workers are terribly sleep deprived. As if you needed some study to tell you that, right?

But then there are those rare people who manage to be incredibly successful and maintain ridiculous sleep habits. There are those who rise long before dawn to get their creative work done before grueling day jobs, those who have too much to do to get anywhere near the recommended amount of sleep and still blow the rest of us out of the water with their productivity and success, and those who just plain can’t sleep, but are probably better for it. Here are eight successful, fascinating people and their strange sleep habits.

1. Charlotte and Emily Bronte:


OK, so that’s two people, but both suffered from insomnia. In fact, it was so bad that they reportedly would walk in circles around the dining room table until they got sleepy. While insomnia is never a comfortable state of affairs, it certainly didn’t hurt either of their writing chops.

2. Michael Chabon:


The author of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, among other notable works, has a surprising writing schedule: Five days a week, he sits down to write from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Other writers, such as Franz Kafka, have kept similar schedules.

3. Barack Obama:


The president goes to bed around 1 a.m. and is usually up by 7, though sometimes he gets less sleep than that. He has also revealed that he doesn’t have an alarm clock; instead, he has the White House secretary rouse him every morning.

4. Silvio Berlusconi:


The former Italian prime minister said he gets just two to four hours of sleep each night. Honestly, I don’t even want to think about what he’s doing at night when he’s not sleeping.

5. Martha Stewart:


The wildly successful businesswoman gets around four hours of sleep a night. After all, she has to get up early to collect fresh eggs from her own chickens.

6. Marissa Mayer:


The Yahoo! CEO needs only four to six hours of sleep a night. However, she rests up regularly on week-long vacations every four months.

7. Sylvia Plath:


Like many great writers, Plath was an early riser. She would write each morning from 5:30 a.m. until her children woke up.

8. Sir Isaac Newton:


The scientist managed his astounding accomplishments by sleeping just two hours a night or fewer, and working the other 22 hours of the day.

So the next time you’re wondering why you’re not one of the world’s great tycoons, scientists, leaders or artists, check out your sleep schedule. I’m certainly not recommending getting less sleep than you need to function comfortably, but everyone has to find his or her own sleep rhythm. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky few who need very little sleep — if so, you just might be destined for greatness.

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Heather Price-Wright

Heather Price-Wright is a writer and editor who lives and works in Brooklyn. She graduated with a degree in creative writing and English from the University of Arizona in 2011. Her creative and critical work has appeared in DIAGRAM, ARDOR Literary Magazine and Qualia Literary and Art Journal. She is a huge sitcom nerd and likes to write about gender, feminism, television and literature.

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