Savvy Sleepers: Rich and Successful People with Bizarre Sleep Habits

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Sleep is something mundane, but it’s actually quite controversial. There’s a divide between medical advice that suggests an average of eight hours per night and successful people like Steve Harvey saying that if you sleep eight hours a day, you’ll never be successful in life. 

Regardless of where you stand, there are benefits to getting sufficient rest. A good night’s sleep enhances our mental capacity, reduces stress, boosts the immune system, and helps improve mood. Frequent sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can lead to different health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and an increased risk of accidents. 

However, the rich and successful have unique approaches to optimizing sleep that seem to work for them. Here are some bizarre sleep habits of the rich and successful. 

Leonardo da Vinci’s power naps to the extreme

a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

One of the most famous Leonardos, Leonardo da Vinci, left an indelible mark in the world. From painting masterpieces like the Mona Lisa to showcasing his genius in engineering, mathematics, and architecture, da Vinci was a true Renaissance man.

Despite his fame and success, da Vinci wasn’t wealthy during his lifetime. However, his artistic creations, such as the Mona Lisa and the Salvator Mundi (sold for $450 million in 2017), contribute to his enduring legacy.

His sleep routine was as unconventional as his talents. He followed an extreme polyphasic sleep schedule known as the Uberman sleep cycle, which involved 20-minute naps every four hours. This means that in a 24-hour period, he slept for a mere two hours. 

While this unconventional sleep cycle may have given him more awake time during his days, it could have also made it difficult for him to work on long-term projects. Experts do not recommend this concept of multiphasic sleeping because it can ruin one’s circadian rhythms. 

Winston Churchill takes a daily siesta

Winston Churchill

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is known for his nocturnal habits. He often worked through the night due to his irregular sleep schedule. Every day at 5 PM, he would drink a weak whisky and soda before taking a two-hour nap. 

He often referred to his daily siesta as a strategy to get one and a half day’s worth of work out every 24 hours. He reportedly packs so much work into a day that he would often hold War Cabinet meetings while in his bath. 

Michael Phelps sleeps in an altitude chamber

Michael Phelps in 2009

Michael Phelps, the Olympic Gold medalist for swimming, has an impressive collection of 28 medals, including 23 gold. His record-breaking achievements make him the most decorated Olympian in history.

Phelps’s extraordinary success may also be linked to his unique sleeping habits. He has a sleeping chamber that simulates an elevation of around 9,000 feet. This forces his body to adapt to lower oxygen levels, ultimately boosting his red blood cell count. When he competes, Phelps experiences enhanced endurance, as oxygen is delivered more efficiently to his muscles. Consequently, when competing, Phelps experiences enhanced endurance, and oxygen is delivered more efficiently to his muscles.

Speaking on a CBS News program, “60 Minutes,” in 2012, Phelps described his unique sleeping arrangement, saying, “Once I’m already in my room, I still have to open the door to get into my bed. It’s just like a giant box. It’s like ‘boy and the bubble.'”

While this method seems tailored for athletes more than the average person, it’s clear that it works due to the rising popularity of altitude training. 

Nikola Tesla slept for two hours a day

a drawing of Nikola Tesla 

Nikola Tesla is a Serbian-American inventor and engineer known for inventing the AC motor and the Tesla coil. Despite his genius – he contributed much to the electricity industry – he developed unconventional habits, which included sleeping for only two hours a day. 

Like Leonardo da Vinci, Tesla adopted an Uberman sleep cycle and claimed to never sleep for more than two hours a day. He even reportedly worked for 84 hours in a lab without any sleep or rest. 

Tesla believed that by sleeping less, he had more time for thinking and experimenting. He was successful as an inventor, but unlike da Vinci, he made many questionable decisions, which caused him to die mentally broken and financially broke. 

Tesla’s sleep pattern serves as a cautionary tale of the importance of getting a full night’s sleep. While his brilliance was undeniable, his lack of sleep likely played a role in his ultimate downfall.

Thomas Edison naps with balls on his hands

Thomas Edison in 1912

Another brilliant inventor, Thomas Edison, had a complicated relationship with sleep. He reportedly took 72-hour work cycles that led to some of the world’s greatest inventions. Edison held more than 1,000 patents and played a role in inventing the telegraph, light bulb, phonograph, movie camera, and alkaline batteries, among others. Clearly, he had a penchant for making breakthrough innovations. 

In a fascinating revelation from Scientific American, Edison is said to have napped with a ball in each hand, anticipating that as he fell asleep, the orbs would drop, waking him up. This way, he was able to capture fleeting thoughts that came to him as he was nodding off – which most people often do not recall. Because of this bizarre napping technique, he could bring back useful ideas from sleep to his waking hours.

While it may sound peculiar, Edison’s legacy of creativity suggests there might be more to this approach than meets the eye. It’s even backed by modern science! 

Tom Cruise sleeps in a snoratorium

Tom Cruise standing

Apparently, Tom Cruise snores so badly that he needs to sleep in a sound-proof “snoratorium.” One of the most famous actors in the world and a famous Scientologist, Cruise reportedly needs his snoring room to sleep without being disturbed.

When the door of his snoring room is locked, no sound outside can be heard. It’s small, dark and comfortable. 

Some people like to hear a bit of noise (like white noise, for example) to sleep, but it’s not the case for the blockbuster actor, who prefers absolute silence to get a good night’s sleep. 

Cristiano Ronaldo gets 90-minute sleep sessions

A renowned professional soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo has showcased his skills with teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus. As a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, he is widely recognized as one of the greatest soccer players in history.

Apparently, Ronaldo is a person obsessed with efficiency, so he refrains from sleeping for long hours. To keep himself sharp and energetic on the field, he takes five 90-minute sleep sessions throughout the day while in a fetal position. His evening routine goes like this: he winds down after dinner, swims at 10 PM, naps until midnight, and sleeps again starting at 3 AM before he starts his day. 

His version of a polyphasic sleep schedule seems more sustainable, and as a world-class athlete, his sleep routine likely contributes to his performance. 

Marissa Mayer catches up on sleep on vacations

Marissa Mayer is the former CEO of Yahoo! and a current Walmart board member. She was one of Google’s first employees, and some of the search engine’s earliest successes were due to her. She later co-founded Sunshine, a startup tech company. She is known to be a workaholic, clocking in around 130 hours per week and getting only four hours of sleep each night.

To compensate for her lack of sleep, Mayer plans her downtime. It was reported that she takes weeklong vacations every four months to disconnect from work, recharge, and catch up on sleep. 

Is it worth it? While Mayer is undeniably successful, her extreme work schedule can be challenging. In an interview with Inc., she admitted to missing an important dinner with executives because she fell asleep. 

Dwayne Johnson sleeps for only four hours every day

Dwayne Johnson at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a versatile figure. Even if you’re not a wrestling fan, you probably know him as an actor. But before WWE, he was a football player and is now a successful businessman. He even held the title of the highest-paid actor for two consecutive years.

One of the secrets to his success lies in his sleeping habit of sleeping for three to five hours only a night. Despite his hectic and tiring Hollywood lifestyle, The Rock has disciplined himself to wake up early in the morning to get in two intense workouts before diving into his day’s work. No wonder his body build is impressive. 

He often shares his midnight exercise routines on his social media, dubbing it the “art of disruption.” Johnson emphasizes the importance of disciplined workouts over hardcore sessions, and he considers his workout sessions a form of meditation. He claims it keeps him happy and functional, even when he doesn’t sleep a full night.  

Matt Mullenweg schedules six naps a day

Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, has made significant contributions to open-source software. Known for his innovative approach to work, Mullenweg followed a distinctive sleep schedule involving six 40-minute naps spread throughout the day. According to him, this allows him to enjoy the benefits of a full night’s sleep without compromising his daily productivity.

Mullenweg’s experience with the Uberman polyphasic sleep schedule was effective for him. He claimed that when he tried it for himself, it was one of the most productive phases of his life, during which he developed WordPress. 

However, sticking to this schedule is challenging, and Mullenweg admitted that missing just one of his six daily naps would leave him feeling “wrecked.” He eventually abandoned his extreme sleep schedule when it became socially challenging, especially when he got a girlfriend. 

Mariah Carey sleeps with 20 humidifiers in her room and needs 15 hours of sleep

Mariah Carey performing on stage

Mariah Carey is known for her diva persona – people are acquainted with her outrageous demands. It turns out she’s also very extra regarding her sleeping habits. 

In a 2007 interview with Interview magazine, Carey revealed that she needs a whopping 15 hours of shut-eye per night to perform at her best. To enhance her sleep, Carey surrounds her bed with 20 humidifiers. “Basically, it’s like sleeping in a steam room,” she described. 

While the logic behind 20 humidifiers instead of one is not understandable by common people, we can only imagine the comfort of her mattress in this kind of setup. 

Margaret Thatcher slept for four hours a night and kept her officials awake with her

Margaret Thatcher in 1983

As Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher understood that she was constantly under the public spotlight. On weekdays, she only slept for four hours, catching up on sleep during the weekends. It was also known that she made her officials stay awake until two to three in the morning and rise again at 5 AM to resume their work. According to her biographer, John Campbell, this late-to-bed, early-to-rise approach made Thatcher one of the most well-informed individuals in any room.

This unique sleep pattern even posed a challenge for her successor, John Major, as the civil service had become accustomed to having a prime minister who practically never slept!

However, it’s worth noting that Thatcher’s final demise was due to Alzheimer’s disease, which has been linked to sleep deprivation. Scientists speculate that her ability to thrive on little sleep could be attributed to genetic factors, as some people are wired to get by on much less sleep than the rest of us. 

Rashad Jennings sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber

Rashad Jennings, a former NFL running back, had a notable career with teams like the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders. Currently serving as a commentator and analyst for ESPN, Jennings embraces a unique approach to sleep – he rests in a hyperbaric chamber.

Since he is rich, he surely can afford his own personal chamber, typically seen in top-notch hospitals. Hyperbaric chambers deliver pressurized pure oxygen, which is used for decompression sickness, serious infections, and hard-to-treat wounds. Sleeping in one, he experiences increased oxygen intake and enhanced sleep quality. 

Though he has a Tempur-Pedic mattress, he will sleep in the chamber overnight if his battered body needs extra TLC. His mother affectionately nicknamed it “the coffin,” and he spends seven to 20 hours a week in it. 

When it comes to professional athletes, sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber may not be the craziest health regimen, but Jennings acknowledges its effect on his romantic life – whenever a girl comes over to his home, he says they are always flipping out. 

Eminem needs it extremely dark

Eminem in 2021

Eminem stands as one of the most acclaimed rappers in history, boasting 15 Grammy Awards and even finding success as an actor.

But behind his legendary success in entertainment, he is battling a personal health issue. He has insomnia, so to combat it, he needs his room to be pitch black to sleep. While most people use blackout curtains for this purpose, Eminem takes it up a notch by covering his windows with tin foil to reflect any incoming light. 

The rapper also likes white noise playing on the speakers to help him sleep better. He finds that this routine helps him sleep when traveling to different time zones. 

Martha Stewart sacrifices sleep for success

Every household manager knows Martha Stewart. The secret to her success? She puts in some serious hours to her work to achieve success. As the chair of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Stewart oversees the production of four magazines—Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, Weddings, and Whole Living. Additionally, she manages a TV show, radio show, and product lines available in stores such as Staples and Michaels. With that kind of job, she barely has time to do other things.

Stewart is able to keep an impressive schedule while running her business by sleeping less than four hours a night. She admits that she sets sleep aside to focus on her career, citing putting off sleep as one of her worst personal habits. 

Donald Trump sleeps only three to four hours each night to stay ahead of his competition

Donald Trump in 2017

The former president, known as a business tycoon, Donald Trump, credits his success as a businessman to sleeping for only three to four hours each night to stay a step ahead of his competition. When he was president of the United States, he probably slept less. 

He does not believe that sleep and success can co-exist. He famously stated, “How does somebody sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone sleeping three or four?”

Besides Trump, other people deprive themselves of sleep to dedicate more time to work, believing it’s the key to getting ahead. The notion here is that, unlike the average person, people like Trump can be more productive because they are free from day-to-day concerns. By delegating mundane tasks to teams and not worrying about bills, they can focus entirely on their work during the most productive hours of the day, which makes them successful. 

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