Strange Sleeping Habits of Historical Figures

Old Wooden Cabin Bedroom. Aged Cabin Bed.

Not everyone gets the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. Some of the world’s most famous figures had very interesting and unique sleeping habits.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Some sources claim that Da Vinci was able to stay awake and alert almost 22 hours of every day, all while working on his brilliant artworks and inventions. He slept only 1.5 – 2 hours a day, taking 20-minute naps every four hours. Today this sleep system is called the polyphasic sleep schedule, or the Uberman Sleep Cycle.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla never slept for more than 2 hours a day. Much like Da Vinci, Tesla followed the Uberman Sleep Cycle, and claimed to have never slept more than 2 hours a day. He once reportedly worked for 84 hours straight in a lab without any rest.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is also considered a polyphasic sleeper, only sleeping 2 hours a day. In letters written by Jefferson he discusses his sleep habits, referencing that his sleep was not very regular. He would sleep at different times (often late into the night), and he would devote time each night before bed to creative reading and would continue reading if the book was of particular interest. However, he would regularly wake up at sunrise every day.

Thomas Edison

Edison would continuously work in his lab with little to no sleep for days. He kept a cot in his lab to grab a few minutes as needed. A newspaper even captured a famous picture of Edison sleeping on his workbench. When not absorbed in a project, Edison was known to sleep for an entire day, waking only to take a light meal, and then would head back to bed.

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton only slept 3-4 hours daily, and he would work so long and hard that he would often go days without sleep. Eventually the lack of sleep led him to become ill from exhaustion.

Albert Einstein

It is believed that Einstein liked to sleep 10 hours a night – unless he was working very hard on an idea, when it would be 11. He claimed that his dreams helped him invent. Also, he believed that naps “refreshed the mind” and that they helped him to be more creative.

Benjamin Franklin

Franklin had a reputation for limiting his sleep. In his own autobiography he explains his quest for moral perfection, including allocating only 4 hours of sleep per night.

Charles Dickens

In order to improve his creativity, Charles Dickens slept facing north. Dickens, who reportedly suffered from insomnia, always kept a navigation compass with him to ensure that he wrote and slept facing north.

Lydon B. Johnson

The former president split his day into two parts to get more done. He usually woke up at about 6:30 or 7 a.m. and worked until 2 p.m. After a quick bout of exercise, Johnson would crawl back into bed for a 30-minute nap, getting up around 4 p.m. and working into the early morning.

Emily Bronte

19th century novelist, Emily Bronte, suffered from insomnia and would walk around in circles until she was tired enough to fall asleep.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was known for taking a two-hour nap every day around 5:00 pm. He’d pour himself a weak whiskey and soda, and settle in for a nice nap. Churchill said this short nap allowed him to get 1 ½ days’ worth of work done every 24 hours.

Do you sleep like any of these famous figures or do you have your own unique sleep habits?

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