I’m fascinated by successful people and their relationship with sleep.
Many of us have been led to believe that successful people sacrifice their sleep. That they skip rest hours for output.
The celebrity example that comes to mind is Elon Musk. Musk has claimed many times that he works off 4-5 hours of sleep a night.
This isn’t the most insane statement in a vacuum. I’m sure a low achiever or someone who completes the bare minimum at work can work with such little sleep.
But this isn’t an everyday person.
Musk runs Tesla, SpaceX and now owns and operates one of the largest social media platforms in the world.
How can he juggle so many things at once with so few hours of rest?
Well, it begs the question… is this true? Is it normal? Or do other high achievers value their sleepers and are they tremendous sleepers?
I won’t be able to answer the first question (unless Elon starts posting his weekly sleep stats).
However, I am curious to dive deeper to learn about other high achievers and how they sleep.
My contention is that sleep acts as a competitive advantage for high achievers. It’s an element of their lives that separates them from everyone else.
Here’s a list.
Thomas Edison, like Musk, claimed that he did not sleep much; 4 hours or so to be exact.
He believed sleep was a waste of time. But this doesn’t paint a true picture. Edison’s brilliance manifested from his sleep habits.
One of Edison’s assistants claimed:
“His genius for sleep equaled his genius for invention. He could go to sleep anywhere, anytime, on anything”
And not to call Edison a liar, but he forgot to mention that while he may have only ‘slept’ 4 hours a night, he napped 6 hours a day.
This was likely to elevate his creativity. Researchers have suggested that humans have a brief period of creativity and insight in the semi-lucid state that occurs just before we drift into sleep.
Apparently, Edison napped while holding a ball in each hand. As he fell asleep, the orbs would fall to the floor and wake him up.
This way he could remember the thoughts that come to him as he was nodding off, which we often forget.
So there you have it. For one of the greatest inventors in history, sleep was a massive factor in Edison’s success and life.
Napoleon famously said:
Six hours’ sleep for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool.
Yet, those close to Napoleon claimed he understood the importance of sleep. Especially its benefits in providing clarity for decision-making and wartime strategy.
Napoleon also stated:
“My mind is a chest of drawers. When I wish to deal with a subject, I shut all the drawers but the one in which the subject is to be found. When I am wearied, I shut all the drawers and go to sleep.”
Einstein was a huge sleeper. He used to get 10 hours of sleep every single night plus took daytime naps to spark creativity.
Einstein held onto a spoon or pencil when he napped so he would hear the sound when he dropped it after falling asleep.
“There’s no better recovery than sleep” – LeBron James
LeBron James is arguably the greatest basketball player ever of all time largely due to the longevity of his career. He has been at an elite level for so long, and one of the key reasons for this is LeBron’s sleep routine.
“For my 13-year career, I’ve taken a nap for the most part every day,” Lebron told CBS Sports.
“Sleep is the most important thing when it comes to recovery.
As they say, stats don’t lie. Will Ahmed, CEO of Whoop, “If you showed me a bunch of sleep data, I could probably point to LeBron’s. He’s such an amazing sleeper.”
The best-ever athletes, the world’s best physicists & inventors all value their sleep as important to their success… the list goes on…
Bill Gates used to be “that guy” who bragged about the lack of sleep he was getting.
He openly admitted to competing with his peers to see who got the least rest. He believed that sleep was lazy and unnecessary.
It wasn’t until Bill Gates’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s did he start to understand the importance of sleep.
“One of the strongest things to emerge in [the Alzheimer’s] area is the importance of good sleep,” Gates said.
“It’s one of the most predictive factors of any dementia, whether you’re getting good sleep. Gates now sleeps a minimum of seven hours per night and said he checks his sleep scores regularly.
As we journey through the lives of these legendary figures, one truth stands out. Sleep isn’t just a routine, it’s a secret weapon.
From Edison’s power naps to Lebron’s marathon rest sessions, the importance of sleep in their success is undeniable.
There’s a notion in today’s fast-paced world that sleeping less is a badge of honor.
Yet, upon reflection, almost every successful individual leverages sleep as a cornerstone to their mental and physical well-being.
Their stories dismantle the myth of ‘sleep when you’re dead’. The figures discussed in this article acknowledge the profound affect a consistent sleep routine has had on their lives.
For the younger generation (like myself), the stakes are even higher.
Sleep Medicine Research emphasizes that 8-10 hours of sleep per night during teenage years isn’t just beneficial. It’s essential for optimal intellectual growth, mental health, and memory.
So there you have it. The road to success isn’t paved with sleepless nights. But with the understanding that a good night’s rest can have a significant impact on your ability to think, perform, and execute.
A guest post by Jim Bazzani of Cozo Sleep.