Sleeping during the day was once stigmatised, seen as a practice only for for the lazy and slothful. Check out these high-powered historical figures that debunk that myth and celebrate the power of some sneaky shut-eye.
1. Winston Churchill
Churchill was a bit of a diva when it came to his naps. He believed it helped him get twice as much done each day.
In his book The Gathering Storm, he put to rest the notion that you get more work done if you don’t sleep.
“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces… Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one — well, at least one and a half,” he said.
2. Salvador Dali
Eccentric Catalan artist Salvador Dali believed that one of the pivotal points to his becoming a great painter was what he called “slumber with a key.” This term refers to an afternoon nap designed to last no longer than one second.
In his 1948 book Salvador Dali: 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, he took us through the five steps of how to take the ultimate nap.
Dali, the king of this micro-nap, said it “revivified” an artist’s whole “physical and physic being.”
3. Albert Einstein
Einstein claimed that he needed 10 hours of sleep at night as well as his daytime naps to fuel that amazing brain of his. Just like Dali, he practiced micro-napping, which meant that he never allowed himself to drift into stage two of sleep. To ensure this he would sit in his favourite armchair holding a pencil or spoon and begin to doze off. If the object dropped, it would make a loud clang, which would wake him up. Many great thinkers have practiced this hypnagogic nap. Waking up during the first stage of sleep taps into the part of the brain that creates vivid imagery and sensation.
4. Leonardo Da Vinci
Whilst painting his world-famous masterpiece the Mona Lisa, he was living off of only two hours sleep a day.
Da Vinci replaced real sleep with a 15-minute naps every four hours. He critiqued those who slept a lot, saying that we have plenty of time to sleep when we die.
“0 sleepers! what a thing is slumber! Sleep resembles death. Ah, why then dost thou not work in such wise as that after death thou mayst retain a resemblance to perfect life, when, during life, thou art in sleep so like to the hapless dead?”.
Polyphasic sleep has even been referred to as the Da Vinci sleep schedule. This way of sleeping is more similar to the resting habits of animals dictates, which involves spreading naps of 10 minutes throughout the day that add to around two hours of sleep.
5. Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon apparently lived by the rules on hours of sleep of “six for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool.” However, he could go for days without sleep whilst devoting himself to a military pursuit and was able to drop off in an instant on cue, even on the battlefield.
6. John F. Kennedy
JFK enjoyed his one to two hour afternoon siesta with his beautiful wife Jackie. She even advised Kennedy’s successor Lyndon B. Johnson to take up the habit, because it had worked so well for her husband.
JFK’s workdays were 12 hours long (or more) and he relied heavily on naps to keep him alert. He learnt the technique from his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, who took his cue from Churchill.
This trend shows that men in politics definitely need their nap-time.
7. Thomas Edison
Edison has changed (ruined) the way everyone sleeps with his invention of the light bulb. He didn’t believe in sleep, and he himself only had three to four hours a night. In Power Sleep, James Maas reports that Edison regarded sleep as the enemy of productivity, a waste of time and “a heritage from our cave days”.
Edison, however, did secretly take power naps to balance out his work. There are pictures of him asleep in various locations as he could switch off at home, in the lab or even in libraries.
Just like Dali and Einstein, Edison claimed that his mind was flooded with images when he was half-awake.
8. Ronald Reagan
The 40th President of The United States, Ronald Reagan was extremely ashamed of his naps, as his wife Nancy denied all rumours of his daytime snoozes. She was afraid her husband would be perceived as lazy. Reagan himself was more light-hearted, saying that his chair should be inscribed with “Ronald Reagan Slept Here” and jokingly added that, “no matter what time it is, wake me up, even if it’s in the middle of a cabinet meeting”.
Aristotle may have been the first of all our famous nappers. The Greek philosopher and scientist died in 322BC and he too believed in the power of hypnagogic napping and the state between asleep and wake for inspiration and genius.
“For often, when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream,” he declared.
10. Margaret Thatcher
The Iron Lady was hard as nails and lived on only four hours of sleep a night with a scheduled one-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon.
11. Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton had a ritual of a nap after lunch most days. He also loved to snooze in public. He was also constantly caught in the act, whether as a Mets game, Ronald Reagan’s funeral or at a Harlem church under the scrutiny of video cameras. He was not at all ashamed of his naps, unlike his affairs.
“On the days when I’m a little short of sleep, I try to work it out so that I can sneak off and just lie down for 15 minutes, a half an hour, and it really makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
His tip for those who can’t nod off was to “imagine a big hole in the back of my head, and I focus on that”