November 13, 2014
Most of us are familiar with the ideal of 8 hours of sleep a night, but not everyone adheres to this recommendation. Productivity and sleep are closely linked, and a number of remarkable figures throughout history have crafted their own sleep routines to optimize their peculiar lifestyles. We can can pick up some ideas on how to mold our sleep schedules by considering these unusual sleep habits.
Sleeping multiple times throughout the day is known as polyphasic, or siesta, sleep. Famous polyphasic sleepers include Leonardo Da Vinci, who would take naps ranging from 20 minutes and 2 hours every four hours, a schedule known as the Uberman sleep cycle. This would allow him avoid a drop in productivity. Thomas Jefferson slept two hours at a time for various parts of the day, but would regularly wake up at sunrise. He would also spend the last 30 minutes before bed writing.
Although Thomas Edison was another polyphasic sleeper, he would keep this a secret. Priding himself on how hard he worked, the inventor would brag about sleeping only three to four hours a night, sometimes working 72 hours straight. Of course, the key to his productivity was making up his hours with daily napping, often taking 3 hour naps during the day. Edison could sleep "as sound as a bug in a barrel of morphine" anywhere, on anything, at anytime.
Nikola Tesla slept only three hours a night with naps throughout the day. He would work continuously from 3am in the morning until 11pm at night, with dinner around 7pm and walked 17 miles a day. Albert Einstein, on the other hand, slept 10-12 hours a night, going into a subconscious state that allowed him to imagine theories.
Writer types are known to be anxious and neurotic, and a racing, overthinking mind can be the worst handicap to a good night's rest. Many iconic writers were known insomniacs. Charles Dickens was known to walk the streets of London until sunrise before he could fall asleep. This would sometimes result in adventures that would take him miles away from his home. Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, suffered from sleep paralysis, in which the mind is conscious but the body cannot move.
The rapper Eminem wraps tin foil around his windows and plays white noise to maintain a proper sleep routine when traveling across time zones on tour. Mariah Carey is known to sleep for a whole 15 hours with 20 humidifiers running, mimicking a steam room, in preparation for a performance.
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During these unique times, we have an opportunity to stop and reflect upon our nation's ideals in a more thoughtful, discrete way. Let's not take for granted the comfort and safety we are afforded in our homes for this Fourth of July.