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Famous people who survived on minimum sleep:

February 25, 2014

One of our previous blogs spoke about people who managed to get by with very little sleep thanks to a mutation in their hDEC2 gene. Whether or not the following famous people have that mutation or just seem to manage without sleep we don’t know, but here are some famous people who did extraordinary things with only a few hours of sleep.

Famous writers:

The Brontë sisters and Sylvia Plath:



Charlotte and Emily Brontë wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights respectively, while Sylvia produced vast amounts of poetry and her famous novel The Bell Jar. Both Brontës suffered from insomnia while Plath said that she would often wake up at 5:30 to start her work and writing.

Plath on sleep: “I wonder why I don't go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip on hour more of sleep and live.”


Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher



Being one of the most powerful people in the world will definitely take its toll on sleep! Barack Obama has said normally gets around six hours of sleep a night, while Margaret Thatcher is said to have survived on only four hours of sleep a night during the week!

Other famous politicians who survived on only limited sleep were Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte. When asked how much sleep was needed Napoleon said: “"Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool."

Business people:

Donald Trump and Martha Stewart

At their peaks both Trump and Stewart were synonymous with their industries. In order to maintain their positions as industry leaders, they had to put sleep on the back burner as a priority. Trump claims to have slept only three hours, while Stewart slept around four hours a night.


Honourable mention should go to Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, who only gets around six hours but makes up for this lack of sleep with frequent week-long holidays to stay on the top of her game.

Trump’s attitude towards sleep is summed up in this powerful quote: “I have friends who are successful and sleep ten hours a night, and I ask them, ‘How can you compete against people like me if I sleep only four hours?’ It rarely can be done. No matter how brilliant you are, there’s not enough time in the day. “


Thomas Edion and Isaac Newton:

Both of these groundbreaking scientists survived on only a few hours of sleep. Edison managed his few hours through frequent cat naps, while it isn’t clear how Newton managed his claimed two hours of sleep, although it is known that he often worked without sleep for days, forgetting to eat or to teach his classes at University, and then fell ill due to exhaustion .

We guess the invention of the lightbulb was purely to allow Edison to work longer hours:  “Personally, I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short cat naps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night.”

We can’t end this list without talking about Keith Richards who stayed awake for nine days thanks to various drugs. When he did finally fall asleep he passed out so quickly that he fell and broke his nose!  


I don’t know about you, but seeing their success really makes me reconsider sleeping in a Sunday… Then again, I have a really comfortable bed!

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