Successful High Achievers and Sleep

Successful High Achievers and Sleep

Welcome back for another edition of the COZO Sleep Deep Dive.


I've always been fascinated by successful people and their sleep routines.


Often, we are told that the highest achievers are successful because they sacrifice sleep to increase their output.


The common day example we hear is Elon Musk, who has publicly claimed on numerous times that he lives off 4-5 hours of sleep a night. 


Not that the most ridiculous statement for a low achiever or someone who goes through the motions at work.


But this is coming from a man running Tesla, SpaceX and oh, now owns of one of the largest social media platforms in the world if you haven't heard. 


That is insane given how much work and output Musk generates.


But the question I always come back to is... is this normal? Or are high achievers usually tremendous sleepers? Is what actually Musk says in regards to his sleep true?


I don't think I'll ever be able to answer the last one (unless Elon wants to post his weekly sleep stats!) but I was curious to read about other high achievers and how they value sleep. 


My belief is that those that get high quality, consistent sleep acts as a differentiator and advantage for high achievers that separates them from the rest. 


Here are my findings: 


High Achievers and Sleep

Thomas Edison


Thomas Edison, similar to Musk, claimed that he did not sleep much - 4 hours or so to be exact. 


He believed sleep was a waste of time. But that doesn't paint a true picture of Edison and how his brilliance was manifested through sleep. 


One of Edison's assistants claimed:


"His genius for sleep equaled his genius for invention. He could go to sleep anywhere, anytime, on anything"

Edison also forgot to mention that while he may have only 'slept' 4 hours a night, he napped 6 hours a day. 


He likely did this to elevate his creativity, as researchers have suggested that we have a brief period of creativity and insight in the semi-lucid state that occurs just as we begin to drift into sleep. 

Apparently, Edison napped while holding a ball in each hand, which meant that as he fell asleep, the orbs would fall to the floor and wake him. 


This way he could remember the sorts of thoughts that come to him as he was nodding off, which we often do not recall.


Clearly, 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.


However, it's clear from many sources that Napoleon understood the importance of sleep, especially its use in providing clarity for decision making and war time strategy.

Napoleon 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." 


Albert Einstein


Einstein was a BIG sleeper. He used to have 10 hours of sleep every single night. On top of this, Einstein regularly had day time naps to spark creativity.


Funnily enough, Einstein held onto a spoon or pencil when he napped, allowing him to hear the ringing sound when he eventually nodded off. 


Do you see the trend here? 


LeBron James


"There's no better recovery than sleep" - LeBron James


It's hard to argue with the claim that once it's all said and done, LeBron James will have the longest elite level performance career performing out of any basketball player period. He has been dominant 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 and for sure on game days,” Lebron told CBS Sports. “Sleep is the most important thing when it comes to recovery.


Don't believe LeBron? Will Ahmed, CEO of Whoop, said about Lebron James, "If you showed me a bunch of sleep data, I could probably point to LeBron's. He's such an amazing sleeper."


High performing athletes, world renowned physicists & inventors... the list continues 


Bill Gates


Bill Gates used to be the prototypical bragger about the lack of sleep he was getting.


He has openly admitted to competing with his peers to see who got the least rest, believing that sleep was laziness and unnecessary.  

It wasn't until Gates' father was diagnosed with Alzheimers did Gates begin 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, including Alzheimer’s, 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 starkly: 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 honour. Yet, almost every successful individual, upon reflection, underscores sleep as a cornerstone of their well-being, both mentally and physically.


Their stories dismantle the myth of 'sleep when you're dead,' acknowledging the profound affect a consistent sleep routine has had on their lives. 


For the younger generation (like myself), the stakes are even higher. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine's 2016 consensus statement emphasises 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 a good night's rest can have a significant impact on your ability to think, perform and execute.







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