The Peculiar Sleeping Habits of History’s Greatest

7 September 2019

By Lauren E. White

For some reason, the sleeping habits of celebrities and the greatest figures throughout history really grabs our attention. Be it Margaret Thatcher sleeping for just four hours each night, or Elon Musk sleeping in the Tesla factory so he can best inspect the new models, sleeping habits are fascinating.

So, without further ado, here are some of the most peculiar sleeping habits of history’s greatest.

Isaac Newton


The man who discovered gravity at the age of 23 slept for just three or four hours each night. However, he would go for days without any sleep at all which eventually led to him falling ill from exhaustion.

Vincent van Gogh


Van Gogh, the artist behind stunning paintings like Starry Night was a very troubled sleeper with peculiar sleeping habits to say the least.

The painter would treat his insomnia by pouring camphor – a toxic substance that has links with vomiting and diarrhoea – all over his mattress and pillow. He presumably used the substance for its strong smell, but it eventually led to him being poisoned, and played a role in his suicide in 1890.

Mary Shelley


One of the most iconic authors of all time, Mary Shelley, is another great with strange sleeping habits.

Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, had sleep paralysis, which is often described as one of the scariest sleep problems you can have. Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to speak or move when you’re waking up or just falling asleep.

Winston Churchill


It is well known that former British prime minister and wartime hero Winston Churchill had some peculiar sleeping habits. He was what is known as a ‘biphasic’ sleeper, which means he slept during two periods over the course of 24 hours.

Churchill’s sleeping habits would include drinking a weak whiskey and soda at 5pm before taking a two-hour nap. He would usually work through the night and it is said that he even held War Cabinet meetings from his bath due to his erratic sleeping schedule.

Eleanor Roosevelt


This iconic woman in history was known for her excellent public speeches. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a pioneer for women’s’ rights during her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, time in office.

Mrs Roosevelt’s sleeping habits meant she was what’s known as a ‘polyphasic’ sleeper. She would take short naps throughout the day, often before delivering her speeches.

Ronald Reagan


Former president Ronald Reagan’s sleeping habits were well-documented during his time as the leader of the free world. He was a frequent napper – often put down to his age – and would fall asleep often in cabinet meetings.

He once said that he enjoyed turkey hunts as they provided a great opportunity for some shut-eye.

Mariah Carey


Though she may not quite be one of history’s greatest, we couldn’t write this list without featuring Mariah Carey’s absurd sleeping habits.

Carey, who is known for being a huge diva, extends her reputation to her night-time routine too. Sleeping for around fifteen hours a day – around twice as much as the average person – Carey takes shut-eye to the extreme.

Oh, and let’s not forget the twenty humidifiers she has placed around her bedroom when she’s sleeping. Basically, Mariah Carey sleeps for fifteen hours in a steam room. Could you manage that?

All information on sleeping habits taken from Disturbmenot’s infographic.

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