Everybody wants to be a genius, right?! As it turns out, geniuses over time have had some strange and quirky ways about them that make them very unique (and even weird) in light of the average person. Geniuses don’t necessarily fit well into society for a variety of reasons. Many people love the idea of being a genius, but the practical application of it may be a little less convenient. Especially when it comes to sleep habits.
Sleep is clearly a critical part of our everyday lives, and most of us fall into the same sleep habits that are dictated by society. Namely, a large chunk of sleep (approximately 8 hours) that falls roughly somewhere between 10pm and 8am. For the average person, these sleeping habits help us to function in the world today and remain productive.
Even though the norm may be eight hours straight, it is estimated that at least 50-70 million Americans struggle with some sort of insomnia or other sleep/wake disorder that causes them fatigue or health problems. Sleep is certainly a precious commodity that allows humans to function better overall.
But what if our fight to keep regular sleeping habits is keeping our ‘inner genius’ from coming out? Maybe if we changed our sleeping habits, is it possible we could be more productive—and even smarter? Let’s take a look at some of the strange sleeping habits of geniuses and other famous people to find out.
Weird Sleep Schedules of Famous People
Historically, many people prior to the 19th century would make a habit of waking up in the middle of the night. They would go to bed around 7pm or 8pm when the sun went down. Then they would sleep for four hours, wake up for two hours, and then sleep for four more hours until it was light in the morning.
Many artistic and creative people find that a waking period in the middle of the night is the best time to access their creative stores. The house is quiet. Everything is paused. The world is still and at peace. This is when many artistic, creative type of people feel that they can concentrate best and get their most brilliant ideas out.
But even stranger are the habits of people who practice a polyphasic sleep schedule known as the Uberman. This schedule consists of taking six naps in 20 minute increments spaced throughout the day every four hours. This means that the person gets a total of four hours of sleep each day and the rest of the time is used for productivity.
Famous People with Bizarre Sleeping Habits
Take a look at these famous scientists, artists, writers, psychologists and all-around geniuses who had a variety of strange sleeping habits:
Leonardo da Vinci
The Italian painter whose one work famously fetched over $450 million at a Christie’s auction, Leonardo da Vinci was doubtless an artistic genius. Da Vinci joined science and art in a perspective that was far ahead of his time, with the mind of a brilliant engineer and hands that adeptly put his visions onto paper and canvas. But the genius has some strange sleeping habits as he subscribed to the Uberman sleeping schedule. With only 4 hours per day ‘wasted’ on sleep, it’s no wonder he got so much work done!
Working long and hard on the universal gravitational pull and developing the basic principles of physics, scientist Isaac Newton didn’t seem to have much time for sleeping. He would regularly get only 3-4 hours of sleep per night, and some nights he just wouldn’t go to sleep at all. This happened so frequently that Sir Isaac would often become ill from exhaustion.
Unlike Newton and other geniuses who slept very little, German-born Albert Einstein was an avid sleeper. In fact, even after getting 10 hours of sleep each night, he was known to take several naps during the day as well. Maybe that theory of relativity came to him in his dreams?
With a regular work schedule at a desk job, Kafka rose each morning at 7am to start his day. In itself, this seems fairly normal. Except that he would come home after his job and take an afternoon nap—sometimes lasting for four hours. Since he needed complete quiet in his house to be able to write, he would begin his political writing when everyone else went to bed, often staying up late into the night or even writing straight through until morning. Obviously, this was the reason he needed the afternoon nap.
Another famous person who was known to stay up all night to work, Nikola Tesla often fell into what would now be described as a manic state of creativity. The American engineer and inventor claimed to sleep just 2-3 hours per day (also a practice of Uberman), but would often crash after creative sessions, sleeping throughout an entire day the next day to recover. Tesla was known to have worked for 84 hours straight without resting.
Abraham de Moivre
This brilliant French mathematician is known for his contributions to trigonometry. A contemporary of Isaac Newton, de Moivre is particularly famous for having predicted the date of his own death. Rather than losing sleep like many other geniuses, de Moivre became less active and started sleeping longer and longer hours, up to 20 hours per day. In fact, his official cause of death was listed as somnolence—documentation that excessive sleepiness ultimately led to his end.
Alexander Graham Bell
This American scientist and inventor, who hailed originally from Scotland, was known for his propensity to be a night owl. He worked throughout the night, starting at 9pm or 10pm, and then finally went to bed around 4am or 5am, sleeping during the day.
It’s no surprise that this behaviorist and philosopher was religious about keeping himself to an avid sleep schedule. He even developed a sophisticated system of timer that would wake him up at midnight to work for an hour, go back to sleep, then wake again from 5am to work until 7am. And as much of his work was related to behaviors, this was one of his ways of taking his work home with him and applying it to himself.
Geniuses are often considered to be odd and social misfits by their peers. Sleep schedules are just one of the many ways this is true. Of course, there’s nothing to say that changing your sleep schedule is going to turn you into a genius! But if you have a little bit of genius inside of you, then maybe a bit of flexibility—or even just taking a nap—will help it to come out.