Sleep Like A Genius: How People Like Einstein Slept

There is a well-held myth of the tortured genius staying up all night frantically working away on their inventions by candlelight.

While this is certainly true in the cases of some, Da Vinci for instance, it couldn’t be further from the truth for others. Beethoven it seems couldn’t operate without a solid 8 hours kip a night, neither could Dickens, Balzac or Franklin.

So what exactly does the sleep pattern say about the genius? Below we take a brief look at the bedtime routines of three of the world’s most powerful minds and see what their sleep says about them…

Albert Einstein – The world’s most recognisable bed hair

Ask anyone to name the first genius that comes to mind, and chances are they will pick Albert Einstein.

While they may not be able to quote exactly the Third Law of Thermodynamics they will at least know that the German-born physicist was a certified genius.

They will also probably mention his epic hair.

Many scientists have tried to work out what made Einstein so damn smart. Including one exceptionally committed researcher who unbelievably stole Einstein’s brain from the autopsy room following his death in 1955.

While, it may never be known exactly what made the Nobel-prize winner and father of modern physics was so freakin’ clever, it could be something to do with his sleeping habits.

Einstein definitely did not believe in burning the candle at both ends, far from it. The sleepy scientist is reported to have slept a solid ten hours a night, every night!

And this was in time before today’s super comfy beds existed.

On top of this Einstein was also a prolific daytime napper.

A growing body of evidence connects cognitive performance with good sleep. Good sleep improves almost all aspects of the brain’s performance, from memory, the ability to learn quicker, and even creativity.

While Einstein’s ten hours sleep a night might sound a bit too much for you? If you’ve had a long day coming up with Nobel-prize winning theories you might need the extra kip too. I suppose it’s all relative isn’t! Get it?

Nikola Tesla – Eccentric napping

When it comes to the title of ‘king of the eccentric geniuses’, Nikola Tesla definitely has a strong claim for the throne.

A master of electrical and mechanical engineering, the prolific inventor who was born in 1856 in the Austrian Empire (now Croatia), was also a world-class physicist and renowned futurist.

Alongside 300 plus other patents, his central gift to the world was the discovery of AC electricity: this being the stuff that comes out the plugs in your home, charges your smartphone and effectively powers the modern world.

It’s for this reason that he earned the title the ‘father of the twentieth century’.

Tesla reportedly never slept for more than two hours at any one time. Preferring instead to nap frequently throughout the day and night.

Considering his title as the eccentric father of electricity, it seems fitting that he was so fond of a good ‘power’ nap! Sorry.

While it may go against commonly held wisdom of the recommended eight-hours a night, his polyphasic sleep cycle schedule definitely worked for him.

The polymath reportedly had the ability to memorize entire books by heart and visualize entire inventions without the need to sketch them out.

Famous for his inventions there is no shortage of mystery around the tortured genius. He was reportedly born during a thunderstorm, he was obsessed by the number 3, refused to speak to any woman wearing pearls and supposedly had a platonic love affair with a pigeon who frequented his laboratory.

Yep, a pigeon. Come to think of it maybe he could’ve done with a little more sleep, or maybe he just had one too many electric shocks!

Salvador Dali – Key to creativity

Surreal in art, surreal in life. Nothing Salvador Dali ever did could be considered normal – including his approach to sleep.

Unlike Einstein, Dali believed sleep was little more than a waste of time. But like Einstein and Tesla, Dali did believe in the rejuvenating power of a good nap. Albeit it just a short one.

Most afternoons the Spanish surrealist would sit down for a nap with a heavy key clutched in his hand. Allowing himself to relax and nod off, when the key clattered from his hand to the floor he would leap back to the canvas refreshed.

Apparently, this little key to his success was a trick he learnt from the Capuchin monks.

Final Thoughts

There you’ve the surprising sleep habits of three very different genuses. While their particular sleep patterns could not be more different, it seems one thing does link them all them all – their love of a good nap.

So, if you want to win yourself a Nobel Prize or go down in history as a famous painter, maybe it’s time to work a little bit of afternoon shut eye into your schedule.



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