8 World Famous Nappers

4 Min Read | By Georgia Beech

Last Modified 11 June 2024   First Added 30 May 2024

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Throughout history, famous nappers have defied the conventional 8-8-8 rule of sleep, work, and play. Margaret Thatcher is famously reported to have survived on only four hours sleep per night and it is said that Mariah Carey requires 15 hours of kip to be at her best. There is also an impressive roll call- yes, even more impressive than Thatcher and Carey- of famous people who have aided their productivity with daytime napping.

Most iconic nappers

1) Thomas Edison

First on our list of famous nappers is Thomas Edison. The inventor of the light bulb claimed sleep to be the enemy of productivity. Edison claimed to only sleep four hours a night, and reportedly demanded the same from his staff. However, it seems Edison wasn’t as committed to wakefulness as he may have claimed. There are numerous photo images of the famous innovator taking sneaky naps in various locations and there were said to be cots situated in various parts of his workplace and home.


2) Leonardo Da Vinci

The famous Renaissance painter, Leonardo Da Vinci, was so devoted to this unusual sleeping pattern that, in some circles, his name is synonymous with polyphasic sleep. Polyphasic sleep or the Da Vinci sleep schedule dictates that people should take several naps of 10 minutes that add up to no more than a total of two hours sleep a day.


3) Winston Churchill

In contrast to Edison, Churchill was a huge proponent of sleep and napping. Writing in his book The Gathering Storm, the WWII Prime Minster described a nap as ‘blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.’ His naps were an established part of Churchill’s daily routine along with an afternoon game of cards with his wife, Clementine.


4) John F Kennedy

Similar to Mr Churchill’s strict regime, JFK was a firm believer in the power of the afternoon nap. Wife Jackie, who nearly always joined the President for his 1-2 hour snooze, was obviously also a fan, promoting the habit to Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.


5) Napoleon Bonaparte

The famous Frenchman reportedly advocated the following guidelines on sleep: ‘six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.’ The pint-sized military leader was, however, fond of a nap. As well as going days without sleep and devoting himself to the military cause, Napoleon could nod off as soon as he wished. He could even sleep directly before and, sometimes, even during battles.


6) John D. Rockefeller

The American oil tycoon, John D. Rockefeller, was another napping success story. He was dedicated to a daily energy-saving afternoon nap as part of his established routine.


7) Muhammad Ali

Whilst training for his famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight against George Foreman, Muhammad Ali woke up at 4 am. He then had a productive morning. Ali went for a run, had breakfast, watched a movie and only went about his training until he’d had an afternoon nap.


8) Salvador Dali

Dali famously sat with a key held over a metal plate in order to be awakened as soon as his grip loosened with sleep. The Spanish oddball believed this technique, detailed in his book, 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, allowed him to get all the sleep he felt he needed to cure creative block and get back to the canvas.


The diverse sleep habits of historical figures highlight that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to rest and productivity. From Edison’s sneaky naps to Churchill’s regimented siestas, and Da Vinci’s polyphasic patterns, these nappers each found unique ways to optimise their work and creativity. If you want to follow in their footsteps, read the ultimate guide to daytime napping.


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