What do well-known figures like Benjamin Franklin, Leo Tolstoy, Ronda Rousey, and Barack Obama have in common? In addition to reaching the top of their respective fields, all four of them — and so many others — used similar sleep schedules to sustain them for the long haul.
Want to be as productive, successful, and creative as all of them? We can’t make any promises, but trying out their general sleep routines is a good start.
The good news is, nothing they’re doing is particularly revolutionary; you don’t need a special mattress, pillow, or pajama set. Instead, if you want to sleep like some of the biggest names in history, there are three major behaviors to keep in mind and our suggestions for how to actually follow through with them.
Don’t take our word for it—trust the gr8s.
1. Kim Kardashian and Winston Churchill
Bad news for all of late morning snoozers out there: Kim Kardashian, and many of the world’s most productive people, including TV titan Oprah Winfrey, politician Winston Churchill, and scientist Charles Darwin, wake up on the early side (i.e. before 8am). Contrary to popular belief, Kim isn’t out on the town until the wee hours of the morning; she’s in bed by 9pm and up at 6am. Hey, that contour takes work and requires early application before a long day!
How to wake up earlier: If you’re used to waking up at 9am, chances are you’re in for a rude awakening if you suddenly set your alarm clock to 5am. (Hint: It’s preeeetty terrible.) Instead, set your alarm back by 15 minutes at a time over the course of several weeks. Once you get use to waking up at 8:45am for two or three days, for example, shave off another 15 minutes.
2. Benjamin Franklin and Ludwig van Beethoven
Benjamin Franklin was the king of self-improvement advice (he was like an 18th century Brené Brown), and when it came to sleep, good ol’ Ben took his eight hours of shut-eye seriously.
Chances are you know people (or maybe you are one of these people) who are convinced they only need a reliable four or five hours of sleep per night to function. Guess what? Not only does science show that that’s not biologically true (we’ll get to that in a second), but judging by the schedules of the many of the most well-known people in history, actually prioritizing those seven to eight hours of sleep is a requirement for breeding productivity — and therefore success.
Another fun fact: Ever heard someone say they can function on only a few hours of sleep? Lies! Just because you’re not getting those extra three or four hours of rest time every night doesn’t mean your body suddenly runs on less. Researchers say that when you have subpar sleep habits, your body racks up “sleep debt.” How does that work? Similar to not paying your credit card bill every month, letting too much sleep debt pile up could lead to a critical breaking point of terrifying exhaustion. That's one sure way to steer you off the path of achieving gr8ness! Yiiiikes.
How to go to sleep earlier: It’s the 2010s, not the 1810s, and folks back in Benjamin Franklin’s day didn’t have to worry about staring at their screens until one in the morning. Turn off your electronics at least an hour before you hit the sack, and keep them as far from your bed as possible; you don’t want to feel tempted to scroll through Instagram while your phone’s on your nightstand.
Need a little something else to help you get to sleep faster? Science says counting sheep won’t do anything for you, but trying a white noise or sleep cycle app can.
3. Pablo Picasso and Barack Obama
People like artist Pablo Picasso, former president Barack Obama, and writer Flannery O'Connor may seem superhuman, but like you, they also needed a little leisure time between waking up and getting down to business for the day. And guess what? That’s totally OK!
If you’re trying to learn from these successful folks and you’re new to waking up on the earlier side or getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep, it’s perfectly fine to take a little time in the morning to drink your favorite beverage, eat something nourishing (we suggest a generous helping of gr8nola, for obvious reasons), and settle into the day before getting started. Just make sure your 30 minutes of early morning relaxation aren’t stretched to 300 minutes.
How to take “productive” leisure time: Set “goals” for your leisure time. Maybe you read 10 pages of a book every morning, or you set a timer and sip your coffee on your porch for five minutes without distractions. Its up to you!
You know your body and your routine better than anyone else. But if the most game-changing people throughout history have a few key things in common when it comes to their sleep schedules, why not snag a page or two from their playbooks?
What does your sleep schedule look like, and what’s one thing you want to change about it? Let us know in the comments!