15 Bizarre Sleep Habits of Some of the Most Successful People

Updated: Feb. 25, 2021

The offbeat sleep habits of these overachievers may have you rethinking your nightly bedtime rituals.

Charles Dickens English Writer 1812 - 1870

A novel idea

Literary historians note that classic author Charles Dickens was a reported insomniac, even as he crafted his timeless stories. But they also allege that he was quite superstitious in the way that he did sleep, insisting he must face north while he rested (and wrote) as he felt this had an impact on his creativity. Try these little changes today to sleep better tonight.

Martha Stewart
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Four is enough

According to Martha Stewart, she can get by on just four hours of sleep per night. She claims she is so busy tending to business and life, that’s generally what she clocks. “It’s an exhausting lifestyle, and I always say sleep can go. It’s not important to me right now,” she told Web MD. “I never stay in bed late—I can’t! In my house, the first people arrive at about 6:30, and I have to be up well before that.”

Michael Phelps
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Gold medal guide

Strenuous workouts and constant competitions mean Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps needs to make sure his sleep is not only plentiful, but solid. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he admitted he sleeps in a chamber filled with air that mimics sleeping at an altitude of between 8,500 and 9,000 feet to prepare for the 2012 Olympics. This reportedly makes his body produce an increased amount of red blood cells, delivering oxygen to his muscles. Phelps describes the setup as “a giant box.” Now that’s dedication.

Mariah Carey
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Lengthy lullabies

To keep her powerhouse voice in tip-top shape, Mariah Carey insists on, get this, 15 hours of sleep. She also likes to keep things steamy in her boudoir, but not in the way you might think. “Literally, I’ll have 20 humidifiers around my bed,” she said in a V magazine interview. “Basically, it’s like sleeping in a steam room.” Looking for an easier way to get more zzzs? Try these natural remedies for insomnia.

Kelly Clarkson
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The write stuff

Kelly Clarkson cannot go to sleep until she’s released all of her creative juices in the form of songwriting. In an interview with Self, the mother of two says if an idea strikes as she’s about to doze off penning new tunes has to happen right away. “That’s why I have a hard time sleeping,” she said. “A lot of those times are at night.” Clarkson may be on to something—these 13 world-changing ideas came from dreams, literally!

Author Stephen King speaks at Book Expo America, in New York. King and his son, Owen, have co-written a novel, Sleeping Beauties, to be published in September

Pillow talk

Renowned author Stephen King is known for penning tales that may keep even his biggest fans up at night with their horror-filled pages, but when it comes to his own bedtime rituals, he’s very specific. He needs his pillowcases to be pointed in a certain direction in order to drift off to dreamland. “I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way,” he said in the book Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King. “The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.”

Tom Cruise
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Snore lore

According to The Telegraph, Tom Cruise is actually a pretty considerate snorer. The actor reportedly had a “snoring room” built in his home with soundproof walls in an effort to contain his loud nighttime breathing. The “snoratorium” was constructed while Cruise was married to Katie Holmes so they could both sleep better.

United States: c. 1922 Portrait of Thomas Edison, inventor.
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Sleep squanderer

Despite being known as one of the greatest inventors in history, Thomas Edison didn’t rely on very much sleep for his sharp thinking. According to SleepAdvisor, Edison actively avoided too much rest, regarding it as a waste of time (those of us experiencing our current sleep-deprived culture would likely disagree). He preferred a polyphasic sleep cycle which SleepAdvisor describes as a nap-oriented pattern meant to maximize awake time.

Eminem attends the premiere of "Southpaw" in New York
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Foiled again

Rapper Eminem, who has suffered from sleep issues in the past, reportedly puts aluminum foil over his windows, no matter where he is in the world, to help block out sunlight and help him get some shuteye. He also plays white noise while he rests to fully get himself in the sleep zone.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla attends SXSW to answer questions from registrants at ACL live in Austin, Texas.
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Dream before drive

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has one hectic schedule, but as passionate as he is about his work, he also knows how important sleep is to his health. For this reason, he regularly logs six hours of sleep between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. In cases where he feels compelled to be near business no matter what the time, he keeps a sleeping bag in a conference space adjacent to Tesla’s production line.

Old Fashioned Way, W.c Fields

Rainy nights

As an actor, writer, and comedian, W.C. Fields was a jack of all trades, but he had a terrible time sleeping. Fields found that the only time he would get a restful night was when he could hear the sound of rain. In an effort to simulate Mother Nature, he arranged a sprinkler to hit an umbrella, mimicking the sound of rain. Pretty clever! Max out your bedtime routine with healthy habits you should always incorporate at night.

Leonardo Da Vinci Italian Painter Sculptor Architect Engineer and Scientist 1452 - 1519

The artist’s way

Leonardo Da Vinci engaged in a sleep pattern that’s almost as astonishing as the man himself. He followed what is known as the Uberman sleep cycle, which entails taking 20-minute naps every four hours. This allowed the artist more awake time to create and invent, although feels like a largely impractical way to live, not to mention it doesn’t allow one to achieve the deepest phase of restful sleep.

Emily Bronte This Portrait is Thought by Some to Be of Emily On Circumstantial Grounds 1818 - 1848

Walk this way

Emily Bronte had the misfortune of suffering from insomnia. The British writer was so desperate for sleep, she would walk in circles around her dining room until she finally drifted off. It’s alleged that her sister Charlotte Bronte also battled insomnia and had a similar bedtime routine as that of Emily. Feeling tired? Follow these tips for optimal sleep.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller 1689. Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian considered to be one of the most influential people in human history.
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Waking wonder

Believe it or not, Sir Isaac Newton only logged two hours of sleep per night, choosing to work the other 22 hours in the day. While we certainly benefited from his incredible intellect and long hours, we have to wonder how much more this great mind could have achieved had he been able to work with proper rest. Check out how a bedtime routine can help you sleep better.

Oprah Winfrey
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Rituals for rest

There’s no question that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful women in the world, and she couldn’t have gotten there without proper rest. The business mogul says she has one bedtime constant—a bath. “In the evening, I have a bath before bed; it’s a ritual. I’m a bathing professional—I have different bubble baths, salts, beads, and oils,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. Now, find out the morning habits of successful people.