There’s bad news and good news here.
The bad news is that there’s no single, eureka answer to this question. The most successful people in the world sleep a different number of hours each night — and this wreaks havoc on any attempt to arrive at a unified recommendation. The good news, however, is that there’s no pressure to live up to a gold standard. The amount of sleep you need each night will depend on your individual biorhythms and bodily needs.
There is one thing we know for sure, and that’s that sleeping too little is absolutely terrible for your health. We’re not exactly certain why we sleep, but we know what happens to our bodies when we don’t: bad things. So, schedule permitting, it’s always better to err on the side of too much sleep than too little.
To help make sense of this ambiguous science, let’s look at the sleep schedules of some of the world’s most successful people:
- Neil Patel (digital marketer): 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. (8 hours)
- Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon): 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. (7 hours)
- Jack Dorsey (CEO of Square): 10:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m. (7 hours)
- Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla, SpaceX): 1 a.m. – 7 a.m. (6 hours)
- Thomas Edison (inventor): 11 p.m. – 4 a.m. (5 hours)
- Marissa Meyer (CEO of Yahoo!): 12 a.m. – 4 or 6 a.m. (4–6 hours)
The range here is between 4 and 8 hours of sleep per night, which is a fairly significant spread. If we assume these high-functioning individuals are reasonably well rested, is there anything we can draw from these numbers?
Yes, in fact. One is that the average seems to be around 7 hours of sleep. This sweet spot will vary from person to person, though, so listen to your body to see if you need more or less.
Another is that the vast majority of successful people wake up early. Most of them are awake and getting started on their day by 7 a.m., and many are doing so significantly earlier than that. Early mornings allow you to start before the rest of the world is awake, giving you a few precious hours of distraction-free focus and structure.
Finally, taking naps is a perfectly healthy and productive way to boost energy and productivity during your workday. There is an art to the perfect nap: it is optimally between 20 and 30 minutes long, takes place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and allows you to enter stage two sleep. So, if you start to feel groggy around lunchtime, consider inserting a nap into your workday.
Sleep well and prosper.