All jobs are not created equal. Decisions made by people in certain positions have more resonant and further-reaching consequences (i.e., airplane pilots, generals, business titans, and world leaders). Which begs the question: How do people in these positions take care of themselves so they can better take care of the people they’re responsible for?
Knowing some health hazards linked to lack of sleep can be difficulty focusing, memory issues, fatigue, and irritability, we were curious about which tactics some of our previous POTUS’s have used to keep sleep deprivation at bay while performing one of the most relentless and consequential jobs in the world?
Here are 6 little-known sleeping habits of past US presidents (one highlight for each hour the NSF recommends we sleep per night – at minimum):
1. “A night owl with a bedtime”
President Obama reportedly slept around 5 hours a night, preferring to hit the sack well past midnight and wake at 7 A.M. Sleep patterns like this are mostly dictated by our circadian rhythms, but these rhythms can be flexible depending on our personal schedules. Being a night owl (or an early bird), then, can sometimes be a blend of nature and nurture.
2. “Napping across party lines”
Ronald Reagan, JFK, and Bill Clinton napped daily; Reagan even made a schedule for his naps and took them at the same time each day. While there are pros and cons to napping, research indicates that a properly executed nap increases alertness, performance, and memory. All great benefits to have if you’re the leader of the free world.
3. “Fussy about temperature”
William Howard Taft had a “screened sleeping porch” built on the roof of the White House to combat his issue of sleeping too hot. Experts agree the ideal room temperature for sleep stands somewhere between 60-67 degrees, but did you know that during REM sleep, the body mostly stops regulating its own temperature? If a room is too hot, REM cycles shorten and sleep won’t feel as fulfilling.
4. “Teddy sleeps alone”
Theodore Roosevelt apparently snored so loudly that he was assigned his own floor during an overnight stay in a Washington hospital. Snoring is often caused by sleep apnea – a condition which may have plagued the 26th president. Sleep apnea is closely linked to other medical conditions, namely obesity, and these other health maladies can be a major factor in whether or not someone develops sleep apnea.
5. “Silent Cal”
Calvin Coolidge slept a staggering 11 hours a night, joking that he couldn’t mess anything up if he was asleep. Arguably the most well-rested president (and working adult) in U.S. history, one of Calvin Coolidge’s nicknames was “Silent Cal”. Oversleeping, however, might be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. The extra hours of rest aren’t the cause of illnesses, but often the symptom of conditions like type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease, headaches, and more. If your body consistently requires a longer nightly recharge, it could mean that it’s trying to contend with something troublesome.
6. “Bedroom Makeover”
Lincoln’s wife, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, brought in the infamous rosewood bed which presidents still sleep in today. Abraham Lincoln, however, never slept in this bed himself. The 16th president was also plagued with chronic insomnia and often fell asleep as he worked into the night.
A Bonus (because it was too strange to keep it to ourselves)
“What’s keeping you up at night?” Many presidents have reported White House ghosts that awakened them by opening doors and making strange sounds.
If leaders of the free world can find time and implement strategies to optimize their sleep, it should offer some degree of hope for the rest of us. Yet, presidents have entire teams that help them manage their lives and achieve their goals. Somnology can be your sleep team helping you better understand and make the most of your daily rest and rejuvenation cycles. Let Somnology assist you with your sleepcare.