For reasons not entirely understood, well-known people seem to have different sleep habits than most of us. This is as true for politicians and athletes as it is for artists and writers. So here are some fun sleep facts about well-known persons throughout history.
• Benjamin Franklin was known for waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. He eventually hit upon a solution that worked for him, however. He spent the first half of the night sleeping with his head at the top of the bed. Then, after getting up a few hours later, he would reverse position and sleep with his head near the foot of the mattress. He reported that this worked like a charm and let him get a good night’s rest.
• Thomas Edison kept no regular sleep schedule. When he got an idea for an invention he would work until he passed out, then sleep on his worktable for a few hours before getting up and going at it again. Frequently he would doze off at odd times of the day, often with his eyes wide open. This odd habit apparently did him no harm; he lived to the ripe old age of 84, in an age when medical science was in its infancy.
• Ernest Hemingway was also an irregular sleeper. He would stay awake for days at a time writing, then conk out for 24 hours or longer. The hard-drinking author enjoyed his rest time, though; he once wrote, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake.”
• Surrealist painter Salvador Dali had an odd way of napping that he credited with giving him his creative energy. He would sit in a chair and place a metal pan at his feet. Then he would hold a metal spoon above it in his hand and doze off. When it fell from his fingers it would hit the pan, jolting him awake. He did this multiple times during the day, and found it very refreshing.
• Inventor Elias Howe was trying to build the first sewing machine in 1845, but he couldn’t figure out how to keep the thread from snagging. He was using a traditional needle, which has a hole at its base. One night he fell asleep, deeply frustrated, and began to have a terrifying nightmare. He dreamt that he was being chased by cannibals. As he fled, their spears flew past him. The weapons had a peculiar characteristic: each had a hole going through its steel tip. Waking with a start, he understood what the dream was telling him. The next day he tried using a needle with a thread hole in its head, rather than its base. The machine worked perfectly after this slight modification, and even today’s models use Howe’s design.
• Leonardo Da Vinci snacked on sleep while most of us feast on it. He took 20-minute naps every three hours, staying awake night and day the rest of the time. The character Kramer from Seinfeld tried to emulate the inventor in one particularly funny episode, with less than satisfactory results.
• Einstein, on the other hand, differed from his fellow geniuses in requiring plenty of sleep. He claimed he couldn’t function on less than 10 hours a night. Some believe this was due to the energy requirements of his hyper-intelligent mind.
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