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Some don’t need much sleep (10/7/10)

October 7, 2010

Sleep Styles of the Rich and Famous

Pity Wyclef Jean.  The entertainer had hoped to become president of Haiti, but his candidacy was thrown out by the national electoral commission supposedly because Jean had lived in New Jersey and not the disaster plagued island these past five years (New Jersey Tourism Commission, please note.) Overcome by fatigue, Jean needed to go to the hospital to get some sleep.

Most of us would look at  our health insurance plan (if we had one) tote up the potential bill, and rapidly decide hospitals are not the place we’d choose to get rest.  Yet the sleep styles of the rich and famous are indeed different.  Recently Lady Gaga famously echoed Warren Zevon declaring “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Apparently she does sleep, if a bit curiously.  Recent reports are the singer is so fearful of slumber she requires a member of her entourage to sleep with her.  She has also publicly recommended her fans not copy her use of cocaine and alcohol.

Sadly, much of the population is already caught in the “Up-Down Trap” engaging stimulants and depressants to harness every second of their meager allotted sleep time.  Performers and entertainers may use cocaine to get up and alcohol to come down, but much of the population relies instead on more culturally acceptable versions, constant daytime coffee or energy drinks, following by antihistamines, alcohol or sleeping pills to slam their night-day cycle into gear.

Human design does not work that way.  Humans are built to sleep at night and remain awake most of the day.  Just following natural body clocks can make many of us more aware and productive throughout the day and happily rested when waking at the end of the night.   Yet there are people who though they need  to rest often, don’t seem to need much sleep.

More Energy than the Average Bear

John F. Kennedy lived a sickness-filled life where he often recognized some folks have far more vim and vigor than the rest of us.  A few get diagnosed as experiencing manic-depressive, or as the great poet Robert Lowell put it, manic-impressive illness. Yet many highly energetic people will rightly never get any psychiatric diagnosis, though they may have bipolar relatives.  Whatever those genes are that create high energy individuals, not having too much expression of them can provide a major boon.

One individual who often did not require much sleep was Teddy Roosevelt.  As John Gartner, David McCulloch and a host of others have written, TR generally accomplished more each day than many people could in a week – and that was before breakfast.  As one son explained, “he was the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.”

Picasso was also an energetic sort.  Though he would sometimes sleep semi-normal amounts of hours, when the master got going a 20-22 hour day was not completely unusual.  The plethora of homes and palaces he stuffed with his work is one measure of his output, but visitors to the Museum at Antibes will see the entire place fitted out with what Picasso created in about six weeks – while on a “relaxed,” beach filled vacation.

My personal favorite is a ship’s captain who at age 68 came to me worried he was not sleeping enough.  He never needed more than four hours night-time sleep.  One of the most frustrating experiences of his life came when his ship’s engine failed in the middle of the Pacific.  While he was easily working 20 hour days of difficult, often physical labor, he could not at all understand  “all these young men in their 20’s who would work just 12-14 hours and then tell me they were tired and needed to sleep!”

How Much Sleep Is Really Enough?

Most of us are not such high energy types.  The data keep coming in that getting less than 6-7 hours sleep a night makes the vast majority of the population live less long and gain more weight (a recent small study from UC San Diego claimed differently but has methodologic problems).  Most folks forced to work ceaselessly and then get 3-4 hours sleep feel exhausted, frazzled, frustrated and fatigued.

But not everyone. A rare group do fine with rather little sleep, though you often find them resting during the day or taking quick naps.  And that group includes many performers, politicians, CEOs and entrepreneurs who often accomplish much.

But all of them still need to rest.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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