This Is How Much Successful CEOs Actually Sleep
There never seem to be enough hours in the day, so sleeping less—even by just a couple of hours—to maximize your time can feel like a formula for success. Yet doctors like Dr. Frank Lipman continue to argue that people function best with seven hours of sleep. “Only about five percent of the population can get by just fine on six hours of sleep,” says Ying-Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. There’s a reason sleep deprivation used to be a torture tactic: At its best, less sleep causes fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, and at its worst, it can cause disorientation, apathy, and hallucinations. So why is it that more than 83.6 million people aren’t getting enough sleep? And are today’s intellectual elite following suit?
Curious, we decided to examine the most highly functional, highly successful businesspeople of the modern age (think Elon Musk, Arianna Huffington, and Marissa Mayer) to determine what really works. Ready for a dose of reality? Here’s how many hours today’s top-performing CEOs actually sleep.
Sleep time: 8 hours
“Sleep your way to the top” has been Arianna Huffington’s mantra ever since she collapsed in her home office in 2007, breaking her cheekbone in the process. Exhaustion—in her case, surviving on four or five hours of sleep every night—quite literally knocked out the media mogul and woke her up to a new, very personal cause: the sleep revolution. Now, she prioritizes eight hours, and her days and overall well-being have drastically improved. Her ground rule? No screens before bed. “I turn off the phone, take them outside the room to charge—the phone, the iPad, everything, no TV, everything that involves a screen. I lower the lights. No overhead lights, just the nightstand. Then I have a very hot bath with Epsom salts and some lavender oil and a flickering candle.”
Sleep time: 4 hours
Indra Nooyi is one of those rare types of people who can function well without a lot of sleep. The PepsiCo CEO consistently gets four hours of sleep every night, with her prime hours of shut-eye between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. Clearly, rising before dawn has served this business leader well.
Sleep time: 8.5 hours
According to ABC News, Eric Schmidt wakes up every morning at 8. The Google CEO sees a good night’s sleep as a competitive advantage, and according to Arianna Huffington, he targets eight and a half hours of sleep every night. After a restful night, Schmidt (naturally) turns to Google to catch up on the news and check out his schedule for the day ahead.
Sleep time: 4 to 6 hours
Before taking over as the CEO of Yahoo in 2012, Marissa Mayer built a stellar reputation for herself at Google. As a product development executive (and the first female engineer hired at the conglomerate), Mayer was known to work 130-hour weeks on the regular. “For my first five years at Google, I pulled an all-nighter every week,” Mayer admitted at a talk in 2012. Mayer has been vocal about her thoughts on burnout as well: “Burnout is about resentment. Preventing it is about knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful.”
Sleep time: 4 hours or less
Martha Stewart is the first to admit that one of her major flaws is sacrificing her sleep time. “It’s an exhausting lifestyle,” she confesses to WebMD, “and I always say sleep can go. It’s not important to me right now. 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.” Stewart tells Harper’s Bazaar that she wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to walk her dogs and to check her daily blog posts. At 6 a.m., Stewart is outside checking on her four greenhouses, and by 6:30 her trainer arrives for strength-training exercises.
Sleep time: 6 hours
On a Reddit thread, Elon Musk admitted to getting “almost exactly six hours of sleep on average.” The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla confesses that the only way he is able to get everything done is by working seven days a week and strategically multitasking. “What I find is I’m able to be with my kids and still be on email. I can be with them and still be working at the same time. … If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get my job done,” Musk confessed during a SXSW interview.
Sleep time: 8 hours
Miranda Kerr, CEO of Kora Organics, has quite the busy schedule, but bedtime is for her son. “I’ll come home from work, I’ll play with Flynnie for a bit, I’ll make dinner, give him a bath, and read him good night stories. Then by the time I get all of that done, clean up the mess around the house, have a bath myself, I’ll read something or finish up some work emails,” Kerr said on The Kyle and Jackie O Show. One thing that isn’t a part of Kerr’s evening routine? Television—although movies are an occasional treat.
Sleep time: 6 to 7 hours
After almost 20 years of working for tech giants Google, Amazon, and Polyvore, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy founded TheBoardlist. “I usually go to bed late as I wind down from the day, and have my first moment to myself at 10 or 11 p.m.,” she tells CNN Money. As a founder and CEO, Cassidy never stops thinking about her company—even when she’s sleeping. “Dreaming of what I need to deliver next week, next month, and next year keep me up at night. As a founder/CEO, there is never a night where you don’t dream about your ‘baby’ and what it needs to survive and thrive.”
“I’m lucky that I’ve never needed a lot of sleep,” Tory Burch writes in a Huffington Post article, “The Art of Sleep.” The fashion designer acknowledges how sleep is a hot-button issue in her office and America at large. “New mom or not, sleep is the hot topic these days—who’s getting it, how much, and when?” Burch talked to Dr. Michael Breus, author of Beauty Sleep and The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan, to put together a list of ways to get more sleep and how to deal with life when you just can’t manage that extra shut-eye. We love the idea of the Nap-a-latte, a cup of cool-drip coffee followed by a 20-minute nap before 2 p.m. It’s the perfect way to reset your batteries and then rise just as the caffeine kicks in.
Sleep time: 5 hours
Xerox CEO Ursula Burns does not view extra shut-eye as a priority. The first minority woman to run a Fortune 500 company sleeps roughly five hours every night, waking up at 5:15 a.m. every day and usually reaching for her phone right away to look at her inbox. Twice a week, the hyper-productive leader has an hour-long exercise session with her personal trainer, starting at 6 a.m.
Amp up your sleep fitness with a few of our favorite bedtime essentials below, and tell us: How much do you sleep on average?