The Sleep Schedules Of 27 Of History's Greatest Minds

What do Freud, Marina Abramović, Beethoven, and you have in common? For one, the need to sleep.

The science of sleep and its glorious effects on creativity, productivity, and sanity gets a lot of press these days. That said, the sleep habits of some of your favorite writers, musicians, and artists may surprise you a little.

The bedtimes and rising times of history’s greatest minds are inventively illustrated in this New York infographic based on Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.* The infographic seems to debunk the myth that geniuses stay up through the wee hours working manically, and that you're more creative when you're tired--most of these 27 luminaries got a wholesome eight hours a night.

Unfortunately, the infographic doesn’t yield any sleep-related tricks for unleashing your own latent genius, other than following the boring eight-hour rule. You could try rolling like Balzac, a prodigious coffee-drinker who slept from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and then napped mid-morning, but he was likely creative in spite of rather than because of his schedule. A few others skimped on their sleep too, of course--hard-partying F. Scott Fitzgerald slept between 3:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and Sigmund Freud averaged just six hours a night, but his love of stimulants far stronger than caffeine is well-documented. So if you think pulling all-nighters is the key to finishing up your Great American Novel, reconsider after taking a nap.

*An earlier version of this article failed to credit New York for the visualization and misspelled the first name of Marina Abramović. We regret the errors.

[Image: Ben Franklin and Sleep mask via Shutterstock]

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26 Comments

  • Fascinating concept- and potentially very useful! I'd have loved to see a more varied collection of individuals however- not the strongest- or even most influential or well known characters here. Understandably, not super easy to get this info on everyone, but surely a broader and better recognized crowd than this...?

  • 41a8bd20

    this is not a meaningfully broad analysis of the concept -- if anything this chart appears to suggest that madness or an early demise can be the result of sleeping too early or too long.

  • Catarina Hosler

    I am a creative artist who needs massive amounts of sleep. I often dream or space out & then Voila! The creative image pops out as fully formed as Athena did when she sprang from Zeus's head. Sleep is underrated. It unlocks creative potential, in my opinion.

  • Jeffrey Kalmikoff

    What does this have to do with anything? More rest = more energy. It's not rocket surgery.

  • e.soleymani24

    I hate from oversleeping ... everyone that sleep more than 8 hours in a day make me angry If a man sleeps when he is tired he can enjoy from his sleeping and he can get up peppy early morning

    .

  • Maxwell McNulty

    I believe this article is only for the sleep schedule for History's Greatest Minds. It helps to read the title sometimes

  • lara1bee

    There is no question why those women should be considered among "History's Greatest Minds." Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, which is arguably the world's first true science fiction. Marie Curie spearheaded research on radioactive activity and won a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. They should of course be considered among history's greatest minds.

  • Richard Enlow

    The graphs feels off due to the nature of the presentation (in a circle) the closer the person appears toward the center the shorter their line gets. Example: at a glance Mann seems to have slept 5 times longer as Nabokov but in actually Nabokov slept longer. While pretty, this infographic could be vastly improved with an alternate layout.

  • Sean Enda Power

    Could this just be a correlation rather than an important link?

    8 hours suggests ease of mind; eccentric patterns suggests control of one's time. Those two together suggest wealth.

    Could wealth be the real factor here? How do these graphs divide amongst the poor and rich of these 27?

  • I love the idea of this infographic, and while it is pretty, it is a complete failure. Georges Simenon slept 8 hours night, as did Thomas Mann, but Simenons arc is a fraction of the length. Rather than a radial design mimicking the clock face, a horizontal timeline would have allowed for proportionally accurate bars for each person.