During the recent ASEAN summit in Singapore, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was said to have taken power naps during portions of the event that he felt were not of particular relevance to his country. While this honest admission led some to criticise Duterte’s power naps, some of history’s most notable, successful and influential figures also took power naps throughout the day.
Physicist Albert Einstein is best known for his revolutionary Theory of Relativity and was considered the brightest scientific mind of his era. Even in the 21st century, Einstein is synonymous with intellectual genius with many still holding that he was and remains the most singularly intelligent man in human history. Shorts periods of resting are thought to replenish the brain’s natural energy, thus indicating that Einstein’s unorthodox sleeping habits may have played a part in his lifelong intellectual stamina. When Albert Einstein took his power naps, he would do so in the comfort of a large armchair. During his power naps, Einstein tended to place a heavy object in his lap so that if he drifted into a deeper sleep the object would slip and crash on the floor – thus waking him up so that he could return to work.
Leonardo da Vinci
The penultimate Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci excelled at changing the arts as much as he was a pioneer in science and technology. Da Vinci is credited with inviting prototypes of the aeroplane, tank, helicopter, modern river dams, musical instruments, parachutes and the aerial screw. De Vinci was also a pioneer in mapping the human anatomy as some of his observations shaped the very nature of modern medicine.
Da Vinci’s art remains cherished the world over. Some of his most beloved works include, The Last Supper, John The Baptist, The Mona Lisa and Vitruvian Man.
In order to accomplish as much as he did, da Vinci famously eschewed long periods of sleep, preferring instead to take frequent power naps lasting fifteen minutes each. They would be taken every four hours, after which he would wake back up and continue to change the world.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Even before his tragic assassination in 1963, JFK was considered a remarkable American President who brought a combination of youth and optimism as well as polished rhetoric and personal class to the White House. Yet while Kennedy and his equally famous brothers stayed on top of the major issues facing the United States at the height of the Cold War, JFK was fond of taking a daily two hour long power nap, during which time he ordered security officials not to wake him up except in the event of a substantial emergency.
Unlike most who take power naps alone, JFK’s wife Jackie would join him every day before he’d wake back up to take a hot bath and then continue his Presidential duties.
Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison was a famous workaholic who would often go three days without a full sleep. The more precise reality was that Edison was not working for 72 hours on empty. Edison’s office had in it a small makeshift bed on which he would take power naps throughout the day in order to sustain his energy in order to work through the nights and into the next day.
According to those closest to Edison, his power naps lasted around three hours a day and unlike some who required comfort, Edison could take a power nap in the most seemingly unconformable of places before getting up refreshed and carrying on his activities.
Britain’s most famous modern Prime Minister is remembered for everything from his tireless defence of the UK’s global empire to his disastrous orchestration of the Gallipoli Campaign during the First World War, to his leadership during the Second World War and his re-election in the 1951 general election. A controversial leader to some and hero to others, Churchill was a titan of parliamentary politics whose famous quotes and expressions continue to be referenced to this day.
As with most topics, Churchill had something to say about traditional sleep patterns:
“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces”.
True to his word, Churchill would regularly take a two hour long power nap in his bed every afternoon.
Salvador Dali was the foremost exponent of the artistic school of surrealism. In addition to instantly recognisable paintings including The Persistence of Memory, Melting Watch, The Temptation of St. Anthony, The Elephants andGeopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, Dali himself was something of a walking work of surreal art and in many ways Europe’s first modern artistic super-celebrity.
Perhaps fittingly, Dali’s style of power napping was equally surreal. On a regular basis, Dali would nap in an upright position in a chair for what he referred to as “slumber with a key”. Here he would place a plate on his knee and a key under his hand dangling over the plate. When sleep became deep enough so that the key would slip from his hand, it would hit the plate and wake Dali up, thus acting as an inbuilt timer to his short but frequent power naps.
Napoleon not only had the ability to nap at anytime for the shortest periods but was even able to do so prior to large battles, even as nearby gunfire filled the air. Napoleon was a tireless warrior but this did not stop him from taking highly strategic naps often just before major engagements with an enemy army. Clearly, Napoleon is history’s most rugged power napper.
Britain’s controversial first female Prime Minister famously only slept for four hours every night and sometimes even less. She was able to do this because she took a regular hour long power nap every day in the late afternoon before resuming her unrelenting political duties.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has proved that the power nap is still a vital component of an otherwise tireless work schedule. Duterte’s days are often long ones that begin early in the morning as the Philippine President conducts both domestic and diplomatic business with a well known hands on approach. His war against corruption further means that he ends up doing many tasks himself that others may have left to others as Duterte promises to leave no stone unturned in his quest to transform and modernise the economy and political system of The Philippines.
Of course, Duterte frequently makes lengthy off-the-cuff speeches to supporters both in The Philippines as well as to OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who unlike previous Presidents, Duterte goes out of his way to personally visit as much as time allows. Notably, these speeches often take place late in the evening after a very full day of Presidential duties. It now seems as though the time-tested power nap is one of the tools in Duterte’s arsenal that helps him work his famously long hours.
- The power nap should not be confused with the Drilon snooze