19 Successful People Who Barely Sleep

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Photo: Owen Thomas, Business Insider

Researchers claim that people need around 8 hours of sleep to function properly. But that’s not true for everybody. A small group (1 to 3 per cent) of the population are among the “sleepless elite” who are able to get by happily on just a few hours of sleep.

Whether they’re part of this lucky group or have been driven by the pressures of their jobs, we’ve compiled a list of successful executives, political figures, and entertainers who have shunned the 8 hour mantra and managed to rise to the top.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO

Mayer gained a reputation for working extremely hard at Google, working as many as 130 hours some weeks, leaving little time for sleep.

The Guardian reports that she needs only four to six hours a night. She recharges by taking weeklong vacations every four months.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and Square CEO

Being at the head of two exciting tech startups doesn't leave too much time for rest. In 2011, Dorsey told Kara Swisher that he was spending 8-10 hours a day at Square, and 8-10 hours a day at Twitter.

That left him somewhere around four to six hours a night to sleep, possibly less when travel time is factored in.

Donald Trump, chairman of The Trump organisation

According to The Daily News, Trump credits his success to sleeping only three to four hours each night to stay a step ahead of his competition.

He does not seem to understand how sleep and success can co-exist according to his quote in The Daily News: 'How does somebody that's sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that's sleeping three or four?'

In addition to her daily show with new co-host Michael Strahan, Ripa also has three kids and a production company she owns with her husband Mark Consuelos.

With all of this on her plate, Ripa is unbelievably both a night owl and an early bird. According to an interview with Good Housekeeping, Ripa usually falls asleep between midnight and 1 a.m. and wakes up at 6:15 a.m..

Jay Leno, host of 'The Tonight Show'

In addition to hosting 'The Tonight Show,' Leno still manages to tour on the comedy circuit, averaging over 150 gigs a year.

Perhaps mimicking some of the people that stay up to watch his 11:35 p.m. show, Leno only sleeps about five hours a night.

Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

One of the world's most prominent female executives since getting the job in 2007, Nooyi sleeps a meager four hours a night, according to CNN Money.

She's no stranger to long hours, having worked the graveyard shift as a receptionist while getting her masters at Yale.

Dominic Orr, president and CEO of Aruba Networks

According to the Wall Street Journal, Aruba CEO Dominic Orr sleeps an average of only four hours. He makes a habit of rising before dawn and usually works into the evening.

Fortune Magazine reports that this is actually an improvement. He sometimes put in 18-hour days while an executive at HP during the 1990s, and would continue making phone calls and answering emails during his few hours at home.

Willie Gest, MSNBC host

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat CEO

After his turnaround of Fiat and part in the resurrection of Chrysler, Marchionne is one of the most renowned executives in the automotive world.

He's kept a punishing schedule throughout. According to Alex Taylor at Fortune, Marchionne works on four hours of sleep a night, fuelled by coffee and cigarettes.

Steve Reinemund, former PepsiCo CEO

Former CEO of PepsiCo Steven Reinemund made a habit of waking up at 5 am and taking a four-mile run, and sleeps only five or six hours a night according to CNN Money.

Reinemund told CNN that he goes to bed around 11 p.m., and does not use an alarm to wake up. Today Reinemund is the Dean of Business at Wake Forest University.

Tom Ford, fashion designer and director

After dropping out of NYU to pursue a career in fashion design, Tom Ford quickly landed a position as design director at Gucci. Under his leadership, Gucci's value increased by 90 per cent.

He does not attribute this success to talent, but says its due to his energy. It must be pretty intense, considering that Ford sleeps only three hours a night.

Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines

Inc. reports that during his time at the helm of Southwest, Kelleher slept only four hours a night.

That hard work paid off. Although Kelleher is now retired, Southwest remains one of the few continuously-profitable airlines.

Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods

Smolyansky took over the dairy company her father had started in 2002 at the young age of 27.

It took a great deal of work for her to do so. She told Fortune that she managed it by sleeping as little as four hours many nights.

Martha Stewart, chair of Martha Stewart Omnimedia

Stewart's company produces four magazines, Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, Weddings, and Whole Living. She additionally has a TV show, radio show and product lines in stores like Staples and Michaels.

She keeps an impressive schedule while running her business, and according to CNN Money, she sleeps less than four hours a night.

Condoleeza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State

Despite travelling the world constantly as George W. Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice made a habit of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym, no matter where she was.

Stanley McChrystal, former U.S. general

You would think that the former General of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan would have needed an immense amount of energy to perform his job.

Most people get theirs from a few meals a day and a good night's sleep. Not McChrystal. According to Time, he eats one meal per day and sleeps only four hours a night.

Barack Obama, President of the United States

Michael Lewis' recent profile in Vanity Fair revealed the president's usual schedule; he goes to bed at about 1:00 a.m and is up at 7:00 a.m. He doesn't always get those six hours.

Aides in the White House must constantly decide what type of crisis is important enough to wake the President during his few hours of sleep.

Bill Clinton, former U.S. president

Though he's changed his sleep habits after his heart surgery, Bill Clinton was renowned for sleeping only five or six hours a night throughout his presidency.

It's apparently a habit he developed quite early. According to The New York Times, a professor at Georgetown told him great men require less sleep.

Ma Ying-Jeou, president of Taiwan

Earlier this year, Ma Ying-jeou was elected to his second term as Taiwan's President.

The New York Times ascribes his success to an intense discipline and work ethic; he sleeps five hours a night and routinely rises at dawn to jog.

BONUS: Historic figures

Thomas Edison: The famous inventor only required about three to four hours of shut eye each night according to The New York Times. He regarded sleep as 'a heritage from our cave days.'

Benjamin Franklin: In his autobiography, Franklin published his typical daily schedule. He appears to have slept only 5 hours a night, from 11:00 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Nikola Tesla: An even more restless inventor than Franklin or Edison, a biography of Tesla by a personal friend claims that he would sleep as little as two hours a night.

Margaret Thatcher: Britain's longest serving Prime Minister was famous for getting by on just four hours of sleep each night while in office, according to the BBC.

Now learn more about the lives of CEOs

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