15 Sleep habits of highly successful people

December 15, 2020 9 mins read
15 Sleep habits of highly successful people

A successful day starts with getting a great night’s sleep. If you want to feel and perform your best, you don’t just need good sleep, you need the best sleep.

What does Oprah do to sleep better at night? How do some of the biggest tech innovators like Jack Dorsey or authors like Tim Ferriss get the rest they need to achieve so much in a single day?

Let’s take a look…

1. They follow the same routines

A good morning routine sets the tone for your day and can help you be more productive and get things done that you would struggle to find time for otherwise. That is why many successful people stick to the same healthy evening routines and morning schedules.

Anna Wintour, who has been the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine for more than 30 years says her consistent daily structure has worked well for her in her career. She sticks to the same morning routine of waking up early, catching up on the news and playing tennis before going to work. And every night, she takes work home with her, which she aims to get through before the next day, so she can stay on top of things. Her set morning and evening routine helps her to accomplish everything she needs to in her high-pressure job.

Even the Queen benefits from a set morning routine. Queen Elizabeth starts each day with tea, has a bath and eats the same breakfast.

2. Exercise after waking up

Exercising regularly, especially in the morning, not only boosts your focus, but it also helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

The billionaire founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, starts her day with yoga. New York Times best-selling author and entrepreneur Rachel Hollis exercises every morning and stresses the importance of moving your body for 30 minutes every day.

Bill Gates exercises on the treadmill for an hour every morning and Mark Zuckerberg adds exercise to his morning routine at least three days a week.

Who else exercises in the morning? Anna Wintour, Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah and Arianna Huffington.

3. Get up early

Getting up early has a number of advantages. The first few hours of the day are generally the quietest, which is why many successful people use this time to exercise, meditate, reflect, prepare for the day, or even do their most important work for the day.

You can get up at 6am like Steve Jobs and Mark Cuban, start your day at 5am like Richard Branson or get up at 4am like Anna Wintour.

Who else gets up early in the morning? Martha Stewart, Jack Dorsey and Rachel Hollis.

4. Get 7–9 hours of sleep

You might think you need to sacrifice sleep to be successful, and many successful people do, but there are many who have built their empires while still getting enough sleep.

Jeff Bezos sleeps for 8 hours a night. And while Sara Blakely used to work late nights when getting Spanx off the ground, she now gets 7 hours of sleep a night.

Bill Gates has also upped his sleep game since his days of pulling all-nighters while building Microsoft. He now sleeps for at least 7 hours a night.

Who else gets their recommended 7–9 hours of sleep? Tom Bilyeu, Mark Cuban, Tim Ferris, Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Sara Blakely, Anna Wintour and Queen Elizabeth.

There are also a few successful people who don’t get enough sleep.

Elon Musk only sleeps 6 hours and Richard Branson sleeps 5 to 6 hours a night. Martha Stewart and Rihanna both need a sleep intervention because they have confessed to getting around only 4 hours of sleep a night.

5. Take naps

Naps are also quite common among leaders. When Bill Gates recommends that you take a 20-minute nap before 3pm, it might be something you want to include in your daily schedule. Jeff Bezos even took a sleeping bag with him to work, so he could take power naps during long workdays. And Mark Cuban takes what he calls “dad naps” on weekends.

Tim Ferriss has a particularly interesting napping trick: caffeine naps. He says: “Down an espresso and set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes, which prevents awakening in the middle of a restorative sleep cycle.”

Who else sported a good napping game? Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Margaret Thatcher.

6. Wear the same thing every day

Did you know that making too many decisions in a day can make you feel fatigued? To reduce decision fatigue that can cause brain fog during the day, many successful people wear the same style clothes over and over again.

They might stick to wearing the same colour T-shirt and jeans and buy multiple pairs of the same shirt or they might stick to the same style of clothing.

Anna Wintour chooses to mostly wear print dresses to work, so she doesn’t waste time deciding what to wear each morning. She just puts on her print dress of choice.

Steve Jobs was known for his black turtlenecks and New Balance sneakers, and Mark Zuckerberg wears the same T-shirt every day.

By reducing the number of decisions you need to make, you can reduce mental fatigue.

If you find that you become increasingly tired throughout the day and suspect making too many decisions contributes to the problem, you can give this tip a try.

7. Meditate before bed or when waking up

Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter, meditates for 30 minutes after waking up. Oprah meditates 20 minutes every morning and then again at the end of the day.

Meditating for just 10 minutes a day is already enough to benefit from improved focus and cognitive performance, as well as better sleep.

Who else practises morning meditation? Tim Ferriss, Tom Bilyeu and Arianna Huffington.

8. Unplug before bed

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, turns her phone off before bed, Arianna Huffington tucks her electronics away, and Tim Ferriss puts his phone on airplane mode before going to bed.

You want to make it hard for anyone or any notifications to disrupt you while asleep.

9. Take cold showers or plunges

Successful people can get really cool. Jack Dorsey uses an infrared sauna and takes ice baths before bed. He also likes some cold exposure in the morning. Tom Bilyeu, the co-founder of Quest Nutrition and Impact Theory, challenged himself to take a cold shower every day in 2019.

Tim Ferriss will often take ice baths before bed and cold showers in the morning. He also likes to sleep on a cooling pad.

Cold exposure, especially before bed, can improve the quality of your sleep. It will help your body cool down before bed, lower any inflammation that can cause pain keeping you up and improve your immune system.

10. Read before bed

Bill Gates reads for an hour before bed every night. Arianna Huffington also enjoys diving into a good book and Tim Ferriss says that reading fiction before bed helps him sleep.

Reading is a great activity to do before bed. Just make sure you are not reading on a digital device that emits blue light. Go old-school for better sleep.

11. Intermittent fasting

Skipping breakfast might seem like an unusual thing to mention in an article about sleep, but did you know that intermittent fasting can help regulate your circadian rhythm?

Many successful people have incorporated intermittent fasting into their lifestyles. Not just because skipping breakfast gives them a little more time in the morning for important tasks, but because of the mental clarity they experience when fasting.

Jack Dorsey only eats once a day. Rachel Hollis also recently joined the ranks of successful entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss who practices intermittent fasting and Arianna Huffington is also not a breakfast person but will drink a cup of Bulletproof Coffee.

Bill Gates has confessed to indulging in Cocoa Puffs for breakfast, but his wife says that he skips breakfast on most days.

Elon Musk also skips breakfast most of the time and avoids eating and drinking alcohol two to three hours before going to bed. On a podcast episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Musk said: “Eating before you go to bed is a really bad idea, and actually negatively affects your sleep”.

12. Sleep without setting an alarm

Arianna Huffington sleeps 8 hours a night and loves going to bed without setting an alarm. Tom Bilyeu has also been able to train himself and regulate his circadian rhythm enough to be able to wake up naturally every morning. He gets enough sleep and still manages to pursue his dream of taking on Disney as a competitor.

Tom Bilyeu says that if he wants to wake up at a specific time the next morning, he will tell his brain what time he wants to wake up and then he usually wakes up at that time.

Jeff Bezos and Oprah also like to wake up without using alarms.

13. Block blue light

Blue light exposure before bed can interfere with the quality of your sleep, which is why you want to avoid it as much as possible. You can wear blue light blocking glasses two hours before going to bed like Tom Bilyeu does and also put a blue light filter on your computer as Tim Ferriss suggests.

You want to make your room as dark as possible. Jack Dorsey says that blackout curtains are very helpful for making your room dark.

14. Take a warm bath before bed

Sara Blakely takes a bath every night and adds lavender Epsom salts to it. The smell of lavender has a calming effect. The magnesium in the Epsom salts can also have a relaxing effect on the body. You need a good night’s sleep if you’re going to run a legendary company like Spanx.

Arianna Huffington and Oprah also like to indulge in a warm bath before bed.

15. Track your sleep

You can take a hint from some of the most successful people and track your sleep using a sleep tracker like an Oura ring. Jack Dorsey, Tim Ferriss and Tom Bilyeu have all stated that they track their sleep.

Doing so can give you a good idea of the current quality of your sleep and whether you need to make some adjustments to improve it.

More sleep habits of successful people

Here are a few more sleep-improvement tips from some of the most successful people:

  • Skip caffeine after 2pm like Arianna Huffington.
  • Write down your to-do list for the next day to help you fall asleep faster like Jack Dorsey.
  • Drink herbal sleep tea before bed like Steve Jobs and Arianna Huffington.
  • Take a walk after dinner like Steve Jobs. It will help with blood sugar regulation and digestion after eating, which can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Take an adaptogen like Tulsi (Holy Basil) before bed to help you relax and sleep like Rachel Hollis.
  • Spend time in nature first thing in the morning. You can do something simple like Oprah and spend some time with your dogs outdoors or do something fun like kitesurfing, playing tennis or riding a bike like Richard Branson.
  • Listen to music before bed like Steve Jobs.

If you dream of becoming as successful as any of the people we mentioned above, start by adopting the habits that will help you sleep well at night and perform even better mentally the next day.

Who knows, you just might become the next Oprah or Jeff Bezos.