Sleep Habits that Shaped Presidential Performance
Mattresses in the White House
Do you read books about habits and productivity? If so, it should be no surprise to you that sleep is an important factor in creating healthy habits and increasing productivity. You would also not be likely to debate the productivity of our American Presidents. This President’s Day, we will talk about sleep habits of the presidents. We’ll talk about the mattresses and traditions the presidents adhere to. For example, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he had all the mattresses in the White House replaced with luxury mattresses. These mattresses were only made only in California and had to be shipped to Washington, which was pretty pricey. To this day, the mattresses President Reagan chose are the official mattresses of the White House.
President’s Day Origins
President’s Day began in 1879 as a way to honor the late President George Washington on his birthday. Abraham Lincoln also had a birthday in February, so the holiday is popularly known for honoring both presidents. Originally meant to be a holiday observed in Washington D.C., President’s Day became a national holiday in 1885. It is now a federal holiday. On June 28, 1968, Congress initiated the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, and President’s Day was moved to a Monday to give working professionals a three-day weekend. President’s Day now occurs on the third Monday in February.
President’s Sleeping Habits
Let’s dive into some of the well-known facts on how our founding forefathers and modern-day presidents slept while they were in the White House. You may have heard about some of these rumors and facts, but others might surprise you. You might find you have some of the same sleeping habits. Can you identify your sleep patterns with any of these great men?
Before you get started, note that your circadian rhythm plays a big role in how you sleep most effectively and efficiently. What is a circadian rhythm, you ask? This is your body’s natural internal biological clock that tells us when to be alert and when to be sleepy. Daylight plays a big role in your rhythm. Here are two examples of circadian rhythms to note. You might get up early which means you are an early bird. Or you might be your most alert and efficient late at night, which is called a night owl. Can you identify your circadian rhythm with the following presidents and understand what makes you the most productive?
Check out these presidential sleepers:
- (1789–1797) George Washington, our first president and founding forefather, went to bed early and got up at dawn. It would be easy to assume he got sleepy when the sun started to go down and felt energized when the sun went up. Getting up at dawn would make him an early bird.
- (1797–1801) John Adams woke at five every morning, making him another early bird. Though rumor had it he and his wife, Abigail, had a great marriage, they did not share a bed. They didn’t even share a bedroom. Sometimes other people in our lives disrupt our sleep. Maybe they made this choice because sleep was vital to both of them.
- (1861–1865) Abraham Lincoln was known to be an insomniac. Instead of lying in bed, tossing and turning, Abe Lincoln would get up and write well into the night until he fell asleep in the middle of his writing. Sleep specialists often recommend getting up if you can’t sleep so you don’t associate negative feelings with the bed and sleeping. Abe was well-intentioned and attempted to go to bed around ten or eleven every night (though it rarely happened) and got up at seven in the morning. Probably more of your night owl.
- (1923–1929) Calvin Coolidge slept excessively. He slept around eleven hours a day. Now this is rare and today, a doctor might look a little deeper into the causes of that amount of sleep. Sometimes excessive sleeping can point to underlying health issues.
- (1945–1953) Harry S. Truman woke at five-thirty or six-thirty every morning. He would be your classic early-bird guy.
- (1961–1963) John F. Kennedy (JFK) and his wife, Jackie, slept in twin beds to accommodate their preferences of mattresses. JFK preferred a firm mattress, while Jackie liked a soft mattress. JFK kept a relaxed schedule. He worked out in the morning, ate lunch, then took a nap after lunch well into the afternoon. His naps were not to be interrupted and all calls were held during his nap times.
- (1963–1969) Lyndon B. Johnson got up at seven in the morning. Then he worked until two in the afternoon. He would take time off to nap. He would then work from four in the afternoon to one or two at night. In essence, Lyndon B. Johnson was working the entire day with only seven hours of sleep.
- (1981–1989) Ronald Reagan was a well-known napper. He actually put daily naps on his schedule. Some thought this was a sign of Ronald Reagan’s relaxed approach to his responsibility. The opposite was true. While napping used to get a lot of slack, there are many benefits to napping. Check out this blog, Benefits of Napping and How to Nap Properly. We now know that the outcome of napping has many health benefits.
- (1993–2001) Bill Clinton was also a known napper. He called himself a functioning insomniac. Because his mind was awake and alert at night, we would call him a night owl. As such, he had little regard for the sleep habits of others and held conversations late into the night.
- (2001–2009) George W. Bush was an “early-to-bed” president. He is on record as saying that despite the stress and responsibilities of the job, George W. Bush slept soundly.
- (2009–2017) Barack Obama was known for being a night owl. He would go to bed well past midnight and be up by seven the next morning.
- (2017–2021) Donald Trump sleeps as little as four hours a night. He is a night owl. He has been compared to Margaret Thatcher who also slept as little as four hours a night. According to this CBS News video, Gene Mutation Allows Rare Group of People to Sleep Less, scientists have identified that there is a rare gene that enables the person who possesses it to function quite well and productively on four hours of sleep a night.
*Bonus fact: Presidents Taft, Cleveland, and Roosevelt all had obstructive sleep apnea. Here’s a note on Sleep Apnea by the Mayo Clinic. If this is something you struggle with, a new mattress may help with this condition and even snoring.
Be Productive, Sleep Like a President, Wake Up, and Be Happy
Which president do you relate to the most when it comes to your sleep patterns? If your sleep is making you productive, embrace it. If not, you might consider if it’s time to start looking for a new mattress. Start here to view our mattresses. We have a wide selection from firm to fluffy to adjustable bases that allow you to sit up or lay flat. Sleeping like a president is just a perk of our mattresses. Above all, we want you to relax, sleep well, wake up and be happy with Beautyrest Sleep Gallery.