Morning Edition, January 17, 2008 · Almost everyone has heard a story about someone famous who doesn’t need much sleep: Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Thatcher, the list goes on and on.
In our fast-paced, global society, many people consider it a big plus to need as little sleep as possible. But almost every sleep researcher will tell you that most people need at least seven hours of sleep for biological and psychological health. So there is a glaring disconnect between what the messages in our culture say about sleep and the messages we receive from scientists.
Think of the scene in the film Thank You for Smoking. Nick, a public relations guy for the smoking industry, is talking to a Hollywood mogul, who calls him up late at night to give him an update on a deal.
“Are you still at the office?” Nick asks.
“Do you know what time it is in Tokyo?” replies Jeff, the mogul, “4 p.m. tomorrow. It’s the future!”
“When do you sleep?” Nick asks.
“Sunday,” says Jeff, in a priceless moment.
The scene in the film encapsulates this myth that successful people don’t need sleep and even provides a rationale: that our fast-paced society no longer lets us have such luxuries.