Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2017
The virtuousness of short sleep There is an awful lot of nonsense on the internet about the “The sleeping habits of the rich, the powerful, and the genius” here For example Do Successful CEOs Sleep Less Than Everyone Else? here 11 Successful People Who Get Up So Early They Barely Sleep  here 9 Successful People Who Barely Sleep here  Do history's greatest figures owe their success to sleeping LESS? here  Great People Sleep Less? here NB for some reason you never see Adolf Hitler listed as a famous short sleeper.  The simple fact is that historical evidence for most people that are claimed to be short sleepers is all but non- existent. The claims of short sleep are just propaganda, self-aggrandisement i.e. short sleep somehow makes them better than the rest of us. This idea goes way back to the early Christian fathers, who being influenced by their Greek philosopher forbears, practiced asceticism which to varying degrees involved denying themselves sleep. By the 4th Century this had developed into the observance of the canonical hours e.g. midnight vigils and early morning prayers. But as Cassian wrote at the time early morning prayers were specifically introduced to curtail the sleep of monks who “as well as losing their labour, were drowsy from excess of sleep”1. By the 18th Century denying sleep for prayer was seen by many as ‘Popery’, although some Protestant commentators such as Law (1733)2 believed “sleep is the poorest, dullest refreshment of the body” and long sleep was “odious in the sight of Heaven”. This view of sleep found its clearest 20th Century expression in the sayings attributed to Edison who believed “the man who sleeps too much suffers from it in many ways and gains nothing from it” and excessive sleep reduced ‘the sum total of a man’s capabilities’. The only difference between this view of sleep and the practices of the 4th century was that the reward for short sleep was now Mammon rather than God. It has been argued that industrialization has caused excessive sleeping to be associated with ‘imperfect grace’3 but perhaps the 21st Century ‘idolisation’ of short sleepers; ‘asceticism’ of polyphasic sleep and ‘cult’ of the sleep denying CEO arises less from the demands of late capitalism or the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ and more from our ascetic Christian forbears; ‘Because I forgo sleep I am better (more virtuous) than you and thus I have earned my salary, bonus, share options, etc. (God’s favour). 1 John Cassian,360-435AD  Conferences 2 William Law 1733 A serious call to a devout and holy life 3 S Arber, R Meadows, S Venn, 2012 Sleep and Society in The Oxford Handbook of Sleep and Sleep Disorders, 223 Based on a paper given at the Injured Sleep Colloquium, Aston University June 2016