9 Presidential Sleep Habits That Might Surprise You

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Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and John f. Kennedy

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to appear on TV. Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. There are plenty of popular fun facts about the past presidents of the United States, but their sleep habits are less commonly discussed — and just as interesting! Read on to learn more about presidential sleep habits. 

George Washington

The first president of the United States embodied the “early to bed, early to rise” mentality: Washington headed off to bed around 9 p.m., then read and wrote “until the candle burned low.” Though he found waking up very early “irksome,” according to a letter he wrote to his grandson, he still typically rose at dawn and started his day with three cornmeal cakes and three cups of tea, no cream. 

Harry Truman

Though his bedtime routine isn’t overly  publicized, President Truman’s wake-up habits sure are! Truman woke up early, often at 5:30 or 6:30 in the morning when he was president. He followed that early morning wake-up with a shot of bourbon, a glass of orange juice, and a brisk ten-block walk. After that he enjoyed a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, cereal, toast, and a large glass of milk to get his day started. 

Abraham Lincoln

A known insomniac, Lincoln often took late-night walks when he couldn’t sleep (this is an expert-endorsed habit — many sleep experts say getting out of bed until you feel sleepy can help prevent associating the bed with anxiety about sleep). Despite his insomnia, Lincoln still kept a fairly regular bedtime routine: He tried to go to bed around 10 or 11 p.m. and woke around 7 a.m. to work or read the paper before breakfast. And, though the Lincoln bed is renowned and was purchased by his wife, Mary, Lincoln didn’t sleep in it

Barack Obama

President Obama was a notorious night owl when he was in office. He was known to work well into the night and send off late-night emails to his staff if he was working on something timely. When he was in office he got about five hours of sleep at night, often going to bed after midnight and waking up by 7 in the morning.

John F. Kennedy

Not quite sleep divorced, JFK and Jackie were rumored to have two separate twin beds pushed together to combat different mattress preferences — the president preferred a firm mattress, while Jackie preferred a softer mattress. Kennedy was also known to nap after lunch for up to two hours, which he followed up with a hot bath to soothe his chronic back pain. 

Calvin Coolidge 

Though you might think world leaders don’t get a ton of sleep, Coolidge proves this rule wrong. The 30th president of the United States would often sleep up to 11 hours a day, including his two-to-four-hour afternoon naps. 11 hours of sleep a day is well above the recommended 7-9 hours for most healthy adults, and in Coolidge’s case his excessive sleeping is likely linked to depression: His youngest son died of blood poisoning at 16 years old, and President Coolidge is said to have struggled privately with the grief of his loss for the rest of his life.   

Lyndon B. Johnson

President Johnson kept one of the more eccentric sleep schedules. Like some other famous presidents he enjoyed a good nap, but he took them during his “afternoon siestas.” 

Johnson got his day started around 7 a.m., worked until 2 p.m. and then spent the next two hours napping, swimming, walking — generally, doing whatever he found relaxing — and then resumed his “two-shift day” at 4 p.m., often working until 1 or 2 a.m.

Donald Trump

Trump was another well-known night owl who occupied the oval office, often getting as little as four hours of sleep per night. He did this well before his time in office, too, leading some to speculate he might have the Thatcher gene. 

Named after Maraget Thatcher, who was well known for functioning on very little sleep, the gene allows some people to function fully on significantly less sleep than your average adult, who usually needs between 7 and 9 hours. 

John Adams

President John Adams might be one of our earliest rising presidents with a 5 a.m. wake up time. He enjoyed breakfast around 8 a.m. and was known to drink a morning “gill” of hard cider. Though John and Abigail Adams were a famously happy couple, it’s said that the two didn’t share a bedroom, let alone a bed!

Jessica Banks

Jessica Banks

Jessica Banks is a health editor at Sleepopolis. Leading the charge on everything evergreen, she aims to help people get a good night's sleep whether they're struggling with a sleep disorder, searching for new sleep-friendly snacks, or trying to catch their best night's sleep on the go.

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