We associate creative genius with sleepless nights and manic all-nighters. And this is true for some – Leonardo DaVinci, for instance, having the misfortune of being both a perfectionist and a terrible procrastinator, often left his projects until the last moment possible. He would then work feverishly to finish them, taking small naps throughout the day instead of sleeping the full eight hours at night.
Thomas Edison was another proponent of the power nap, believing that most people sleep far too much and are unproductive as a result. Nikola Tesla rarely slept at all, especially early on in his career, starting work at 3 a.m. and continuing with few to no breaks until 11 p.m. the next day. But by all accounts, these were eccentric, anxious, and difficult men—Tesla suffered a nervous breakdown at 25, Edison was obsessive and paranoid, and DaVinci had crippling anxiety and self-doubts—who were never satisfied with their creative accomplishments.
History shows, however, that brilliance could also be the product of a good night’s sleep and a well-rested mind.
From Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, 27 prolific geniuses and their work and rest schedules: