Dream Like the Commander in Chief: Sleeping Habits of U.S. Presidents

With the presidential elections right around the corner, it seems that our lives are centered around the candidates’. Have you ever thought that you and the commander in chief have nothing in common? Well think again. You may have more in common than you originally thought about, and one big thing is sleep. Many U.S. Presidents had very unique and interesting sleep habits that you may not be aware of. There is even research that suggests that liberals and conservatives sleep differently! How does your sleep on your talalay mattress compare to that of the President’s? Let’s find out today!

Kelly Bulkeley, Ph. D. has done a lot of research on the subject of presidential sleeping habits, particularly the difference in sleeping patterns of liberals and conservatives (specifically Clinton and Bush). She has drawn a lot of conclusions, which include a lot of ideas you might not normally think about when it comes to sleep habits.

Bulkeley’s research suggests that conservatives tend to sleep better than liberals.  More evidence is needed to substantiate this idea, but Bulkeley thinks it actually makes sense due to the political profile of each type of person. Conservatives are more likely to value the qualities of control, personal power, and safety from outside forces.  A sound, steady, restful sleep is consistent with that kind of outlook on life.  Liberals, on the other hand, are more oriented towards openness and empathy for others, and as a result they’re more vulnerable to external disruptions and loss of personal control.  Those ideals appear to be correlated with the variable quality of their sleep.

Let’s take Bill Clinton for instance. Throughout his two terms in office, Bill Clinton was well-known for his restless intelligence, late-night conversational manias, and blatant disregard for other people’s normal patterns of waking and sleeping.  He was, by his own admission, a functional insomniac.

George W. Bush, meanwhile, has always let it be known that he’s an early-to-bed kind of guy.  Right after his 2000 election he said this would be his first historical goal: “I’m trying to set the record as the President who got to bed earliest on Inauguration Day.”  In a 2006 interview with People magazine he said that despite the stressful responsibilities of his job, he actually sleeps quite soundly: “I must tell you, I’m sleeping much better than people would assume.”  He let on that he occasionally takes sleep aids when traveling and drinks a couple of cups of coffee each morning, but other than that he’s a clean living person in both waking and sleeping: “I don’t drink alcohol.  I can remember when I used to drink, I had trouble sleeping at night.”

Ronald Reagan was famous for taking naps. Critics tried to use his rumored propensity for napping as proof of a lackadaisical approach to the presidency and a reminder of his advanced age. Nancy Reagan always denied that her husband was a napper. But his diaries show that he at least occasionally indulged in the nap, noting in reference to his daily schedule that “afternoon is still nap time” and often taking one to recharge before donning a tux and attending a formal nighttime event. He also enjoyed turkey hunts for the opportunity they provided for naps. For his part, Reagan, as he did with many things, had a sense of humor about the criticism over his napping. When he was leaving office, he joked that his cabinet chair should be inscribed with, “Ronald Reagan Slept Here.”

Do you feel like you identify with a specific President? Let us know here!

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