She couldn’t. It’s a pack of lies. When Charles Moore wrote the first volume of his biography of Thatcher, he was asked about this. He said there was absolutely no evidence that she only slept four hours a night. It was a bit of a story put around so she could appear to be more macho than the boys.
There’s a great example of this with regards to Napoleon. If you look online you’ll find countless articles claiming that he was a short sleeper. In actual fact this is complete and utter nonsense. His friends spread this rumour about because it was believed sleep was not compatible with greatness.
So, these people who claim not to sleep that much are merely telling you that they’re far better than you are and that they deserve their massive salary because they’re tougher, more manly, more effective, blah, blah, blah… It’s just a pile of nonsense. Unless they’re one of these statistically rare people who only need a few hours sleep.
They can’t function. And if they are functioning on four hours they’re making a complete mess of it. If you have four hours sleep a night and you’re an eight hours a night person that’s essentially like functioning on three pints of beer.
“The one person who was famously documented as a short sleeper was Adolf Hitler.”
It goes back to the early Christian fathers in the desert, where it was thought you got bonus points from God if you stayed awake a lot praying – it deemed you religiously virtuous. All that has happened in the last two thousand years is we’ve replaced religious virtue with greatness.
And the thing is everybody mentions Napoleon and Thatcher. But the one person who is documented as a famous short sleeper is Adolf Hitler. You don’t see that mentioned in all these leadership books. It works both ways. If you want to claim that short sleep is somehow virtuous then I would just mention the words Adolf Hitler every time.
Can you exist on four hours sleep? It’s like asking can you exist on bread and water? Yes, you can, but why would you want to? You cannot train yourself to need less sleep. You can exist on it, but the question is why would you want to, when the benefits of good sleep are so massive and the problems of poor sleep – increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, suicidal behaviour, car accidents, divorce, marital conflict – are well documented. Why would you want to do that?